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Skid Row cleanup off to smooth start; future maintenance plans still unknown

By Andrew Lopez
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2012, at 03:58PM
Bear Guerra/KPCC

After disposing of any trash, cleaning crews power washed and bleached sidewalks along Towne Street early in the day on June 21, 2012.

While the expansive Skid Row cleanup is off to a relatively smooth start this week, future plans for maintaining the conditions of the area are still undecided.

The cleanup, which began on Tuesday and is scheduled to end Friday, July 6, has been proceeding ahead of schedule as the Bureau of Sanitation, Street Services, LAPD and LAFD have made adjustments to expedite the process.

Wastewater worker Gilbert Verduzco said after only a few days of working with various agencies, communication has improved and allowed workers to quickly tackle the streets.

“It’s been getting easier,” Verduzco said. “Everybody’s just learned to work with each other.”

Verduzco said he had worked on some of the same streets about one week earlier. Though they were visibly dirty, he said they still look better than before they cleaned it.

“It’s not as bad as it was,” he said. “As long as we keep maintaining it.”

The city does have plans for upkeep after the initial cleanup, but Public Works spokeswoman Michelle Vargas said she was unsure how often this maintenance could take place.

Projections of maintenance costs and scheduling of cleaning will be determined by how quickly the streets become unsanitary and what the city’s budget allows, Vargas said.

About 25 public works employees and about eight pieces of heavy machinery, including street sweeping and power washing trucks, are involved in the day-to-day operations of the cleanup.

The process of cleaning each “segment” – one to two blocks – of the area begins days before an area is sanitized. Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority notify homeless about three days in advance of street closures so they can plan accordingly for the cleaning crews’ 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. workday, said Pat Butler, assistant chief of LAFD.

So far several city workers said there haven’t been any major issues with clearing the streets for cleaning.

“We want to give back the streets to the community as quickly as possible,” Vargas said.

As the crews move closer towards the more populated San Pedro and San Julian streets, sanitation wastewater manager Brian McCormick said adjustments might need to be made again.

“I think we might have to slow down a bit,” McCormick said.

The cleanup crew will work with business owners and the homeless to avoid any interruption of their day as crews enter the more populated areas, Vargas said.

Sanitation workers begin the cleanup by inspecting the street for any hazardous materials like syringes, hypodermic needles and materials containing feces, urine or blood.

Personal items not deemed hazardous are then sent to a storage facility at 432 E. Temple St. So far, only one bag of personal belongings on Tuesday were processed at the facility, Vargas said.

Large solid items like abandoned mattresses, or palettes considered hazardous, are incinerated, Vargas said.

The streets and sidewalks are disinfected with water and bleach and then sprayed a last time with water. Street Services workers sweep the streets to complete the cleanup, Vargas said.

Several workers said they’ve been receiving thanks from relieved passersby, including several who've told them the cleanup was long overdue.

Friday's cleaning will take place on Towne Avenue between 4th and 5th streets. The following Monday the process will begin on Crocker Street between 5th and 7th streets.


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