The junk pile on my street: L.A.'s peculiar bulky item problem

What Angeleno doesn't have a personal story about an abandoned sofa, trashed sidewalk or migrating junk piles?

There’s an apartment complex on my street that regularly erupts in flows of broken furniture and assorted household debris, which land on a particular spot on the sidewalk. This occasional (but all-too frequent) junk pile grows in width, breadth and unsightliness as other residents contribute their trash to the pile.

Right now there are parts of what look to be a deconstructed dresser and some boxes. But you never know what may appear next. Mattresses, chairs, toys, office equipment. Once, there was a toilet.

Every time that trash pile starts to form, I grit my teeth and promise that this time I will not -- NOT -- call  311, that I will track down the property owner and request that he or she or they please tell the tenants not to dump stuff on the sidewalk because, well, it’s both illegal and un-neighborly.  I never have.

Once, years ago, I tried to get the city attorney’s office interested in this illegal trash pile; no go. So, in the end I always give in and call 311, because I can’t stand looking at the trash pile anymore. A few days later it disappears, and I’m glad I called, even though I have practically ensured that the cycle will begin again.

When the junk pile magically disappears it reinforces the belief that if you dump stuff on the sidewalk, someone will come and take it away. But If I don’t, my street looks like crap. What’s a concerned resident to do?

I know my frustration is not unique; most Angelenos have a story about their experience with the city’s peculiar tradition of discarding furniture and trash on the sidewalks. Though some neighborhoods are particularly bad, I’ve seen dumped sofas in front of what are probably million-dollar homes.

I’m hopeful that the city’s new report on the trashiness trend is the beginning of the end for my street’s junk piles, though I’m not naive enough to believe a report and recommendation alone will change things.

Among other things, the report recommends more trash cans and stronger enforcement against illegal dumping and a public service campaign to encourage residents not to trash the city. These are good ideas. The city doesn’t have enough trash cans, especially in heavily used parks and along major streets. And I’m pretty sure my neighbors, and probably yours too, don’t know they can simply call 311 to get rid of the bulky items they no longer want.  In fact, they are paying for that service.

I know this is not the city’s biggest problem, and not even its worst visual blight. But it is something that affects all of us, every day.  And it’s something I can solve. At least on my street. So can you.

Follow me at @MarielGarzaLAT

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