The ever-present revolving supply of old couches, mattresses, and other assorted furnishings on the sidewalks and medians of Echo Park seems to be one thing that has stayed constant in a neighborhood proliferating with change.
Over the years, Echo Park’s curbside discarded goods have offered inspiration to artists, treasure to trash pickers, and frustration and disgust to some residents who would prefer a tidier environment.
Last year, Echo Park artist Angela Wood found inspiration in the revolving array of sidewalk furnishings. Her photo exhibit of the neighborhood’s colorful abandoned couches was on display at Fix Coffee last December. At the time, Woods told The Eastsider in an interview, “I see them as part of a beautiful chaotic landscape in Los Angeles, not as something disparaging – just a part of our neighborhood.”
According to figures from the Bureau of Sanitation, requests for bulky item pickups from the 90026 Zip Code, which includes most of Echo Park, have actually risen over the past five years. But one longtime resident says he hasn’t noticed a change.“People have always left their old furniture and mattresses out on the street here, and I’ve always made the calls for those who don’t bother,” says one resident who has lived in Echo Park for over 20 years and prefers to remain anonymous. He says he hates the “crap” people leave out on the sidewalks and he’s made a lot of calls lately to have dumped furniture removed from a corner near Echo Park Avenue and Donaldson. “It’s such an eyesore.”
But he also admits, it’s interesting to see what people throw out, and among the cool things he has scavenged from Echo Park sidewalks lately, an art deco chair, and a pair of barely used women’s size 8, Prada boots, he found sitting atop a garbage bin. The chair is in his living room and he gave the boots to his niece.
However you feel about the situation, it’s apparent many residents are either unknowing or apathetic about the city’s fast, free and convenient bulky item pickup service.
Jackie David, Public Information Director for the Los Angeles Department of Public Works, says getting your bulky items- that is, items that are too big to fit into the black trash bins, picked up and hauled away is a simple process. “It’s a city service that is really easy to use, and in spite of the city’s public education campaign, one that not enough people take advantage of,” says David.
She says the Bureau of Sanitation’s bulky item pickup service is meant to help keep communities clean and free from the blight that can take over a neighborhood when furniture or any other kind of rubbish begins to fill public spaces. “Dumping attracts more dumping, it’s contagious” says David, “one person leaves rubbish out on a corner and it can easily become a dumping ground for more.”
According to David, leaving any discarded items outside on public property without calling bulky item pickup qualifies as dumping, which is against Los Angeles Municipal Code 66.25 and punishable by $1,000 fine or six months in jail. She also admits it’s a code that is not vigorously enforced, except in instances where large scale dumping is chronic. She says the city has an anti-dumping task force that deals mostly with construction violations, that is, contractors or builders who dump their building waste in order to avoid paying the fee to get rid of it legally.
Gloria Sohaki, a counselor and Executive Assistant at the Central City Action Committee, whose neighborhood minority youth members have been responsible for occasional Echo Park neighborhood cleanups for over 20 years can only speculate about the situation, but she thinks the ongoing dumping of sofas, mattresses and other items may have to do with the constantly transitioning neighborhood, “Maybe newcomers who move to Echo Park think that’s the way to get your junk picked up–just put it out on the street, maybe that was the way to do it where they used to live.”
There are two easy ways to get your stuff hauled away. Go to the city’s Bureau of Sanitation website and fill out a service request form (Bulky Items are in the fourth section) or call 3-1-1 at least a day before your regular trash pickup day. Give the operator your address, and tell them what you need picked up. Next, put your bulky items out with your black, blue, and green bins on trash day. A City of Los Angeles Sanitation truck will pick up the goods the next morning if someone else hasn’t.
More than likely, that old dresser or mattress will be gone before you wake up and you– and your neighbors will never have to look at it again.
Rebecca Koppenhaver is a writer who lives in Echo Park