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This city has gone to the dogs. Er, cats.

July 14, 2008

Typically, Letters to the Editor only features brief correspondence reacting to Times coverage. But this long letter, from Keith Arnold of Manhattan Beach, caught our eye last week:

I take one of two paths to work every morning, like thousands of my fellow South Bay commuters. It is one of the day’s earliest choices: fight through the ill-timed lights and chaos of Playa del Rey and Culver City, or spin the wheel and brave La Cienega? (Who would even think to take the freeway?) For the past few weeks, I’ve been taking La Cienega, spending a mile or so in the rapidly slowing traffic of the 405 before escaping to the crawling surface street that takes you north from Inglewood to Beverly Hills. When you’re moving at a crawl for 45 minutes, there is plenty of time to soak in your surroundings. I’ve counted garbage bags full of trash, expired license plates, even abandoned cars — most times making it to a dozen before I travel the 7.5 miles that usually takes me 30 to 45 minutes to complete. Three weeks ago, I noticed two dead cats on the exit ramp from the 405 to La Cienega — two family pets, a half mile apart, both lying lifeless on the left side of the road. Being a native Midwesterner, I’m used to seeing road kill — deer, raccoons, and the occasional skunk — but after losing the family dog to a passing motorist a few years ago, I’ve started to take pity on the plight of domestic pets. I picked up my cell phone and called 311. After sitting through bilingual recordings from our mayor, I waited for an operator. And waited. Over twenty-five minutes before finally hanging up. I called the next day, and after five or ten minutes, got an operator, who immediately passed me to the Department of Transportation. Where I waited again for 10 minutes. Finally, I spoke to a nice woman who assured me they’d send someone to pick up the animal. The following Monday I drove by, and saw those two cats, still lying dead, both looking worse for the wear from rotting in the hot sun. After three weeks, and four more phone calls, I finally was told that the off-ramp wasn’t controlled by the City of Los Angeles. So I was transferred to the County, where I again waited for 10 minutes before I explained the plight of these two cats. I was told that the off-ramps weren’t controlled by the County, and that I’d have to call CHP. So I was transferred there. After waiting for at least 10 more minutes (I took a call while I was on hold, and my counter reset), I finally hit a prompt that somehow sent me to 911. It was the first time I didn’t get put on hold in my three career calls to 911. I explained that this wasn’t an emergency, but that two cats had been lying dead for at least three weeks on the northbound on ramp to La Cienega off the 405. The operator told me she’d dispatch someone to get them cleaned up immediately. As I drove into work today, I hoped that I’d see a road free of decomposing house pets. But what I saw was worse: Our first dead cat, with a fresh stripe of yellow paint across him. Apparently, the road stripers didn’t let a dead animal get in the way of repainting our filthy streets. Luckily for cat number 2, he remains paint-free as he continues to decompose daily in front of thousands of commuters.I know it’s too much to ask of our city to find a way to let citizens make it seven miles in under 45 minutes (though most high school cross-country teams can already do it by foot), but could we at least work on making those seven miles a little bit more clean? If you don’t do it for us, do it for the two cats.

Seen anything strange on your commute? Discuss today’s Letters Plus.

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