If you live in Long Beach, especially if you live near downtown, you’ve probably grown immune to the sight of couches, desks or mattresses cast to the curb where they can sit for days, if not weeks, before they’re collected.
Illegally dumped items are an issue in the city with abandoned furniture and appliances being more prevalent in some areas than others. At next week’s city council meeting, Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga will request that the city manager’s office put together an Illegal Dumping Action Plan to combat the practice that has contributed to neighborhood blight and safety concerns.
The item is being sponsored by his council colleagues in the city’s First, Sixth and Ninth Districts.
Uranga explained that there are certain areas of West Long Beach that are havens for dumping items because they’re isolated and have little lighting or security to prevent it from happening. To be sure, this is not solely a Seventh District issue, but Uranga said his staff has been clued in to the hot spots in the area through calls to his office.
“They’re isolated. There’s nobody around,” Uranga said of the sites that are repeatedly targeted for dumping in the Seventh. “No cameras, no patrols, and it’s very easy to drive by and dump it off and continue on.”
Uranga is calling for the potential hiring of additional staff including a “waste enforcement officer” as well as a coordinated outreach effort to inform the community of existing programs—the city will pick up items from residences twice a year for free—as well as establishing a hot spot map so city agencies can better monitor sites known for dumping in a proactive manner.
The latter would be done by compiling and cross-referencing data from the city’s Go Long Beach App, where residents can use their cell phones to report illegally dumped items for pick up, as well as council district office call data and information from the city’s special collection and oversized items pick up service.
That program, housed under the city’s Environmental Services Bureau, can be scheduled in advance by residents to pick up unwanted items such as furniture, appliances, yard debris and even tires, though some items like tires require special handling and come with a fee. It also directs residents to seek out non-profits that may take those items (for free) as donations for resale.
“I think there are a lot of residents that don’t realize that they can have two opportunities for a City of Long Beach pick up,” Uranga said. “Instead of waiting or getting a service call in to get it picked up they get rid of it right away. There’s no need to illegally dump it.”
According to a city staff report, Long Beach spent approximately $700,000 last year on the nearly 18,000 requests for pickups of illegally dumped materials. This author has personally used the Go Long Beach app more than a handful of times this year—it works by the way—to initiate a process that can take upward of 10 days to complete but the item does eventually get picked up.
That response time, though, depends on the number of items the city’s few resources have to respond to, and Uranga said that number keeps climbing. Would it be cheaper to hire more people to proactively collect and monitor areas designated as hot spots? Sure, he said, but like anything, dollars are hard to come by especially with projected budget deficits on the horizon.
Instead, he’s hoping that a combination of outreach, education, better lighting and surveillance and possibly increasing the special item pickup program limit above twice a year will help bring the community into the fold of self policing their neighborhoods for illegal dumping.
“It’s somewhat of a community effort as well, to get people engaged and involved in reporting the illegal dumping when they see it,” Uranga said. “One of the most important things that we want as a city is to have our residents take charge of their neighborhoods. Try to keep them clean, try to keep home values up, try to keep the hazardous materials off the streets so our kids can play safely and not be exposed to anything that might injure them or injure the environment.”