BOCA's Roosevelt Tunnel Captain Sharon Kilbride and our Environment Committee Chair Wes Hough (both also SMCCA board members) led a crew into the Roosevelt Tunnel this morning to accomplish what the City and County have for months failed to do: clear away a dangerous mound of blown sand and human waste out of the tunnel and its adjacent beach wall.


Here's what happened. The sand began accumulating during the windstorms earlier in the winter. For years, our Canyon transient resident known as "Ice" had been meticulously clearing out any blown sand. But Ice has now disappeared. So the sand built up to unprecedented levels.

In fact there was so much sand that pedestrians and cyclists were slipping and falling.

BOCA and SMCCA, which have been working closely together on tunnel issues, alerted City officials of this. Norman Kulla of Councilman Bonin's office has tried valiantly and repeatedly to get city departments to move on this, but was not successful. So BOCA and SMCCA haven taken citizen action and removed it.

Why does this have to happen? Why can't the city deliver on the services that our taxes pay for? The tunnel structure is owned by the State of California (Caltrans) which does major structural repairs. But Caltrans has an agreement with the City of Los Angeles to maintain the tunnels (through the Department of Public Works and its various agencies, including the Bureau of Street Lighting, and the Bureau of Street Services). 

Street Lighting has been very good about replacing burnt-out bulbs, but Street Services has not been reliably maintaining the tunnels.

Meanwhile, the County of Los Angeles (Beaches and Harbors) maintains Will Rogers State Beach - they sweep the bike path, plow and clean the sand, and empty the trash cans on the beach, some of them right next to the tunnels. So why can't the County clean the tunnels? Why couldn't L.A. County Beaches & Harbors clean up the County's own beach sand in the tunnel?

We asked a County crew that question. Because, they said, it's the City of L.A.'s jurisdiction, and so the County is not allowed to go in. Seems crazy, right? They're right there, they can see the problem, but they can't do anything about it.

So at BOCA's request, Councilman Bonin's office has tried to negotiate a new agreement between the City and County, whereby the County could clean and maintain the tunnels, which are there, after all, only to provide beach access. They're a virtual extension of the County's beach. This isn't to excuse the City's public works department for failing to adequately maintain the tunnels, but the reality is that the County is in a much better position to handle the tunnels: they have the equipment and personnel right there.

Simple, right? No. So far no agreement between City and County, and no removal of sand. Until today. By private citizens. Frustrated and fed up with official inaction.

Even worse: the crew found that the growing population of beach transients has started using the beach wall next to the tunnel as a virtual outdoor toilet. Disgusting is too mild a word to describe the scene of human waste and toilet paper. And that location IS part of the County's jurisdiction. So why haven't County crews cleaned it up?

All good questions to ask of retiring County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky - after all, his name is on the beach!

Supervisor Yaroslavski's name on sign , just 100 yards from the tunnel and open toilet area

Supervisor Yaroslavski's name on sign , just 100 yards from the tunnel and open toilet area

Please e-mail Zev and as k him to make cleaning and maintenance of BOTH Canyon beach tunnels a final part of his legacy at the County:

Let's also ask Gary Jones, the new head of LA County Beaches & Harbors, to fix this situation as an indicator of his effectiveness in his role: New beach chief rides the waves | Zev Yaroslavsky. You can write him here:

Finally, in the upcoming November runoff election between Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver to replace Zev, let's ask both candidates to commit to rectifying the ridiculous bureaucratic snafu that has resulted in an unsafe and unsanitary gateway from one of the most historic neighborhoods in Los Angeles to one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

AuthorDoug Suisman