Massive piles of garbage attract rats and disease in Los Angeles, but the city won't clean it up

Question: Is this a massive pile of garbage or a homeless camp?


Answer: This is Ceres Avenue in downtown Los Angeles. As you can see in the clip, there are people who seem to be picking through this garbage pile which is infested with rats, some of which carry fleas and diseases hazardous to humans.

NBC 4 in Los Angeles interviewed Mayor Eric Garcetti about this same pile of garbage last October. He was evidently embarrassed by it because the next day trucks showed up and cleared the street. But within a few months, the garbage pile was back, bigger than ever. A call to the city’s 311 services hotline resulted in a message that it could take up to 90 days for the garbage to be cleared. That’s not good enough according to UCLA infectious disease specialist Dr. Jeffrey Klausner:

“Trash and food waste attracts rats,” said Klausner. “It does pose a public health risk.”

An out-of-control rat population can even lead to the spread of dangerous strains of salmonella and bubonic plague, he noted.

Other large U.S. cities, like New York and Washington DC, have teams devoted to aggressive rat control…

But in Los Angeles, the I-Team learned there is no plan or program to control the growing rat population that feasts at trash piles like the one on Ceres Avenue.

“It’s something that we’ll look into,” said Pepe Garica, of Los Angeles’ bureau of sanitation.


When NBC called to speak to Mayor Garcetti about the problem again, he wouldn’t sit down with them. Apparently, he has other, more important things to do. The concern about diseases carried by rats isn’t just idle speculation. Last year there was an outbreak of typhus with over 120 reported cases traced back to this same area:

Wholesale fish distributors, produce warehouses and homeless encampments line Ceres Avenue downtown, creating perfect conditions for rats.

Uneaten food is dumped on the street — a salad platter was recently splattered on the asphalt — and discarded clothing piles up only to be swirled into rats’ nests…

City officials recently declared downtown’s skid row — roughly 54 square blocks where more than 4,000 homeless congregate — a “typhus zone.”

It’s no coincidence that the area where the trash piles up is also skid row where up to 4,000 homeless congregate. For the city to deal with the trash it would have to deal with the homeless living in the trash. And despite spending more than half-a-billion dollars on homeless services last year, it appears the city has seen zero improvements in the overall population. The city is expected to release a report on the situation at the end of this month but word has already leaked that the report is going to be bad news. From the LA Times:

Los Angeles officials are bracing for the release of a report that’s likely to show little or no progress in reining in homelessness, despite the $619 million they spent last year to grapple with the crisis.


The gloomy prognosis on one of Southern California’s top political issues emerged during two recent briefings on homelessness and the 2019 point-in-time count, the results of which are due to be released May 31…

Authorities reported that 53,000 L.A. County residents were homeless in 2018. Lynn said the 2019 point-in-time count, which was conducted in January, was being held for further analysis.

As I pointed out last week, the number of homeless people was up by double-digits in San Francisco and surrounding counties. The numbers were up 43% in Orange County just south of Los Angeles. So it sounds like LA is looking for a way to spin some very bad numbers. Meanwhile, the trash keeps piling up, the rats keep breeding, and the city has no plan to deal with it. Here’s the NBC 4 report:

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