Tue, Jun

Past Time to Consider More Efficient Ways to Keep LA Clean


LA WATCHDOG-Councilman Tom LaBonge has once again sponsored a City Council motion to transfer the Street Cleaning Section of the Bureau of Street Services to the Bureau of Sanitation because of Sanitation’s expertise with urban runoff, sewer treatment plants, clean water, and other related environmental matters, including those involving toxic chemicals and hazardous materials.


(Here’s the motion.)

The City Administrative Officer has been instructed to prepare a feasibility study on this transfer within the Department of Public Works that would include analyzing the “workload, staffing, fiscal impacts and other relevant factors” that would “maximize the City’s efficiency.” 

As background, Street Cleaning has 135 motorized street sweepers that patrol over 13,000 “curb miles” on daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  This includes over 4,700 curb miles of Restricted Parking Routes where a parking citation costs an offender an outrageous $73 and, if the payment is late, a punitive $146.    

In addition to its primary function of cleaning our 6,500 miles of center line streets and 800 miles of alleys, Street Cleaning services 3,000 public trash receptacles that are located at heavily trafficked locations such as bus stops and major intersections.  Street Cleaning also is responsible for cleaning up before and after parades and special events, the “daily cleaning of condensed homeless areas within the public right of way,” and the “removal of small concentrations of litter and illegally dumped debris from public streets and alleys.” 

Street Cleaning’s departmental budget of $13.4 million swells to $35.7 million when $7 million of pensions and benefits and $14 million of liability claims, department related costs, and overhead allocations are included in determining the total cost of its program. 

Salaries and benefits average $125,000 for each of its 136 employee positions. 

The CAO’s report should also “benchmark” the efficiency of Street Cleaning’s operations against other cities, including those that are operated by private contractors.  This benchmarking effort is consistent with Mayor Eric Garcetti’s recent directive to our Department of Water and Power that the Commissioners engage a qualified consultant to analyze the Department’s labor costs and the efficiency of its operations. 

The CAO should also investigate the formation of a “public private partnership” to provide street cleaning and other related services. This may result in savings of millions of dollars per year as the City’s partner may be able to lower the “cost per curb mile” through improved routing technology, higher utilization rates for this very expensive and specialized equipment, more efficient and focused fleet maintenance practices, increased purchasing economies of scale, and a more flexible management structure that is not burdened by the City’s bureaucracy and $10 million of overhead and liability claims. 

It would also free up $25 to $35 million in capital that is tied up in the fleet of 135 motor sweepers, money that could be used to pay down debt or fund other capital projects, thereby easing the strain on the City’s budget.  

Next year, the City is projecting a budget deficit of $242 million despite record revenues.  There are also calls for increased appropriations for the Police and Fire Departments, Recreation and Parks, our failed streets, housing, and increased hiring that will put even more pressure on the City’s already shaky finances.  

At the same time, Mayor Garcetti is calling for the increased use of hard data and metrics to determine whether the City is using its scarce resources efficiently. 

Benchmarking the efficiency of City’s Street Cleaning operation and the serious consideration of a money saving public private partnership are alternatives that need to be investigated thoroughly and will determine whether Mayor Garcetti, the Herb Wesson led City Council, and Paul Krekorian led Budget and Finance Committee are serious about reforming the finances of our cash strapped City.


(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee,  The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at:  [email protected]. Hear Jack every Tuesday morning at 6:20 on McIntyre in the Morning, KABC Radio 790.) 







Vol 11 Issue 103

Pub: Dec 24, 2013




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