LA city council looks to combat trash and illegal dumping


Trash is scattered around a fill bag. Photo courtesy of Unsplash, by Jon Tyson (@jontyson).

Gerardo De Los Santos, Community News Reporter

Have you ever wondered what’s up with the trash scattered around various Los Angeles neighborhoods and why it can take the city days to respond to complaints about trash?

There is an assortment of reasons, according to local officials.

Staff shortages. Limited resources. High volumes of service requests. Lack of public awareness. 

To address those issues, the Los Angeles City Council approved much of council member Kevin de Leon’s Clean Streets Now proposal earlier this month by an 11-0 vote. The initiative is intended to beautify the city’s neighborhoods by equipping the city’s sanitation department with more tools and resources to fight illegal dumping and respond more quickly to reports of illegal dumping. 

“As an Angeleno, it pains me, and it angers me to see how dirty our city has become, de Leon, running for mayor, said in a press conference.

The city’s sanitation department oversees both illegal dumping and homeless encampment cleanups. It receives so many complaints and requests for help that it can take the department’s staff five days to respond, according to Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin.

The proposal by de Leon would, among other things, increase staffing and resources to reduce response times, identify additional space to store equipment and efficiently deploy sanitation teams and expand street sweeping to areas that don’t receive services. 

Jane Demian, an Eagle Rock resident since 2010, said she joined community cleanup groups, including events held by the neighborhood council, to pitch in and get to know neighbors.  

“We would start with one particular area, and just everybody would go around picking up trash, and it was amazing how much trash was on the ground,” Demian said, recalling massive piles of trash in areas near the 134 freeway. People were tossing trash out of their car windows before entering the freeway ramp. 

When Demian first began doing outreach for the unhoused, she noticed a broader problem: Folks experiencing homelessness are often the first, and sometimes the only people, blamed for trash build-ups.

Demian recalled spotting people driving up to encampments and unloading their trash: paper, plastic, fiberglass, and even a jacuzzi.

Another issue was food thrown away at the encampments.

“I guess they think they’re helping,” Demian said. “But they’re not because sometimes it’s…old, and it’s spoiled. You know, like rotten food.” 

Eagle Rock is just south of the Scholl Canyon Landfill, so although some of its residents are closer to the dump than residents in some parts of Glendale, they can’t use and benefit from it — though they live with the downsides of being near it.

Community News produces stories about under-covered neighborhoods and small cities on the Eastside and South Los Angeles. Please email feedback, corrections and story tips to [email protected]