Arroyo Seco homeless encampment clean up to extend into next week

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L.A. sanitation officials say they're working on a major clean-up effort along the dry Arroyo Seco riverbed in South Pasadena, where a number of homeless encampments have sprung up in recent years, some with their own kitchens and bathroom structures. 

The clean up is one of the largest the area has seen in several years, which spans an area of about 300 yards in length and about 150 yards wide and includes an estimated 17 to 20 "good sized, well established homeless encampments" in a wooded area along the riverbed, according to Pepe Garcia, Bureau of Sanitation superintendent for the area.

"This didn't happen overnight," he said. "They've accumulated it over time — tarps, mattresses, couches. kitchen areas, bathroom areas - that kind of stuff. It's kind of developed." 

The clean-up effort began Monday, after those living in the area were notified that sanitation officials would be moving in.

"We'd hope to finish by the end of this week, but it's going to take another week to really really get in there and get everything out of there." 

Garcia estimated about 20 to 40 individuals lived in the area. He said sanitation officials were being "very cautious" not to throw away items that belong to people living in the encampments.  

"If for some reason they cannot, or they don't have the means to move some of the belongings which they wish to keep," Garcia said, "we bag, tag and store that stuff for them so they can recover that later. All that happens before we move one item from a location." 

Many of the encampments are deep in the wooded areas near the riverbed, making it difficult for officials to reach them. 

 "We have to cross the Arroyo to get to it," Garcia said. "So we have to go down into the river, up on the other side. alongside the 110 Freeway. grab the stuff, then bring it back down, cross over to the other side in order to stage and remove [the trash]."

Garcia said the clean up is necessary because of the potential threat of biohazards in the area and other types of hazardous waste.  

The clean up comes a week after the bureau completed a similar clean up in downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row. That effort was paired with a large outreach effort to homeless living in the area.

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