By Simone Grant
LADERA HEIGHTS — Residents of this community and surrounding neighborhoods are expressing their frustrations regarding the abundance of trash and weeds on the medians of La Cienega Boulevard.
They have even come up with a name for the problem: “Bonin’s Blight,” after City Councilman Mike Bonin, whose 11th District includes that stretch of La Cienega between the Slauson Avenue ramp and Centinela Boulevard.
Residents have been demanding the city of Los Angeles take action.
Heilindia V. Brown, a Ladera Heights resident, is one of many residents complaining about the median.
“I have lived in the community for over 30 years and it has only been cleaned up once when La Cienega Center was opened and that was taken care of by Alex Padilla [of the Inglewood City Council]. It is absolutely a disgrace,” Brown said.
Sandy Grady from Baldwin Hills reflects on growing up in a generation where littering was a sign of disrespect.
“When I was growing up, all of the older generations taught us that littering was disrespectful to yourself, others, and the community,” Grady said. “As a result, there was very little littering in my neighborhood and surrounding areas.
“Today, many people act like it is no big deal to discard their trash onto the streets. This is a sad commentary on the character of many people,” she added.
Rick Aldridge from the Ladera Heights Civic Association Community Enhancement Team, formerly the Beautification Team, says the only area that is having real challenges is the section of La Cienega that is in the city of Los Angeles.
“Anything south of Centinela is Inglewood,” Aldridge said. “There’s no median there. The median starts at Centinela so from Centinela all the way past La Tijera, past Fairview, and the 64th Street bridge to the county and city border is ran by the city of Los Angeles.”
The section that is in unincorporated county territory is maintained by the county Department of Public Works. According to Aldridge, since the median is inaccessible because of the high speed of the traffic, they county put a k-rail up. The k-rail starts as far back as Stocker all the way to the 6200 block of La Cienega and that’s all in Ladera and that’s all the county.
But when you get to the 6200 block of La Cienega going south to Centinela, that’s the city of Los Angeles.
Aldridge said the city of Los Angeles quit taking care of the medians during a budget crisis in the 1990s.
“The medians in Los Angeles that do not have irrigation in them are not maintained by the city and that’s the will of the people, the residents of Los Angeles fight with their councilman to get him to come up with funds to clean it,” Aldridge said.
He said the city has cleaned the medians only once in the last 10 years. The other seven times it was cleaned by the city of Inglewood because their residents complained about it and Los Angeles County because their residents complained about it.
The city does not have the funds to maintain the medians so they allow them to grow and become weed infested and debris infested. According to Aldridge, if you call Councilman Bonin’s office, his staff will tell you there aren’t any funds to clean it.
“So not only the medians, but the emergency lanes on both sides of La Cienega that are right near the 64th St. bridge … those are filthy. They are full of trash and debris. There’s even a couple of blankets and sheets there,” Aldridge said.
Over the last month, however, the city has cleaned up the debris and weeds between two of the mediums.
There are four sections of the medians. One is between Centinela and La Tijera, which is across the street from Pann‘s restaurant, a Mobile gas station and the new Starbucks.
Somebody with clout in the city encouraged them to clean that and they did, Aldridge said. The next section is between La Tijera and Fairview, but the weeds there are low. The tall tree-like weeds are between Fairview and the 6200 block La Cienega where the cement buries in the center of the road.
Bonin’s staff said that part of his district, including Ladera Heights and Westchester, has been neglected since the field deputy responsible for that area left.
For the last three months there hasn’t been a field deputy represent the area. The new field deputy, Matthew Teele, talked with Aldridge recently and promised to come up with a long-term plan, which might include a cleanup by community volunteers.
“The community is so outraged they proposed doing a volunteer cleanup,” Aldridge said. “Even Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, when he was assemblyman for the area, proposed a community cleanup where Home Depot would donate supplies and brooms and a group of volunteers woukd help clean the median.
Bonin’s office said it was too dangerous and he wouldn’t let anyone go out on the median to clean it.
“Three private citizens that live in Ladera Heights went out and cleaned and put weed retardant on the medians and it worked for several months,” Aldridge said.
David Graham-Caso, deputy chief of staff for communications for Councilman Bonin, said the councilman has spoken with the Bureau of Street Services to schedule a cleanup.
“Councilman Bonin has been able to identify funding to expedite the cleanup of the median on La Cienega, and the council member has directed Bureau of Streets Services staff to make the assessment and scheduling of the cleanup a priority,” Graham-Caso said. “Because of the median’s location, the overgrown foliage is so close to traffic that crews will need to schedule the work for a weekend to minimize any traffic impacts and safety concerns for the workers.”