An Area Distinguished by Its Debris : L.A. Report Urges Spending $500,000 to Clear Wilmington Trash

Times Staff Writer

This nine-square-mile harbor-front community may be the site of more illegal trash dumping than any other area in Los Angeles, according to a city report that recommends spending $500,000 on a special cleanup.

The city report, compiled by the office of the city administrative officer, is based on findings from surveys distributed in April to all 15 members of the Los Angeles City Council. Council members were asked to identify areas in their districts plagued by such refuse as household litter and industrial debris. Three council members cited areas in their districts that had those problems.

Of the areas cited, Wilmington topped the list.

The other areas “do show signs of illegal dumping; however, in no case does the amount and density of debris compare to that which exists in Wilmington,” the report said.


The report concluded that the trash-ridden areas cited by council members--except Wilmington--could be cleared by the Bureau of Street Maintenance.

“The distinguishing feature in Wilmington is that the debris is of such magnitude that the bureau could not clear the area with existing forces without significantly detracting from services in other areas of the city for an extended period of time,” the report said.

The survey results came as no surprise to Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, said Nelson Hernandez, Flores’ Wilmington field deputy. “We know there’s a lot of junk there,” he said. “We have always believed Wilmington needs to be cleaned.”

The survey came as a result of requests by Flores for city funds for an intensive cleanup campaign in Wilmington. In mid-April, the council’s finance and revenue committee asked for an assessment of rubbish problems citywide before it considered her request.

Now that the survey has been done, the city staff is recommending that $500,000 be appropriated for private contractors to clear out debris in Wilmington. The cleanup would target private property, mostly on the eastern side of the community and in a vast area south of Anaheim Street that is part of a city redevelopment project.

Flores’ staff is working with the Bureau of Street Maintenance to get public lots and streets cleaned, said Julie Kalgren, legislative deputy for the councilwoman.

The areawide cleanup proposed by Flores would start with representatives from fire, sanitation, building and safety and other city departments touring Wilmington to identify specific private properties that need cleaning. Lot owners would be cited and allowed 30 days clear them.

The city’s contractor would clear lots whose owners ignore the orders and the city would bill the owner. Unpaid fees would be tacked on to property tax bills.

If the funding request is approved, its impact on Wilmington could be significant, Hernandez predicted. The request is expected to be considered by the City Council’s finance and revenue committee within the next two weeks.

“It will improve Wilmington’s image as well as increase the possibilities for redevelopment,” he said. “The place needs to be cleaned.”

The three council members who responded to the survey were Flores, Robert Farrell and Joy Picus. Farrell represents the South-Central area and Picus represents Canoga Park, Reseda and other San Fernando Valley communities.

Los Angeles Senior Administrative Analyst John Harris, who conducted the survey, could not be reached for comment.

Patrick Howard, assistant director for the city’s Bureau of Street Maintenance, said his department is aware of the illegal dumping in Wilmington but said the problem is so large that the department is unable to manage it.

“Dumping has become an increasing problem throughout the city, but there’s nothing that compares to that area,” Howard said. “We could put all our crews in that area and lose them forever and not make a dent in it.”