Wachs Urges Fewer, More Centralized City Fuel Tanks


In the latest call to arms in a crusade against wasteful city government, Los Angeles Councilman Joel Wachs on Thursday proposed consolidating the city’s far-flung fuel tank storage system.

He said that replacing current tanks with fewer, centralized, larger tanks could save up to $13 million over the next three years.

At a news conference in front of a Lincoln Heights fire station fuel pump, he pointed at a similar pump across the street and others down the road at another city department.


Wachs, the head of the City Council’s Governmental Efficiency Committee since 1993, said departments so close to each other should share tanks. “Because of turf wars, you have far more tanks than is needed,” he said.

More than two-thirds of the city’s 437 underground tanks hold less than 5,000 gallons, and freight companies charge more to bring fuel to such small tanks. This costs the city an extra $1.2 million a year, Wachs said.

A program to retrofit the storage tanks to meet state and federal standards by 1998 would cost about $20 million, he said.

But by removing tanks that hold less than 5,000 gallons, reducing the number of tanks to about 237 and building centralized fueling sites, the city could save $10 million, he said.

The councilman plans to present his proposal to the City Council today.

An independent consultant agreed that the city could probably save money by consolidating tanks, but said more analysis is needed to determine how many could be eliminated.

Paul Lauria of David M. Griffith and Associates is leading a comprehensive review of the city’s fleet management operations. While sharing tanks sounds efficient, he said, other issues have to be considered. For example, Department of Water and Power workers may not want queues of garbage trucks trying to fill up at their pumps, he said. Also, departments sharing tanks would need a way to sort out the billing.


“Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to expose examples of waste and inefficiency in city government,” Wachs said Thursday.

Some of those disclosures have led to changes in city operations:

* In August, Wachs called for a private energy audit of all 900 city-owned buildings. Some of City Hall’s antiquated heating and cooling equipment requires 17 engineers to supervise it constantly to make sure the systems do not overheat and erupt.

This month, Wachs’ committee will begin the search for a firm to conduct the audit, said Wachs spokesman Greg Nelson. The audit will likely take place in a few months, he said.

* In February, Wachs and his staff displayed stacks of obsolete, yellowed and dusty forms to prove that the city needs to cut down on unnecessary paperwork. Instead of storing forms in warehouses and processing them by hand, Wachs said, workers should store them in computers, fill them in via keyboard and transmit the information electronically.

Members of the efficiency committee, the City Administrative Office, the General Services Department and the Information Technology Agency will soon present Wachs with a detailed strategy for eliminating some of the paperwork, Nelson said.

* Last January, Wachs held a news conference amid stacks of office supplies that he said could be bought at a nearby store for much less than what the city pays. The antiquated purchasing system could be overhauled to save up to $70 million annually, Wachs said in 1994.


The limit for petty cash to buy supplies has been raised from $100 to $500. “It’s now a lot easier to go across the street to a Staples or an Office Depot instead of going through the expensive, bureaucratic system,” Nelson said.

* In September, Wachs introduced a plan to farm out to a private contractor all responsibility for running the city’s workers’ compensation system.

Since then, two private companies have been handling claims for fire and police workers, while the city still manages other cases. Nelson said the city will compare the savings and may move later to privatize the whole system.

* In July 1994, Wachs called for a consolidation of city warehouses, citing a study that said the city only needed 30 of its 75 warehouses.

Jon Mukri, assistant general manager of the General Services Department, said workers are beginning to consolidate common items among city departments and are identifying unnecessary warehouses. Reducing warehouses is also part of purchasing system reform.