Politics

In Hollywood Hills, dirt haulers lead to dust-up among neighbors

Large trucks hauling dirt from home construction sites in Hollywood Hills have drawn angry complaints from neighbors citing safety issues.
Large trucks hauling dirt from home construction sites in Hollywood Hills have drawn angry complaints from neighbors citing safety issues.
Doheny Sunset Plaza Neighborhood Association

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Los Angeles officials have decided that big trucks can haul away tons of dirt from a pair of high-end construction sites in the Hollywood Hills, but with conditions, after hearing from angry neighbors worried about pollution and safety. 

Members of the tony Bird Streets neighborhood – a hot spot for hillside development — voiced their concerns with the City Council’s planning committee on Tuesday. Neighbors were appealing the city's decision to allow the mass transport of dirt from two addresses on Thrasher Avenue. 

"It’s only a matter of time of time before someone — a resident, city employee, construction worker or child — gets seriously hurt," resident Stella Jeong told councilmembers. 

Tensions over haul trucks in the city’s hillside communities have heated up during a post-recession construction boom that has developers buying up multi-million-dollar "teardowns" for their stunning views and then building anew.

Neighbors complain of safety and pollution issues created by the truck traffic.
Neighbors complain of safety and pollution issues created by the truck traffic.
Doheny Sunset Plaza Neighborhood Association

In response, Bird Streets residents recently founded a neighborhood group that's been working to suspend the transport of large amounts of dirt down the area’s narrow, windy roads, said president Ellen Evans. On Tuesday, they got support from the Bel-Air/Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council which has similar concerns about dirt haulers.

Lawrence Rose, owner of one of the Thrasher Avenue homes under construction, told councilmembers that complaints about truck traffic are greatly exaggerated. 

"You’ve heard the word dangerous, treacherous and so forth," said Rose, whose home requires the removal of 5,400 cubic yards of dirt. "Look, these conditions aren’t perfect. People are building houses."

Earlier complaints about the truck traffic in the Bird Streets have led the city to cap the number of round trips made by dirt haulers to 24 a day.

"An average project might have eight haul trips a day," said Julia Duncan, senior planning deputy for Councilman David Ryu, who represents Hollywood. "So there'd be three projects maximum that are allowed to work. We wanted to proactively address the intensity issue."

Some residents cited two fatal crashes in 2014 involving construction vehicles in Beverly Hills. An off-duty police officer was killed when a cement mixer smashed into his car. Another police officer was killed when a tractor trailer hit his patrol car.

Neighbors regularly take photos of instances they deem unsafe.
Neighbors regularly take photos of instances they deem unsafe.
Doheny Sunset Plaza Neighborhood Association

Members of the council's planning panel recommended after hearing from residents to allow the haulers to continue on their routes, but added some conditions for developers, including the prohibition of any staging or construction receptacles on the rights of way.  The full council is expected to approve the committee's decision Wednesday.

Hauling projects are subject to city regulations if they involve transporting more than 1,000 cubic yards of dirt. For example, trucking trips can only take place on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and must be accompanied by workers directing traffic with flags.  

Ryu's office is working on new rules that would more tightly restrict traffic from dirt haulers in hillside neighborhoods. One proposal would trigger regulations when transporting 100 cubic yards of dirt in his district's hillside communities.

Some neighbors say regulations are welcome but have questioned whether the city is able to enforce them.

"Thus far, the city has failed to do its job maintaining order and safety," Evans, association president, said.