Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Mayor Eric Garcetti officially began a citywide effort Thursday to clean-up trash, illegally dumped bulky items and other debris cluttering up streets and alleys.

“The cleanliness of our streets, sidewalks, alleys and other public spaces are essential to our quality of life, our economy and our health,” Garcetti said. “That is why this must be a top priority.”

Garcetti signed an executive directive for his Clean Streets Initiative in an alley where he said city workers picked up 13 tons of trash that consisted of lmounds of sofas, mattresses, tables and other furniture. City sanitation crews will further clean the area of grime.

The directive also calls for putting 5,000 more trash cans around the city during the next few years, adding to the estimated 1,000 trash receptacles that city officials say are now out in the streets.

Garcetti also wants to deploy additional “Clean Street Strike Teams” to tackle areas with severe trash problems and set up a system for monitoring the progress of the clean-up. The Strike Teams — which would be increased from two to three teams under Garcetti’s proposal — will be tasked with cleaning up as much as 500 tons of trash each month.

Garcetti allocated $5 million this year toward cleaning up trash after several years in which trash pick-up programs had been scaled back.

This week, he proposed increasing the clean-up budget to $9.1 million in the upcoming year, which begins July 1.

The city lost about 250 sanitation employees in recent years, and the cost of cleaning up trash has traditionally cost about $12 million, Bureau of Sanitation Executive Director Enrique Zaldivar told City News Service last month.

Garcetti first announced his clean-up plans in his State of the City address last week, following efforts by Councilman Gil Cedillo and other city leaders to respond to complaints from residents about trash in city streets.

Cedillo said the mayor’s initiative builds on his “Keep it Clean” program in his own council district, which includes northeast Los Angeles and Chinatown.

“I am proud that my District has stepped up to this challenge and our Keep It Clean pilot is becoming the model for how we pick up trash in the City of Los Angeles,” Cedillo said. “There is no better way to talk trash than with the Mayor of Los Angeles, and more significantly with an executive directive — this trash talking will transform the City forever.”

Cedillo said his clean-up program led to more than 2,500 tons of trash getting cleaned up over 18 months, with trash cleared out of 286 alleys and at least three dozen clean-up events organized throughout his district.

The mayor’s initiative also comes after the Los Angeles City Council voted last month to begin creating a citywide approach to cleaning up trash and picking up couches, televisions and other bulky items illegally discarded on streets.

City officials spent the past six months studying the issue, which included examining how other major cities such as San Francisco, New York City and Washington, D.C., handle abandoned waste.

That proposal called for a more proactive approach and would depart from the city’s current complaint-based system in which residents are expected to dial 311 to report bulky items discarded on the streets, officials said.

This passive strategy has fallen short, with some Angelenos not even aware of the existence of a telephone hotline for making complaints, officials said.

—Staff and wire reports

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