A scathing new audit highlights concerns with under-collection, operational failures and poor reporting at the agency responsible for maintaining Los Angeles’ thousands of miles of public streets.
The new report is based on three years of data from LA’s Bureau of Street Services and recommends buying asphalt at lower prices, re-prioritizing the office’s repaving schedule and doing a better job tracking the potholes it fixes.
"For example the Bureau says 953,000 potholes were filled over the last three years. But there are real problems with documentation of those numbers and evaluations of the quality of that work," said City Controller Ron Galperin, whose office spent six months analyzing the data.
Another big discovery lies in street damage restoration fees, which the city charges utility companies for breaking up roads without first working with street services to make sure they’re not cutting into the road if it was recently repaired, were under-collected to the tune of $191 million.
"Imagine what we could do with that $191 million dollars," Galperin said.
The report also said a common sense approach to deciding which of the city’s crumbling streets are selected to be fixed is needed within the department.
"This is such an important issue for every single resident in the city of Los Angeles," Galperin said.
Nazario Sauceda, director of the Bureau of Street Services, said his department has already started making improvements, even as it struggles with a reduction in staff and a smaller budget than in past years.
"Despite the 40% staff reduction in the last five years, we're doing more today and doing it more efficiently than ever before," he said.
"I have not seen the final report. We’ve got to read it. We take the findings very seriously and we're going to work with the council and the mayor to come up with good solutions."
Among the solutions suggested in the 100-page audit is to find a less expensive source of asphalt. The report claims city plants are using outdated technology at high prices.
But even Galperin was quick to point out that his ideas alone aren’t the final answer.
"I would be misleading if I said that this in and of itself will fix all of our streets,” he said. “It's going to take money."