The city began a program last week to turn debris-filled alleys into gardens and recreational areas for South-Central residents who have complained about the illegal dumping and drug-dealing that the byways attract.
Under the program, residents pay for gates to block access to an alley, decide what kind of recreation area they want and assume responsibility for its upkeep. It costs about $800 for the city to gate off an alley, according to the Board of Public Works.
"The program sounds good, but it depends on the cost," said Helen Dickerson, who has lived on the 8900 block of Menlo Avenue for nearly 33 years.
"You can't drive down the alley (behind my home)," she said. "People dump stuff in the alleys all the time, things like furniture. Sometimes there are stolen cars just sitting there where they've been stripped right there in the alley."
The city spends more than $4 million annually to clean up alleys, according to the Department of Public Works, the city agency in charge of maintaining the alleys.
"This is a major priority, because you are talking about relieving the money we have to spend doing this (cleaning alleys) and it creates a positive image for us," said Bob Hayes, a Board of Public Works spokesman.
The city has more than 3,400 alleys, with 1,080 of them considered "nuisance alleys," Hayes said.
So far, the board has received about 11 requests from residents wanting to participate in the program. Hayes said the department will identify the first three alleys to undergo conversion early next month. Requests from residents will be submitted through their council member's office and then be processed by the department.
"This doesn't have any ramifications on traffic. And the Fire Department and Police Department don't use these alleys," Hayes said. Trash pickup would not be affected either, he said.
The project was developed by the department in conjunction with the offices of Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas and Councilwoman Rita Walters.
The Board of Public Works, which began looking for ways to deal with nuisance alleys several years ago, turned to Cal Poly Pomona for help. Last year, students from three classes were brought in to survey alleys and help design alternative uses for residents to choose.
Information: Walters' office (213) 485-3351; Ridley-Thomas' office: (213) 485-3331.