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DOWNTOWN : Recycling Center May Be Shut Down

September 05, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

A city zoning administrator is expected to rule this week on whether a Skid Row recycling center that area residents, merchants and police officers describe as a nuisance should be ordered closed.

Neighbors and police officers say that the Carousel Recycling Center--despite a ruling from a zoning commission--has failed to curb its crime and trash problems. They argued at a recent hearing that the center should be shut down.

But the attorney for Carousel contends that the besieged center at 612-614 E. 7th St. has been unfairly blamed for the neighborhood's ills by merchants and property owners who refuse to help solve the problems themselves.

Residents, business owners and police officers say the recycling center is a nuisance because it draws hordes of homeless people who loiter, litter, urinate, drink and engage in drug activity and prostitution in the area. City zoning officials in February ordered the center to hire a security guard and to clean up after and shoo away loitering customers, or face closure.

About a dozen neighbors and police officers filed back into a City Hall hearing room Aug. 26 to complain that the center has not complied with those orders.

"By and large, nothing has changed," said Los Angeles Police Capt. Jim Tatreau, commanding officer of the Newton Division. "I think (the landlord and operator) are laughing at the city."

Associate Zoning Administrator Jon Perica listened for three hours to both sides and will issue a decision, probably in the coming week, on whether the city should shut down the center.

Harold Light, attorney for center operator Ruy Gomez, argued that Gomez has taken steps to improve conditions, such as hiring an additional employee to clean the streets around the center and to encourage loitering customers to move. But Light said the center should not be blamed for problems that have always plagued the neighborhood.

Light has filed a lawsuit against the city to fight the restrictions. He contends the conditions, which include daily graffiti cleanups, establishment of a 24-hour hot line to field complaints and posting signs to inform the public about the hot line are too costly for the center.

"This is a problem of third-party conduct and crime," Light argued. "None of the (city's) conditions will solve the crime problem."

But neighbors and police contend the center is directly responsible for scores of transients who crowd the streets, scaring away customers of local businesses. Neighbors said Gomez continues to ignore the problems and community members' attempts to contact and work with her.

Light countered that he has been rebuffed when he tried to meet with neighbors on behalf of his client, who speaks limited English.

The attorney and several advocates for the homeless have accused opponents of being against aid for the homeless and recycling efforts.

"If a shelter, or anything that served the homeless, tried to open up in that part of Skid Row, they'd jump up and down too," Light said.

Still, Perica indicated he too is a bit frustrated by the center's lack of cooperation.

"We're trying to find a reasonable way . . . to allow the business to continue," Perica told Light. "I see only the minimalist effort to comply. What has your client done to show her good-faith effort?"

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