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Round two of Skid Row cleanup starts Monday; includes installation of 21 new trash cans

By Hayley Fox
Published: Monday, August 13, 2012, at 04:44PM
Bear Guerra/KPCC

LA Department of Public Works employees throw trash into a garbage truck during the first phase of the Skid Row cleanup. These efforts were continued starting Monday as Operation Healthy Streets enters its maintenance phase.

Seven more days of trash pick-up, power-washing and disinfecting continue throughout Skid Row on Monday, as part of the city's massive cleanup of the area continues in response to a laundry list of health code violations doled out from the L.A. County Department of Health earlier this year.

Operation Healthy Streets, the ongoing cleanup of the area, is led by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and includes the mayor's office, LAPD, LAFD, Department of Sanitation, and other organizations.

“Like any other community in the City of Los Angeles, we need to protect the public health of Skid Row, its residents, those who do business in the area, as well as the service providers who offer aid to its most vulnerable residents,” said area Councilman José Huizar in a statement.

Assistant director for the Bureau of Sanitation, Adel Hagekhalil, said the week-long "comprehensive cleaning" is part of a new maintenance plan for the area, which will include massive quarterly cleanings and smaller bi-weekly "touch-ups." Included in this plan is the installation of 21 new, heavy-duty trash cans to the area.

Trash cans have long been a point of dispute between community members and law enforcement officials. While the receptacles can help keep the streets clean by providing a place to put garbage, they can also be used to conceal weapons or drugs, according to police.

Hagekhalil said that the trash is a public health issue and that although they are installing new cans, they will continue to collaborate with police on public safety aspects.

The current cleanup schedule will take place daily beginning at 8 a.m., from August 13 to August 17, and August 20 and 21. Each day cleaning crews will focus on one specified area -- most of these locations are on Wall, Gladys, San Julian, 6th or 7th streets. Officials selected these spots because they are often the most heavily populated, said Hagekhalil.

"Plus the area has the most trash and human waste and animal waste and needles that we discovered," he said.

Each day about 35 people, from firemen to sanitation workers, are taking part in the area's cleanup. The twice-a-month spot-cleans will most likely employ about half that number, said Hagekhalil. He added that although they're "committed" to sustain this work for months to come, they're still in the budgeting process.

The current "maintenance" phase of the cleaning follows a 13-day overhaul that began in June to address health violations including the presence of hypodermic needles, rats' nests, piles of human excrement and other conditions that create an overall unhygienic environment.

In addition to trash removal and heavy duty disenfecting, the LAPD have expressed a renewed dedication to enforcement of two main, pertinent laws in the area. LAPD Capt. Horace Frank told Blogdowntown in June, that enforcing sidewalk rules in Skid Row was part of the effort to get the area "back on track."

He said police strive to assist cleaning efforts by ticketing and arresting people who are breaking the law by sitting or sleeping on the sidewalk between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m., or storing property there. A week or two in to the renewed enforcement, police had arrested eight to 10 people for keeping belongings on the sidewalk.

Although most local residents, business-owners and activists support a cleaner Skid Row, they don't all agree on the city's methods.

Pete White, co-director and founder of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), told Blogdowntown in June that his organization "wholly supports" the cleanup but doesn't think police should use resources to enforce laws that target homeless, including the disabled and the elderly, and remove them from the sidewalks.

"That's a moral choice the city of Los Angeles has to make," said White.

Tuesday's cleaning will focus on San Julian Street between 5th and 6th streets and Wednesday will move over to Towne Avenue between 4th and 7th streets.

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