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How to fix (almost) anything in your LA neighborhood

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From filing a noise complaint to getting a tree planted on your block

A street in a typical LA neighborhood, lined with trees, cars and garbage cans in the street. Liz Kuball

It only takes one noisy construction site or a sidewalk strewn with dog poo to make living in your neighborhood unbearable. Luckily, there are solutions for almost every quality-of-life issue that plagues Los Angeles neighborhoods.

If you live in the city of Los Angeles, most issues can be fixed simply by dialing 311 or downloading the MyLA311 app. But there are dozens of other cities and unincorporated communities in LA County, many of them served by different agencies.

Unsure which departments serve your area? The county’s public works website has a handy map that allows you to look that up. Simply plug in your address, then click the “find services!” button. It’ll identify a slew of agencies that operate in your location, with phone numbers for everything from the local police station to the animal control district to the tree trimming department.

There are many problems that might crop up on your street, but below are some of the most common—and most fixable—complaints.

How do I get the city to plant a street tree?

Glad you asked! Trees are one of the best ways to cool down warming cities like Los Angeles. Their leafy branches form canopies that block the sun and reduce surface and air temperatures. Unfortunately, LA’s tree canopy is disappearing.

To help build it back up, the city of Los Angeles partners with local nonprofits to plant trees on sidewalks and parkways. The city will select the tree that’s best for your street and plant it for free. In exchange, you’ll have to agree to water it to ensure its survival. If you’re a renter, you’ll need the property owner’s approval.

In Long Beach, residents can apply for a fruit tree—lemon, lime, orange, pomegranate, peach, or avocado—and city crews will plant it in their front yard for free.

What if I have a couch, carpets, or other bulky items to be picked up?

Be a good neighbor: Do not dump your musty couch on the street or sidewalk without making arrangements first. Most cities will pick up bulky items, but you’ll need to give them a heads up.

In the city of Los Angeles, call the sanitation department at 1-800-773-2489 to schedule a pick-up, and be prepared to give them a list of items to be collected. In West Hollywood, call Athens Services at (888) 336-6100 or fill out an online form. The items will be collected from the curb within about one week. In Santa Monica, the city will do up to three bulk pick-ups a year per residential unit. Place the items on the curb or alley, then call (310) 458-2223 Monday through Friday. In Inglewood, the city offers unlimited pickups, just call public works at (310) 412-5333 at least 24 hours in advance.

Nonprofits like the Salvation Army and Out of the Closet will also haul items away for you. Call them to find out more.

How do I file a noise complaint?

Putting up with some noise comes with the territory of living in a major metropolis. But the city of Los Angeles does restrict common loud activities like lawn mowing and car repairs to daytime hours, roughly 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Construction activity is allowed 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday (sites are supposed to be quiet on Sundays). To file a noise complaint, call your local police station at (877) ASK-LAPD (275-5273). If the noise is coming from within your building or from a next-door neighbor, try working things out first. If the situation doesn’t get resolved, get your landlord involved.

How do I report broken sidewalks or street potholes?

In the city of Los Angeles, report it to 311.

What should I do about dog poo?

Dog waste isn’t just gross. Left on lawn and sidewalks, it can spread diseases and pollute waterways. To scoop it up, use a biodegradable bag. Heal the Bay also recommends reusing a newspaper, a produce bag from the grocery store, or bread bags. (Never place animal waste in a green waste container!) If your neighbors aren’t picking up after their pets, consider purchasing an animal waste station for your block. They can be pricy ($285), so consider splitting the costs with others on your block or with your HOA.

How do I get speed humps installed?

Want to slow down drivers who race through your neighborhood? If you live on a residential street with a single lane of travel in each direction and a speed limit of 30 mph or less, ask the city of LA’s transportation department for speed “humps.” These mounds of asphalt are wider and more gentle than traditional speed bumps. But you’ll have to put in some legwork to get them. If, after you’ve filled out an application, the city determines your street qualifies, you’ll need to gather signatures from residents on the block.

The review cycle for speed hump requests opens up every six months, with the next application window open as of 8 a.m. today.

How do I establish a preferential parking district?

If parking on your city of Los Angeles street is so tight you want to keep out “intrusive” non-residents and commuter vehicles, you can try to establish a preferential parking district. In these zones, you have to show proof that you’re a resident in order to obtain a permit to park there. It’s not an easy process to establish one of these districts. You’ll have to get in touch with your City Council office and obtain neighborhood support. The city’s transportation department will study the parking situation on your street, and ultimately, it will be up to the full City Council to decide whether to grant your request.

How can I help the homeless?

First, know that if people are camped on the sidewalks or in the local park or in an RV, it’s very likely because they have no where else to go. While the city slowly builds shelters and affordable housing, you can pitch in by donating things like clean socks and underwear, sleeping bags, and travel-sized toiletries and volunteering with a local organization that works directly with homeless Angelenos. Advocate for affordable housing and shelters in your neighborhood.

There is an option to report an encampment using 311, but advocates don’t recommend it. City-led clean-ups can lead to personal items being tossed out, and displacing someone from a location can make it harder for them to get help. If you think someone needs housing or assistance, use the portal and the only contact will be with an outreach worker.

How can I get more involved in my neighborhood?

In the city of Los Angeles, start attending neighborhood council meetings. These council boards are made up of elected leaders who vet policy decisions and make recommendations—on everything from development plans to liquor licenses to dog park rules—to the full Los Angeles City Council. There are 99 neighborhood councils in the city of Los Angeles; find yours by entering your address in this interactive map.

One other invaluable way to help is to sign up for Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, training, where you’ll learn basic disaster response strategies. To organize your neighborhood to respond to a natural disaster or other emergency, sign up for Ready Your LA Neighborhood, or RYLAN. The city will facilitate a training session on how to care for and shelter your neighbors, conduct search and aid, and establish a neighborhood communication system.