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All photos by Art Torres

Old sofas crammed under freeway overpasses; broken furniture laying in plain sight on empty lots; and illegally dumped trash festering in secluded industrial areas are just some of the images regularly seen in and around Boyle Heights.

These areas have become illegal dumping grounds for residents and businesses who disregard laws designed to keep the city clean and clutter-free.

Much of this clutter can be seen under the myriad of freeway roads located in the region, but items can also be found in alleys and busy intersections, often times, rotting for months.

Boyle Heights Beat contributing photographer Art Torres has made exposing this blight a priority. Last year, Torres began photographing random objects he saw on the streets of Boyle Heights. Through his imagery, he wanted to bring awareness to the problems associated with illegal dumping in his neighborhood.

“This is very personal to me. This is my home,” said Torres. “I want to make changes to my community. I want to make the sanitation department know that there is a problem here and I want to educate residents on what they can do to report illegal dumping.”

Boyle Heights is not the only L.A. community that has this type of problem, but with large areas of unattended space, it becomes a perfect target.

Illegal dumping collection differs from the bulky item pickup service the Bureau of Sanitation offers.

With bulky item pickup, residents who want to rid themselves of an old sofa, or mattress, or other bulky items can call 3-1-1 and simply ask for a pickup or fill out a form on the Bureau of Sanitation’s website. Residents then place the bulky item curbside in front of their homes for pickup for the next, regular trash day. However, according city officials, leaving items on public property without calling the city’s department for pickup is considered illegal dumping, and can result in fines totalling from $100 per incident to more than $10,000 for chronic abusers.

Just like the bulky item pickup service, you can also call 3-1-1 or fill out a request form online to report illegal dumps.

The Boyle Heights Beat put the system to a test by reporting two illegal dump sites using both the call-in method for one site, and the online method for another.

In both instances, the Beat received prompt response and confirmation numbers however, the results of the collections were mixed.

The site that was reported electronically lived up to expectations. The collection was done within two weeks as indicated on the email confirmation.

The call-in collection did not fare as well.

After more than a month, and a second call, the dumped items on the 2400 block of Garnet St. had not been picked up.

Torres has also been disappointed by local services, but says residents should also work to keep their environment clean, not only because of the blight, but the potentially harmful refuse.

“This problem is not going to go away overnight, but if we make it an issue, we can make changes here,” said Torres.

And he is prepared to take his quest to the next level. He plans to go the 14th District Council Member Jose Huizar’s office to make him aware of the issue and to address the Boyle Heights Neighborhood Council to help with educating residents.

Repeated calls to the BOS went unreturned.

Gus Ugalde

Gus Ugalde is a print journalist and Boyle Heights native. He is a graduate of both Salesian High School and East Los Angeles College. With writing as his passion, he has had over 500 stories published...

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