The city's public works team removes a couch from a neighborhood. Photo: Long Beach Public Works' Twitter
The City of Long Beach will move forward with drafting an action plan against the mounting issue of illegally dumped items on city streets and alleyways after the city council voted unanimously last night for the city manager to initiate work on the item.
The request came from Seventh District Councilman Roberto Uranga who represents the city’s West Side and says there are several “hot spots” in his district where people will leave items ranging from sofas and televisions to construction materials on city property. He called the issue a consistent and visible problem that contributes to blight. The item was sponsored by Council members Lena Gonzalez, Dee Andrews and Vice Mayor Rex Richardson.
“This is one of the largest most significant reports that come into our offices about dumping,” Richardson said. “In our district we’ve got two freeways that bisect our district and that makes us a little more susceptible to items being dumped in the different pockets and different alleyways that sort of end right at the freeway. So, the more we can do to work with our neighborhood associations, to have a strategy that really targets these highly susceptible neighborhoods, I think that’s the right direction.”
It's spring cleaning time - contact Public Works for your large item pickups (562) 570-2876 pic.twitter.com/GuZgylo47P— LB Public Works (@LBPublicWorks) March 21, 2017
While those members who signed on to support the item have their districts clustered on the west, north and central parts of the city, the issue extends to all districts. Mayor Robert Garcia noted that the city’s public works department picks up 50 to 60 mattresses per day. Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce added that in the past week her field deputy received 31 calls for illegally dumped items.
Once the request comes back to the council (expected in 120 days) it could include provisions for the hiring of a waste enforcement officer, a map of “hot spots” curated from collected data and an educational campaign to alert residents of their options when it comes to special-item pickups, something the city currently does for free up to twice a year per household.
The data collection will come from council office data collected in the forms of phone calls regarding illegally dumped items as well as the city’s GoLongBeach app which allows residents to report items with their smartphones. While the council was largely sympathetic to the undermanned public works team and their efforts in trying to keep the the streets clean, the same restraint was not shown for the app meant to direct public works toward these kinds of cases.
Fifth District Councilwoman Stacy Mungo said that the app is inaccurate and needs fixing if the city is going to continue to rely on residents to do the footwork for the city in pointing out these instances of blight. Mungo recounted seeing a television sit in front of someone’s house for three weeks before it was finally removed.
“They’re picked up, they’re not picked up, they say they’re picked up but you go by and they haven’t been picked up,” Mungo said. “Having used the app on multiple things I don’t think it’s public works’ fault. I’m literally willing to set aside money in the budget this year, if that is necessary, to have some college kids design an app that’s more effective.”
Finding solutions to this issue in the budget will be tricky. The city’s initial unveiling of the projected budget for the 2018 fiscal year showed it starting the cycle at even, however, it projected a budget shortfall of about $7.7 million in the 2019 fiscal year. The city projects that responding to illegally dumped items costs the city about $700,000 annually.
In an interview with the Post last week, Uranga acknowledged that while it may be cheaper for the city to respond to the issue more proactively through the hiring of more positions in the public works department, people cost money and with every person in the field comes additional people to carry out clerical work.
Still, Mayor Garcia asked the city manager to make efforts in this year’s budget to reflect the city’s needs in keeping Long Beach clean.
“We do not have enough resources when it comes to cleaning the city. In this year’s budget I want to see how we begin to take care of this issue,” Garcia said. “It’s not acceptable to have litter and trash in people’s alleys and in the neighborhood. It’s not okay and we must do a better job. I’ve been saying to staff we have to sweat the small stuff and the small stuff are the basics of just keeping the city clean and neighborhoods clean for the community.”