Los Angeles

LA Cracks Down to Clean Up Rat-Infested Garbage-Filled Street

What's being done to keep trash — and disease-carrying rats — out of an alley between downtown LA's Fashion and Produce districts

What to Know

  • A trash pile that had been left to fester and rot since last fall, making it a feast for rats, was finally cleaned up Wednesday
  • Public health experts say those rats carry fleas that have spread typhus and could spread salmonella and even bubonic plague
  • Unlike other big cities like New York and Washington D.C., LA has no rodent abatement program

The city of Los Angeles plans to install surveillance cameras and place investigators out on what's become known as perhaps LA 's most garbage-filled, rat-infested city block, a huge public health hazard exposed repeatedly by the NBC4 I-team.

Earlier this week, NBC4 aired a report showing how the 800 block of Ceres Avenue, just over a mile from City Hall, was filled from end to end with uncollected trash crawling with large rats.

Infectious disease specialists told NBC4 those conditions could fuel another epidemic of typhus, which LA County experienced last year, or other diseases like salmonella and bubonic plague.

Significantly, the LA Bureau of Sanitation told NBC4 in a statement that it's also expanding the boundaries of its "Typhus Zone," to include Ceres Avenue.

Streets in the "Typhus Zone" get garbage collected and are power washed every few weeks to try and control the spread of typhus, a bacteria that causes severe flu-like symptoms and infected a record number of people in LA County in 2018.

Ceres Avenue became an international embarrassment to Mayor Garcetti this week, when NBC4 aired a report showing that trash had been piling up, apparently uncollected, for months.

The I-Team's story went viral, getting picked up by news outlets across the country and around the world.

"I'm personally disgusted by it," Garcetti said last October, when the I-Team showed him photos of the filthy street. Garcetti vowed to clean up the street and make sure trash didn't pile up again. The city did do a cleanup last October after the mayor's interview, but month after month in 2019, the I-Team documented trash piling up, again apparently uncollected.

The trash has been attracting armies of rats. The Bureau if Sanitation says the garbage is the result of illegal dumping by businesses including some in the adjacent Produce District of LA.

In response to questions Friday from the I-Team, the Sanitation Bureau said it's cleaned up illegal dumping nine times around Ceres Avenue since last October, as recently as May 8.

But the I-Team has been watching the area and documented trash piling up for months.

We sent the Sanitation Bureau of the garbage mountain on May 8 and May 9, after the city claims to have cleaned it up, but got no response.

"They're lying to you," a veteran LA sanitation worker — who takes part in these cleanups — told the I-team. "They are not doing all the cleanups they tell you they're doing."

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