Alerting the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety about things like illegal construction or conversion is easy; getting a timely response can be hard, especially for those living on the east side of LA, according to an LA Times analysis of records available on the city’s open-data website. The median time to get a visit or initial response from an inspector on the east side is more than three times the citywide average. Response times vary wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood and within areas of the city, and without any real apparent pattern.
In eastern LA, almost 25 percent of code enforcement complaints went at least three months without any investigation— that’s two times the rate for Westside complaints and four times the rate in South LA. Only Central LA came close to eastern LA’s numbers, with 18 percent of its complaints waiting more than 90 days for a response. (See an interactive map with the breakdown of every neighborhood.) The median wait time for an inspector to visit a complaint filer is 26 days in eastern LA, but the citywide median is just eight.
There is some good news. Complaints that were “potentially hazardous” were handled rapidly, with a citywide median response of three days. But still, as of July 2014, there are more than 700 complaints that have been waiting a year or more for response from inspectors, some of them cases of possible illegal construction, derelict buildings, and “a host of other irritating, if not dangerous, quality-of-life issues.” (Nearly half of those, by the way, were in the eastern part of Los Angeles.)
Wait time doesn’t appear to be influenced by income or even the number of complaints per area. The Times found no consistent links between an area’s income or poverty levels and its response time—after all, South LA had the fewest 90-day-old cases, and it’s home to some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city—and found “little correlation” between the volume of complaints that inspectors in one area had to deal with and the speed with which they investigated them. Even more confusing, within the general west/east/south/central areas of LA, response times varied between neighborhoods. In the Valley neighborhood of Sylmar, the median wait was a day, but a few miles away in Arleta, it was 42 days. So basically, calling in your complaint is a crapshoot.
LADBS feels that slow response times are an understaffing issue. From 2006 to 2013, the number of staffers that the department had available to investigate general complaints went from 125 to just 50. Only eight were brought back this year, LADBS spokesman Luke Zamperini says. With way fewer people on hand, inspectors have to “focus on the most egregious or dangerous issues — and if there’s any time left, they get to the other ones,” he says.
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