Mayor Richard Riordan helped shovel heaps of trash from a South Los Angeles alley Thursday, kicking off a citywide campaign to rid neighborhoods of illegally dumped trash.
"The sight in front of me is truly awful," Riordan said, speaking from a podium set up at an alleyway between 57th and 58th streets, just east of Central Avenue, that was packed with garbage. "It makes me sick. . . . We need to get rid of illegal dumping and other anti-quality-of-life crimes."
Currently, the city spends more than $4 million a year cleaning up illegal dumping sites, where more than 121,000 tons of garbage is collected, according to Riordan's office.
In the past, the city has run pilot programs to clean up alleys. The new effort is the most comprehensive. The city is kicking in $600,000 and will use additional grant money--$500,000 from the state and $1.8 million from the federal government--to tackle alleys, vacant lots and streets.
The alleys will be either closed off or converted into gated mini-parks, with some of the costs for the conversions assessed on property owners in the vicinity of the alleys.
"Only people who live around the alleys will have keys to the small parks. They can have birthday parties or barbecues. But then they maintain it," said Bob Hayes, spokesman for the city's public works department.
Cleanup efforts are being done by 14 city staffers, plus welfare recipients who are required to work for their checks and convicts who have been given alternative sentences by judges.
Los Angeles has about 800 miles of alleys. Daily, city officials are alerted to about 20 alleys with illegal dumping problems, said Greg Scott of the city's bureau of street maintenance.
Officials urged people to call (213) 485-5661 to report illegal dumping, promising that the site will be cleaned up within a week.
In addition, people are encouraged to call (800) 773-CITY to have the city pick up bulky items that might otherwise end up in an illegal trash heap.