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Sweeping some streets less could make all of LA cleaner

A Los Angeles City Controller's audit says street sweeping is not provided equally to various parts of the city and that reducing weekly sweeps in some areas could help in others.
A Los Angeles City Controller's audit says street sweeping is not provided equally to various parts of the city and that reducing weekly sweeps in some areas could help in others.
Antonio Villaraigosa/Flickr Creative Commons

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Los Angeles City Controller Ron Galperin suggested Wednesday that some city neighborhoods give up weekly street sweeping service to enable the rest of L.A. to get more frequent cleaning. A new audit found many streets go a year or more without a cleaning.

John DiGregorio of Panorama City knows what it's like. He used to live in Sherman Oaks, where the street in front of his condo was swept every single week.

"And there was never any debris ever," he said. But when he moved to a house in Panorama City, he learned not every home gets that weekly service.

"I can attest to the fact that our streets especially my neighborhood we don't get street sweeping," DiGregorio said. He was speaking from his own experience, but he is also a member of the Panorama City Neighborhood Council as well as a citywide group of neighborhood council members who act as watchdogs over the city's budget.

"The largest issue facing the budget advocates this year is what we're calling the service bankruptcy that has been prevalent around the city, not just for street cleaning, but  you name it from road repair to tree trimming," he said.

Los Angeles has 14,000 miles of street curbs that accumulate dirt, dust, vehicle drippings, leaves and other debris. One-third of those curbs have street sweeping no-parking signs and are swept every week.

Another 11 percent of the curbs are along major streets that get swept in the early morning hours before rush hour. But 55 percent of the city’s street curbs are not posted for regular cleaning, so they get swept only when the Bureau of Street Services has the time and people to do it. 

The Bureau lost more than half its personnel assigned to street cleaning during the recession, but it continued to perform weekly sweeping on the posted streets, leaving the unposted streets with less attention.

Galperin's audit focuses on fiscal year 2015, only about 34 percent of those unposted streets got a thorough cleaning that year. After the Bureau of Street Services went on a cleaning campaign in 2016-17, the  percentage has gone up to 97 in the past fiscal year, according to the audit.

Galperin wants the Bureau of Street Services to overhaul its scheduling and spread the cleanings out by need. He suggests the sweeper trucks use GPS and computer data on much dirt is collected on each street to spend less energy on the cleanest streets and more on the neglected ones.

L.A.’s street sweeping routes have been in place for decades without changes, said Elena Stern, spokeswoman for the Bureau. She says it is up to the City Council to change those.

Updated Oct. 26, 2017: Upon the release of this audit, BSS will be making recommendations on updates to Council for their consideration, Stern said.