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Tuesday, Jan 31, 2023
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A Jurisdictional ‘Hot Potato’ Over Clean Neighborhoods

The question of who is responsible for cleaning the bike path along the Metro Orange Bus Line in Van Nuys, has riddled city and county officials for months. Overlapping jurisdiction between the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) and the countywide Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro), and conflicting responsibilities between LADOT and the Bureau of Street Services, has left a problem with trash leftover from homeless encampments, largely unanswered. Transients, who set up camp along the bike path in the adjacent foliage between Sepulveda Boulevard and Hazeltine Avenue, cook with open flames, defecate and urinate in public and leave a trail of trash behind them that has sparked a wave of complaints from Orange line users, bikers and the surrounding business community. ?t? a jurisdictional hot potato,?said Nancy Hoffman Vanyek, CEO of the Greater San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce. ?o one really wants to take responsibility; no one is quite sure who is responsible.? While the different agencies work to sort the jurisdictional dilemma out, the Chamber of Commerce last week decided to take matters into its own hands and directed a team of volunteers to clean up the area along the bike path as part of the Chamber? 26th annual Clean-Up Day. ?here is so much red tape in the city; it continues to get in the way. This is just one example of it,?Hoffman Vanyek said. ?sn? it amazing that in the case of a natural disaster all agencies can come together and put aside red tape to get things done, but on a day to day basis they can? come to a consensus.? Hoffman said LAPD Senior Lead Officer in Van Nuys, Anthony Cabunoc, approached her about the possibility of including the troubled area in their clean-up and she agreed. ?ith over 300 volunteers and the resources already in place, we might as well do it,?Hoffman Vanyek said. ?ut I want somebody to take responsibility on a regular basis. When we have to go out and clean-up an area because no one wants to take responsibility for it, it? just crazy!? Officer Cabunoc said the issue of homeless encampments among the foliage raises safety concerns and it was important for the community to come together and clean along the Orange Line. The foliage, which was a solution to prevent graffiti tagging on sound walls when Metro? Orange Line opened in 2005, has grown to serve as shelter for the homeless. ?ur concern is the safety of those who use the bike path,?Cabunoc said. A convoluted issue The confusion over who is in charge of cleaning and maintaining the area has to do with the number of agencies involved. While LADOT hires a landscaping company to do maintenance along the bike path, it is the Bureau of Street Services who is responsible for maintaining all city rights-of-way. The bike path however, is located on county property, part of which is maintained by Metro. To make matters more convoluted, LADOT? contractor is not permitted by law to remove homeless encampments, so it becomes necessary to coordinate efforts with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, and law enforcement agencies. When it comes to law enforcement, the Sheriff? Department has a contract to provide security to the Orange line, but not the bikeway, which falls under LAPD jurisdiction. Tamar Galatzan, a neighborhood prosecutor assigned to the LAPD Van Nuys Division, said the different agencies have been working to resolve the jurisdictional issues for almost 10 months now. ?e?e had more than half a dozen meetings,?she said. ?t? a mess, it? very complicated.? The meetings have brought together representatives from Councilmember Tony Cardenas? office, the City Attorney? office, LAPD, Sheriffs Department, LADOT, Bureau of Street Services and Metro. Galatzan said the parties seem to be moving forward, toward fixing the problem. ? think we?e finally at a point now where regardless of whose property it is, we?e all committed to cleaning it up and keeping it clean.? There is agreement now, she said, that the responsibility of maintaining the landscape and picking up trash along the bike path lies with LADOT. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Street Services has to deal with the removal of homeless encampments, through coordinated efforts with LAPD and Homeless Services. ?e?e now at a place where we can better coordinate the removal of homeless encampments based on the meetings we?e had with the different agencies,?said Tim Fremaux, a transportation engineering associate with LADOT.

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