By Hal McMath
In 2009 Toy District property owners voted against renewing the contract with the local business improvement district operator the CCEA which currently covers much of the Industrial District. As a commercially zoned district, Toy District businesses are responsible for their own trash removal. But without the CCEA to keep the streets clean and without any municipal trash removal the streets quickly became filthy. Not only do area businesses routinely dump commercial garbage in the streets but area food vendors and charitable entities engaged in public homeless feedings (as well as their respective patrons) discard food in the streets as well.
This has led to a serious public sanitation problem. Rats have now infested the area and can routinely be seen at night scurrying between curbside drain outfalls and food garbage strewn about the streets and sidewalks. And this in an area where homeless individuals sleep on the sidewalks and two health clinics operate. The situation became so egregious that as area residents we decided to act.
The first step was to request 6 city-provided public trash receptacles through Jan Perry’s office. In early January Ron Lee at the Bureau of Sanitation had these receptacles installed. While the city empties them once a week, the two placed on San Pedro Street at 4th and Winston Streets are emptied daily by the CCEA (as this stretch is still within CCEA territory). Although area business illegally use these receptacles for their commercial trash, the garbage accumulating in them for the most appears to be non-commercial garbage (especially discarded food) that was previously ending up on the streets. Depending on the day of the week, the streets can still be littered with garbage but the situation is much improved over just a few weeks ago. As such we reported back to Ron Lee at the Bureau of Sanitation on this initial success and asked for 3 more receptacles this time along Los Angeles Street between Winston and 5th Streets. (Beyond Los Angeles Street to the west the Historic Downtown BID operates and the streets are clean.)
With the area well covered by public trash receptacles, we next plan an outreach effort to area food vendors and charitable organizations feeding the homeless to strongly encourage them and their patrons to use these receptacles and desist from dumping food in the streets. Finally, the last step involves getting the curbside drain outfalls covered with grates to prevent them from being used as hangouts for the local rat population. This will require the cooperation of property owners many of which to date have shown little interest in improving the neighborhood.
Although this all represents a modest step in the right direction, hopefully in time it will not only eliminate the public sanitation issue but also create more inviting streets. Inviting streets in turn could help draw more pedestrian traffic into the area from the Historic Core which would be in everyone’s best interests including residents, businesses, and property owners.
(Thank you Hal for this guest blog piece!-Katherine)