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Galanter Declares War on Junk

City councilwoman's cleanup of her north Valley district has yielded 140 tons of trash. 'Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg,' she says.

November 12, 2002|Michael Krikorian | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter is tired of being dumped on.

Appalled by the amount of illegal trash left in her northeast San Fernando Valley district, Galanter's office has teamed up with the city's Bureau of Sanitation on a crusade to clean up the mess.

"Dumping is a citywide problem, but nothing like what happens out here," she said of her district, which includes Panorama City, Arleta and parts of Sun Valley, Pacoima, Van Nuys and North Hollywood.

In recent weeks, sanitation crews have collected more than 140 tons of trash from sidewalks and alleyways in the area, including everything from broken furniture to rusty refrigerators. More pickups are planned through the month.

"Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg," Galanter said. "Our work has just begun."

Although dumping is a crime punishable by fines of $20 to $1,000 for a first offense, officials said it's difficult to prosecute someone unless they are caught in the act or a witness comes forward. So, Galanter is pushing for surveillance cameras to be installed at chronic dumping locations.

"Picking up after the criminals who dump this stuff is not enough," she said. "We need to track them down and prosecute them for this crime against the community."

Paul Bobek, a lifelong Sun Valley resident, said he was pleased by Galanter's efforts.

"We are tired of seeing freezers and couches on the parkways here," said Bobek, 52, a resident of Cantlay Street. "The last three, four years, it's been getting worse."

Shortly after her 6th District was reconfigured in July, Galanter took a driving tour of her new neighborhoods and saw firsthand the rampant dumping on streets and sidewalks. "There were couches everywhere," she said.

To combat the problem, Galanter joined forces with the city's Bureau of Sanitation to start weekend trash collections in October. She encourages her constituents to call the agency for assistance.

"Cleaning up has a positive impact on daily life," Galanter said. "Sometimes it's the people who are hired to clean out a property who do the dumping. One time a constituent looked in her backyard and there were 200 old tires there."

The Bureau of Sanitation will pick up large items such as refrigerators and sofas at homes and apartment buildings with four units or less. Its line for bulky-item pickups is (800) 773-2489.

Deputy City Atty. Martha Gutierrez, who works closely with officers in the Los Angeles Police Department's North Hollywood Division, also encourages the public to call the bureau when they need help. She said illegal dumping has long been a problem in the community.

"It is something I hear about all the time and I try constantly to educate the community about it," she said. "You don't have to put it on your yard or someone else's. The city will get it for you."

But problems persist, despite Galanter's efforts.

Last week, property along Kagel Canyon Street in Pacoima was littered with a bed frame, large cabinet and old television.

"That TV has been here for two weeks," said Wendy Becerra, 18, as she looked at a 25-inch set in a shabby wooden console resting in front of her parents' house. "It bothers me. It makes the neighborhood look bad."

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