Comment on this post

Menace on the Streets: Not Gangs or Potholes, L.A. Cracks Down on Cactus on People’s Lawns

In the name of “public safety,” the City of Los Angeles has cited Alan Krieger and his wife Sandy Saks with prosecution as criminals for daring to have a drought-resistant front yard including their tree lawn.

I know you’re thinking we’re in a drought and we’re all supposed to replace our grass with cactus and succulents native to a desert climate, which is what this environmentally-sensitive Playa del Rey couple did five years ago.

Dozens of neighbors have done the same and thousands of people across L.A. as well but you are all criminals or could be if some Department of Public Works inspector decides to single you and issue a citation and you don’t rip out your desert garden and plant grass immediately.

Sure, tens of thousands of lawless thugs roam our streets and city officials selectively enforce laws or ignore them altogether when it suits their purposes but that didn’t spare Krieger and Saks.

“With all the major issues the city faces, it’s Thumbnail image for drought2.JPGshocking they would spend as much time and energy on something like this,” Saks said.

About two months ago, Public Works Inspector Ron Henderson dropped by and cited the couple for a “safety hazard,” ordered them to remove the plants from the parkway tree lawn, which is city property but the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain. He was nice enough about it and sensitive to the fact Saks was dealing with the death of her father so he gave them 30 days to comply.

That didn’t sit well with Inspector Joanne Frampton who came by a week or so later  and ordered them to remove the hazard “at once.”

So they removed the cactus and the rocks but left the succulents and the tall desert grasses and the flat stones needed to prevent erosion, all that Henderson had required originally.

Clearly, in the minds of the bureaucrats, they drought3.JPGwere being defiant. So they were sent a registered letter and ordered to appear at an administrative hearing that was more like a kangaroo court.

“They were laughing and scoffing and treated us shabbily,” said Saks. “They made us feel like, ‘We have the power, you don’t.’ It was devastating. We did everything in good faith.”

I took the couple’s story to the Public Works Department. Michelle Vargas in the public relations office looked into and got back to me in an email with this information.

The City of Los Angeles, Department of Public Works is committed to public safety.

of the responsibilities of the Department’s Bureau of Street Services
is to ensure that there are no trip or safety hazards on parkways. 
Residents that receive citations from the Bureau to remove plants,
drought-tolerant or not, in the parkway are asked to do so because the
plants may potentially hurt passers-by or vehicle passengers.  In the
case that you described over the phone, a cactus with spikes may cause
a pedestrian to trip and fall, exposing the City to liability. 

City’s policy on what is allowed on parkways include: soil, turf,
ground cover — all must be maintained, kept clean, and not
weed-infested.  If residents want to plant other species that may not
be soil, turf or ground cover, a permit must be obtained from the
Department of Public Works Bureau of Engineering.” 

She went on to say Public
Works loves drought-tolerant plants, is trying hard to fulfill the mayor’s Million Trees LA campaign and has embraced green building standards.

So I passed the story on the couple to their Councilman, Bill Rosendahl, along with the reply from Public Works.

“This is totally insane,” he said. “We’ve got to learn to work together. We’ve got to be more responsive to the citizenry. My sympathy goes out to these people.”

He promised to get hold of the couple personally and wondered aloud about the drought and the environment, saying: “Grass might be a thing of the past.”

An hour or so later, he got back to me after having a chance to talk with Public Works officials. His mood was a little lighter.

“We’re going to have a meeting with the couple and the officials and clear this up,” he said. “There won’t be any fines and we’ll straighten things out. We’ve got some work to do on the details but we need a new set of rules that reflect climate change.”

This entry was posted in Hot Topics, Los Angeles. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Menace on the Streets: Not Gangs or Potholes, L.A. Cracks Down on Cactus on People’s Lawns

  1. meterman says:

    This is a good example of our mismanaged over zealous city bureaucracy in action. Good job Ron on taking the initiative helping this couple.
    Ron we need you on the mayoral ballot. Please consider. Keep up the great work for the taxpayers of Los Angeles.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Why don’t they go after the illegal vendors on the cornerof Washington and Grand downtown. Umbrellas poking everyone in the face two underage sister and their father selling cigarettes to minors on there way to schcool. Individual cigarettes hidden in their fanny packs and a small cooler. Many calls and still the fresh juice vendor cutting oranges on an old piece of plywood, tamales sold out of an old container and the sidewalk is filthy and you can’t get past them in the morning or evening. We have called numerous times and they never get cited. Go after the real offenders!

  3. Minnie Lee says:

    If the city is so concerned about Public Safety, why do they plant oleander in places?

  4. AnonymouslyYours says:

    I’ll start off by saying the actions of the City and the treatment of Saks and Krieger were reprehensible.
    Frampton should be reprimanded, a black mark put in her employee file and she should be mandated to attend a few people skills and logic classes.
    Actually, she should be fired, especially if she’s been warned previously about such behavior, which would have happened if she worked for a privately owned customer service business. This is what happens when cities have stupid rules that people can’t be fired.
    I’ll probably get killed for this, but home owners also need to use some logic when planting areas that are walked through or near.
    The Krieger/Saks parkway is still impractical even after removing the pricklies; it isn’t conducive to walking to a car that’s parked on the street.
    The same theme can be used, which is beautiful, but for practical purposes the plants should be at either end of the parkway with the center being all decorative rocks and stepping stones for easy access to the curb.
    And yes, I agree that the City has far more important things to do than going after errant landscaping. But if they are going to waste their time and our money on such endeavors, they should do it with tack and courtesy.

