NEIGHBORHOOD POLITICS-The goals of the Bureau of Street Services (BSS) are to improve the quality of the street surface, maintain a safe, clean, and green public right of way, and build streetscape improvements.
Core Services are Pavement Preservation, Urban Forestry, Motorized Street Sweeping, and Investigation and Enforcement.
In line with Mayor Garcetti's goals to create a safe, livable and sustainable, prosperous and well-run city, StreetsLA performs a wide range of planning, construction, maintenance, and enforcement activities to sustain the City’s public works infrastructure and enhance the experience and quality of life for City residents, visitors, and stakeholders.
Los Angeles has 6,500 miles of center line streets with a total of 28,000 lane miles. Together with sidewalks and alleys, they cover 20% of the City’s 469 square miles. So there’s a lot of work to be done.
As of last fall, out of almost 1,400 funded and temporary positions, the BSS had a 20% vacancy rate. They believe the key to eliminating the chronic vacancy rate and attracting high quality candidates involves reforming the civil service process.
Reforms could include credit for candidates with accredited certifications who would qualify for on-site offers and a consolidation of the promotional and open eligible candidate lists. High vacancy rates result in use of overtime at premium rates to meet service requirements. A resolution to this structural hiring problem must be made a priority.
There are approximately 700,000 trees in Los Angeles. There is a goal to trim each tree every seven years. There are currently five crews and the plan is to add two crews per year until the seven-year goal is met. The current tree trimming rate is around 40,000 trees per year.
We need the trees to keep the Los Angeles urban heat sink in check and the costs of not trimming – fires when trees invade power lines, other deaths when trees topple – means that this is not an area that can be irresponsibly cut to massage the bottom line of the Mayor’s budget.
The BSS has requested funding for a two-year study of the City’s tree inventory. If approved, professional arborists will begin assessing the trees in the Valley and Metro areas. The assessments will be available online by Neighborhood Council area using a Recreation and Parks software application. The focus will be on dead tree removals, proper tree treatments, and continuation of annual tree summits to maintain best practice standards.
Just a couple of liability settlements - due to a diseased tree toppling on a child or a senior’s fall over a sidewalk cracked by invasive roots - would pay for these preventative measures.
New technology continues to improve pothole management service efficiency and delivery. 40,000 requests were received last year and the average time for repair continues to be three days. The Pothole Blitz program started before the new application was available. It is no longer needed due to the success of this new system, but it is well-liked in the neighborhoods. The success of both programs may result in targeted services such as storm drain clearance.
Significant efforts have been made to improve public safety, efficiency, and effectiveness through the Pavement Preservation program. Small area repairs of sidewalks, concrete and failed streets are being completed based in part on evaluation of risk and liability. Rather than wait for an entire street repair, innovative approaches have been developed to target damaged segments. The result is improved safety by addressing root problems as compared with the past “all or nothing” approaches. Additional crews have been added to address a street repair based on risk and liability, creating an anchor location. BSS then uses the crew to address service requests that are within a half-mile radius of the anchor location.
Commendably, BSS has taken advantage of the reduction of traffic these past few months to address paving projects on major thoroughfares such as York Boulevard in the northeast. York is the only direct east-west route for a community of 60,000 and, in ordinary times, thousands more transit it daily between South Pasadena and points east and the Hollywood area and the 2 and 5 freeways.
Alley repairs are still desperately needed in most areas of the City, especially where there has been extensive use by delivery trucks. Because they have not been properly maintained, many will require major, and expensive, preparation before they can be repaved.
There are 65 functional street sweepers in the City. Based on posted signage, they cover about 40% of the City’s streets. An evaluation is underway to determine if it is possible to double the number of streets covered (80%+) by sweeping less frequently (e.g., bi-weekly, or monthly). And, in this time of economic challenges, to save costs.
We welcome the initiatives of Adel Hagekhalil, the new General Manager who previously worked for the Bureau of Sanitation, one of the better-run departments in Los Angeles, replacing a management team that had been largely unresponsive to neighborhoods’ concerns.
(The Budget Advocates are an elected, all volunteer, independent advisory body charged with making constructive recommendations to the Mayor and the City Council regarding the Budget, and to City Departments on ways to improve their operations, and with obtaining input, updating and educating all Angelenos on the City’s fiscal management.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.