CARSON — The bus tour began with orange juice and danish, but the menu soon switched to some of this city's worst industrial and residential eyesores.
"We are going to see some Chapter 99 failures today," said Patricia Nemeth, Carson's director of community development, referring to the enforcement chapter of the city building code.
Nemeth and 10 other officials, including four council members, several environmental commission members and city administrative and planning staffers, piled into a blue-and-white minibus Friday for a tour of eyesores and other problems that covered 83 sites in a zigzag route.
"We've had an enforcement process based on complaint, but as we drive through the area we find places that are eyesores that inspectors should cite (without complaints)," Nemeth said.
Look for Infractions
Mayor Sylvia L. Muise agreed that the city staff should not only respond to complaints but look for infractions as well. "We have probably 100 city staff on the streets responding to complaints," Muise said, "but there are instances where they drive right by other places that should be cited."
The list of stops included routine problems of parking in vacant lots, unkept property and graffiti and non-conforming residential uses such as parking and storage on front lawns and illegal garage conversions. But Carson officials also looked at more serious problems: illegal trucking of potentially toxic materials, extensive dumping and a neighborhood built near a landfill that from which methane gas is seeping.
As the bus waited behind a line of heavy trucks, Nemeth complained, "We don't know what's in those (truck) tanks. Some of these sites may not be appropriate for the storage of these chemicals." The city, using lists from the state Department of Health Services, has found that 40 of the city's trucking companies transport toxic materials within Carson, according to the city Community Development Department.
At one stop, Nemeth pointed out a hotel that neighbors have complained rents rooms by the hour for prostitution. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department will make a surprise inspection in coming weeks, said Environmental Commission Chairman Harry C. Braff.
Piles of Scrap Metal
At the east end of Lomita Boulevard, deep piles of scrap metal lined the dirt road. "The street . . . doesn't lead anywhere," said Harry T. Foisia, a community services officer. Carson is planning to clean up the area and close it to traffic, Nemeth said.
The field trip continued through an industrial area to a section of east Sepulveda Boulevard where stacks of large marine containers border a residential area. Some containers, which are used in shipping, were stacked three high, violating the city's limit of two.
The city has received complaints about noise and the danger of an accident from the containers looming above homes. "There are questions that some of the containers aren't tied down," Nemeth said. "One fell into someone's backyard."
Home were generally well-kept in a southwest residential neighborhood, but several cars and motorcycles were parked on lawns. In another neighborhood, several garages had been converted to apartments--illegally, officials said.
After a few minutes, the bus drove down what passengers called "Graffiti Alley." On one side, garage doors were marked with spray paint, messages that one city staffer likened to the "newspaper of the gangs."
Not Even Artwork
"This is depressing," Nemeth said. "I can't even see one good example of graffiti artwork."
There has been some successful code enforcement, Nemeth said. She recalled a case in which the city ordered a resident to clean up his yard. "When I was out here four months ago, there was corn growing in the front yard," she said. "There were religious quotes painted on the walls and a big cross." Showing how an eyesore can be in the eye of the beholder, Councilwoman Vera DeWitt countered: "What do you have against corn, lady?"
Both the corn and the inscriptions have been removed.
Following the tour, officials said they will analyze their findings and decide how to attack the problem, said John Dangleis, city administrator.
The Carson Environmental Commission will report on enforcement of Chapter 99 in December, Braff said. Carson officials are considering using the commission to make monthly sweeps of the city to look for code infractions.
Carson handles about 400 Chapter 99 cases a year and at any time has 160 active cases, said Gary Nehrenberg, district engineer. When someone complains about a building or a property, the city inspects it and notifies the owner to remedy any code violations within 30 days. If the owner does not comply, the city can have the work done and bill the owner.