  5. Minnie Lee says:

    This reminds me of that family in Glendale that was fined for planting a drought resistant garden. No matter what the well meaning public does, the city finds a way to screw you.
    I agree with the previous poster that cacti in a parkway is unwise for the reasons stated. However, one might not always have the foresight to consider such scenarios.
    I also agree that the city’s handling of the error was egregious.
    Perhaps the city would be wise to post a list of drought resistant plants (and preferred parkway plants).

  6. Reader in Eagle Rock says:

    Hooray. It looks like this situation will have an acceptable, if not happy, ending. The fact that the resolution had to be achieved by action of the councilperson even after a hearing on the matter was completed simply demonstrates the dangers of government in disarray. Let’s keep our focus on city government, as that is the one that most often affects us personally.
    The enthusiasm for enforcement with which the case was pursued does not seem reasonable. Then again, who knows what kind of supervisors are there, pushing for results in the performance of subordinates in various departments so as to justify their own continued existence and purpose for being on the payroll. That could be what is happening now when the city is looking for places to boost “revenues” and find areas to perform “cuts.”
    So enforcement is the path followed in a previously dormant area for such action, regardless of the fact that there may be a different choice that would be better suited for application. If the treatment of the residents at the hearing was correctly interpreted, then we get into, what I call, the “done deal” syndrome that so many city bureaucrats ritualistically follow. “We cited you, therefore we must be correct.”
    The government was instituted, at least in this country, to serve the people, not the other way around. The real fear is that this may be a “tip of the iceberg” situation for many residents of the city who have received various citations and notices of violations, dubious in merit, from assorted city sources. What would have happened in this situation if a Ron Kaye were not able to get the attention and interest of a councilperson to investigate this?
    And in terms of comparative utility, they in the council, as well as the police chief under Tony’s direction, play the “race card” or whatever you feel like calling it, allowing more numerous other illegal activities arising from actual conduct to persist. In Tony’s own eloquent words, “Aw, C’mon!” Aren’t there other more important violations that could be worked on for some real improvement in this city than choices of plants?
    The situation noted in an earlier comment here was about the apparently illegal practices engaged in by so many street vendors of merchandise of legal and pirated origin, and of prepared foods sold on the sidewalks, not appearing to be dissuaded by any certain health precautions or other lawful requirements, not to mention the litter produced as a collateral effect. Would the fact that many are Latino and a sizeable portion possibly also being illegal aliens be influential as one of the controlling factors in keeping a lid on the Pandora’s Box of enforcement for commonly found and potentially serious issues affecting quality of life?
    The really aggravating part of all this is that the lack of apparent fairness and practicality that we perceive so readily. What we see mirrors the undeniably frequent and pervasive theme throughout city government, from the very top, from Mayor Tony’s lofty (figuratively, it not literally) vantage point, and on down through city council, their deputies and other staff and departments. It has become their own particular culture of behavior.
    As a Latino, I find it annoying at the least, and often times, simply insulting, to have council persons, whether themselves Latino or not, to use the ethnicity and economic woes of many, to justify the unequal manner of actions and, on top of it all, to somehow find a way to carve out exceptions to law and rules in order to satisfy their needs as being a patron saint and general protector of the downtrodden. This happens all too often in council meetings and other city business, in the operations of the mayor’s office and on and on, so commonly that it is a surprise when any real accountability is called for.
    Gratuitous comments made at those times, often near the end of their “debates,” about societal inequities being the causative factor, noticeably by Huizar and Reyes, not the best orators at city hall, and regularly by Cardenas, just don’t cut it.
    The misplaced priorities have become symbolic of this city’s administration, an administration that continually looks for any angle to collect more money for no change in services. They do this while demonstrating no attention to things that would benefit the day-to-day well-being of the residents in any significant way.
    What IS at the forefront of their attention is getting re-elected or otherwise keeping that strand of continuity as a career-politician from being broken when they face the arrival of any of the term-limits.
    The city needs an overhaul, and the elections in March would be a good time to adjust the membership of city council by about half. By the way, have we talked about their raises coming around for them again?

  7. AOracle says:

    Just why are property owners responsible for City-Owned Property.
    Hasn’t the 13th-Amendment been incorporated to the States.
    Saying that I must invest my wealth and time to benefit the City, under penalty of law, is Involuntary Servitude, a condition wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States of America.

  8. Anonymous says:

    “By AOracle on November 2, 2008 11:42 AM
    Just why are property owners responsible for City-Owned Property?
    Hasn’t the 13th-Amendment been incorporated to the States?
    Saying that I must invest my wealth and time to benefit the City, under penalty of law, is Involuntary Servitude, a condition wholly incompatible with the Constitution of the United States of America.”
    Just thought I would repeat your message, Oracle.
    Everyone needs to read it and understand it. It is the truth.

  9. anon says:

    These people pay the property taxes on THEIR property. The city has a right to it as a public easement.
    They should and could plant any and everything they want. Even marijuana if that’s what makes them happy.
    This is what the last 8 years or moronic govt has created. Fear and intimidation.
    Thank God change is coming on the horizon….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>