More than 100 years ago, stagecoaches rattled through the Simi Hills on the way from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Much earlier the weathered sandstone hills, which rise west of Chatsworth, were home to the Chumash Indians.
But the lovely umber-colored hills, so steeped in history, now are getting filled with trash.
City Councilman Hal Bernson has asked Los Angeles city building and safety officials to investigate one illegal dump site that borders Chatsworth Park South and land of the state parks department.
The 55-acre parcel, which belongs to the Southern California Savings & Loan Assn., is littered with rotting furniture, old appliances, construction debris and the inevitable beer bottles.
In response to a neighbor's complaint and inquiries from Bernson's office, the savings and loan cleaned up the small part of the tract visible from the Rockpointe development just west of Larwin Avenue.
But the savings and loan has declined to clean up the rest of the land or fence it to halt further illegal dumping, which led Bernson this week to ask the Department of Building and Safety to inspect the property for possible building-code violations.
"We did try to work with the bank," said Bernson field deputy Joan Danko, who said she first contacted the savings and loan in late December.
Under the city building code, the building and safety department can order the cleanup of excessive weeds or trash. If the property owner does not comply, the department can ask the city attorney to file a complaint or can ask the lot-cleaning division with the Department of Public Works to remove the debris and bill the owner for the work.
Howard Kaufman, a vice president with Southern California Savings, said the savings and loan association already has done "what is in the best interest of the neighborhood" by cleaning up the debris that could be seen from the Rockpointe townhomes.
The rest of the trash, he contended, "is not unsightly because you can't see it unless you go back" into the hills.
"I don't know how anybody could go in there and physically clean that place up," he said. "You're talking about a lot of money."
Kaufman said the bank had intended to fence off the two access roads into the property, but decided this would be ineffective, since dumpers could knock down the fence or lob refuse over the top.
Told that Bernson had referred the case to the building and safety department, Kaufman said the savings and loan would "do what has to be done. . . . We're not out to break the law."
Jim Portnoy, a Rockpointe resident, said that, when he told savings and loan officials about the dumping late last year, "I thought I was doing them a favor."
Portnoy, 48, one of many hiking enthusiasts who tramp the area, said he has witnessed dumping and recently took down the license number of a dumper's truck. But he said he was rebuffed by the police, who told him they would have to catch the culprit themselves.
"It's just fantastic up here, and they're destroying it," Portnoy complained about the dumpers one day last week as he inspected the area for fresh accumulations of junk. "That was just dumped in the last week," he said, eyeing a big cardboard carton full of broken floor tile.
It had rained the night before, and the steam rising off the sopping refuse made it look all the more noxious. "This draws rats, and snakes nest in there," Portnoy said, pointing to the largest pile.
"Each year it just multiplies."
Danko noted that illegal dumpers in many cases are going to a lot of trouble for nothing, since the city Bureau of Sanitation, upon request, picks up large articles of trash free of charge.