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Greuel Takes Her Pothole Repair Effort to the Streets

Streets: Councilwoman vows to spruce up the district, though some residents are skeptical.


What does it take to get a pothole repaired in Los Angeles?

Ask city officials, and they'll assure you relief is only 24 hours away for anyone who calls in a complaint. Ask a resident like Jose Roy Garcia of Sun Valley, and he'll scoff at that claim.

Now the city is being put to the test.

Saturday, Councilwoman Wendy Greuel launched a "pothole patrol" in her district and pledged to fill "within days" every pothole logged that day.

With the city's top pothole-patching official at her side, Greuel shoveled asphalt into a tire-eating crater in North Hollywood to start the campaign, which included a search for dumped furniture, graffiti and cracked sidewalks.

Bill Robertson, assistant director of the Bureau of Street Repairs, said crews would work through the weekend to fill potholes and remove dumped furniture.

"See how easy that was?" commented Garcia, 47, after watching Greuel fill a 2-foot-square pothole. "That took only 10 minutes. Why not just have a truck go up and down the streets and do this? I've been here over 20 years, and the city has never been good about giving us services."

Robertson said his workers patch about 200,000 street holes, three-quarters of them spotted by roving crews.

Garcia's pet peeve is a gaping pothole, about 4 square feet, that has been in his neighborhood for a week. A city crew came by Thursday and put up a barricade but didn't fill the hole, he said. "I want to know how long it will take to fix it," he told Arturo Gonzalez, Greuel's field deputy.

"They'll do it very soon," Gonzalez promised.

Nonetheless, Garcia wondered whether the pothole campaign will quietly die if a proposal on the fall ballot fails to split the Valley from the city of Los Angeles. "We're happy to see that they're out here doing this," he said as workers tidied up Greuel's handiwork. "But what happens after November?"

The councilwoman said her pothole pledge has nothing to do with the secession campaign. "I'm out here doing this because I think what people want to know is whether their council members are doing their jobs," Greuel said.

Greuel, who took office in April, says she does not believe secession is the answer to Valley residents' complaints of being ignored by City Hall.

By midafternoon, 54 volunteers had logged 287 potholes, 24 badly cracked sidewalks, 11 places needing graffiti removal and 55 bulky items dumped in public places. Greuel's district reaches from Van Nuys to Sunland-Tujunga.

Like Garcia, Lillian Scharf, 82, of North Hollywood was glad to see the attention but was skeptical that her own problem will be fixed. She said she has repeatedly asked the city to fix a dangerously buckled sidewalk in front of her home.

"I can't tell you how many times they've been out here and marked the pavement. They said, 'We'll be back in two weeks. We'll be back in two months.' It's been five years."

Greuel and Robertson promised her the repair will begin this week.

The city's toll-free number for reporting potholes is (800) 996-2489.

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