Councilman Mitch O’Farrell, 13th District, introduced a motion last week that seeks to increase fines for illegal dumping in public spaces. The motion calls for potentially using proceeds from the increased fines to create a funding source to prevent illegal dumping.
The maximum punishment for illegal dumping is a fine of $1,000, or up to one year in county jail. To be issued a citation, a person must be verifiably caught in the act. O’Farrell said the fines are inefficient, and should be increased and publicized.
“People might take it more seriously if they realize they have to be on the hook for $5,000, for example,” O’Farrell said. “Especially if we can identify additional resources to enforce the citations.”
The Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) currently regulates and sets fines for illegal dumping in the public rights of way and the Los Angeles River. Specifically, it states that no rubbish or refuse can be placed in any street in the city.
The proposed motion requests a report on the number of violations to the LAMC issued by the city over the past five years and the amount of revenue received as a result of those violations. The motion also calls for the city council and the city attorney to report back on the possibility of increasing fines, and the feasibility of a second tier of fines that apply to commercial businesses that violate the illegal dumping ordinances.
O’Farrell said the increased funds would go back into the department for greater enforcement, which includes increased monitoring of the frequent dumping areas and allocating more resources for code violations.
There are four essential elements to combatting illegal dumping, including prevention, abatement, cleanup and enforcement, according to Mark Oldfield, spokesperson for the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle). He suggested a number of measures to enforce the ordinance, including educating the public and law enforcement, rapid response to complaints from the city, an increase of patrols in an area, and the installation of surveillance cameras.
“Statewide, this issue causes an awful lot of social, environmental and economical impacts – over $1 million from local governments is spent on dealing with illegal dumping each year,” Oldfield said.
O’Farrell said dump sites are especially detrimental in alleys and cul-de-sacs off Beverly Boulevard, Temple Street, and Virgil and Vermont avenues. Earlier this summer, O’Farrell joined members of the 13th District to clean up Dawson Alley in Historic Filipinotown, a particularly trash-ridden walkway frequented by many children on their way to school.
This week, the city attorney’s office received complaints about sites in the Hollywood area, including one in the 6700 block of Leland Way, where couches, shelves and dressers blocked the sidewalk and roadway. In these instances, the dumpsite is immediately reported to the bureau of sanitation via phone or through the MyLA311 app for smartphones, which allows people to send pictures and locations immediately. Once the location is reported, the dumpsite is put into the bureau of sanitation’s queue and will be collected within a few days.
O’Farrell said the tightening of the ordinance is aimed toward someone who knowingly dumps their trash in public spaces. He said the motion does not seek to target the trash produced by homeless encampments.
“We are not interested in fining homeless people for leaving their byproduct behind, as that is a totally different issue,” O’Farrell said.
He added that a person experiencing homelessness may not have the capacity to deal with the condition they find themselves in when vacating an area, and the items left behind by homeless encampments are different than the bulky items that are intentionally dumped as trash in public spaces.
According to O’Farrell, the dumpsites occur in places that are not frequented at night, and where people think they won’t get caught. In addition, he believes a significant amount of the problem stems from commercial businesses dumping large items.
“Rather than paying a fee for landfills they are offloading in an alley. We see a variety of materials, some even come from construction sites or where someone has [demolished] a house,” he said.
The materials frequently dumped include construction and demolition materials, abandoned vehicles, furniture, and hazardous and medical waste. The city’s integrated waste management board released a report that details the dangers of illegal dumping, including fire, rodents and insects, water quality and health risks from exposure to hazardous materials. The report refers to illegal dumping as a “broken window crime”, stating that when concentrated efforts to improve the enforcement of minor laws are instituted, there is a corresponding reduction in all crime
“This is harming the quality of life and it is time to put an end to it and discourage it across the city,” O’Farrell said.
O’Farrell’s office anticipates a report back from the city attorney and the department of public works within the next couple of months.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.