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Mid City West Council Chair Jeff Jacobberger is a tall man, and that’s why he knew there was a problem in the neighborhood.
“The grass was more than knee deep,” Jacobberger said of the foliage in the medians along San Vicente Boulevard. “And I’m six-foot-two, so my knees are relatively high.”
Overgrown grass and bushes on the medians running down Highland Avenue, Burton Way and San Vicente Boulevards became a problem last summer when the city cut back on maintenance in some areas because of budget cuts. The overgrown grass and shrubs had residents appalled. A few weeks ago, however, the medians were back to their clean-cut appearance, with San Vicente Boulevard being the latest to be trimmed.
The changes came thanks to actions by several local city councilmembers, including Tom LaBonge, 4th District, Paul Koretz, 5th District, and Herb Wesson Jr., 10th District. The councilmembers pooled money from their individual council accounts to pay for a landscape crew to trim the affected medians.
“The constituents were upset in all these districts and understandably so,” said Ed Johnson, assistant chief deputy for Wesson. “It needed to be done and there was no other money to do it, so that’s why they [pooled their funds].”
The plants on the medians had grown so high because the city’s budget deficit eliminated funding for their upkeep. The city of Los Angeles is divided into four quadrants under the Bureau of Street Services, which generally takes care of the medians. Three of the quadrants receive city budget funding to pay for private maintenance contracts, while the fourth is to be kept up by city workers. That publicly supported quadrant rotates each year and, this fiscal year, the area north of Santa Monica (10) Freeway was the outlier. Because of the budget shortfall, city personnel positions were eliminated, and workers who would have normally trimmed the medians were no longer available.
“So the grass kept growing,” Jacobberger said.
Some councilmembers — such as LaBonge — tackled the problem before others. Once all the affected council districts combined their resources and completed a public bidding process, the company, TruGreen, was selected and went to work on the overgrown foliage.
“In terms of a level of pride, it was so depressing to drive through a city where things look unkempt,” according to Carolyn Ramsey, a spokesperson for LaBonge. “It was really important to keep the beauty of the public green space intact.”
LaBonge started approaching the problem on his own last summer after driving down Highland Avenue and noticing how poor the medians appeared. The councilman tapped into his individual council account and enlisted the help of workers with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks.
“They are part of the aesthetics for the surrounding area,” LaBonge said. “I couldn’t allow these medians, which thousands of residents and motorists enjoy each day, to become overgrown or fall into disrepair.”
The 4th, 5th and 10th Districts were included in the seven districts that shared the expense of hiring a crew to trim the overgrown grass. The councilmembers all pulled funding from their council accounts that had been generated through the Street Furniture Fund. Money collected from advertisements on bus benches and other city street fixtures is redistributed evenly among the council districts.
Johnson said during the next fiscal year, the Wilshire area and its surrounding neighborhoods will revert back one of the quadrants that receives general city funds for private maintenance. Jacobberger said several of the members of the Mid City West Community Council were previously upset at the quality of the medians, but he added that he was pleased that the city councilmembers found appropriate funds to fix the problem.
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