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DOWNTOWN : Recycling Center May Face Closure

A City Council committee last week agreed with city zoning officials that a Skid Row recycling center should close because it is a public nuisance that has failed to curb its crime and trash problems.

The full council will review the Planning and Land Use Management Committee’s recommendation at a future date. If the council agrees with the committee and zoning officials, it can order city building and safety officials to revoke Carousel Recycling Center’s operating permit and board up the center if it fails to close voluntarily.

Harold Light, the center’s attorney, said he will continue to challenge the city’s orders. He has filed a lawsuit to fight a set of city-ordered improvements, which he has said are unreasonable and unfair.

If a judge rules that the city’s conditions, imposed a year ago, are reasonable, “we’ll comply with the closure,” Light said.

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Local residents, business owners and police say the recycling center at 612-614 E. 7th St. attracts large numbers of homeless who litter, urinate, drink, use drugs and engage in prostitution. In response to complaints, city zoning officials last year ordered the center to hire a security guard and clean up after and shoo away loitering customers, or face closure.

The center did not comply with the conditions, which Light said were too much of a hardship for the small business. Light then filed the lawsuit to block the city from requiring the improvements.

In the meantime, according to Light, center operator Ruy Gomez has taken other steps to try to improve conditions, such as hiring an additional employee to clean surrounding streets and encourage loitering customers to move.

But neighbors and police officers continued complaining to city zoning officials. The opponents advocated relocating or closing the center, saying the facility’s customers continued to crowd streets and that drug activity, prostitution and burglaries remained high.

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Associate Zoning Administrator Jon Perica last September ordered the center to shut down. Light appealed to the Board of Zoning Appeals, which in November agreed with Perica and upheld the closure order.

Light has consistently contended that the center is being unfairly blamed for the neighborhood’s ills by area property owners who refuse to help solve the problems themselves. He accused opponents of simply being against recycling efforts and helping the homeless.

Light also said his efforts to meet with neighbors on behalf of Gomez have been rebuffed.


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