There’s no denying it: sections of Venice are certainly stinky, and during the pandemic the neighborhood’s trash problems have got worse with sidewalk encampments swelling and street cleaning occurring less frequently.

Fed up with the inadequacy of Los Angeles City sanitation services, a group of community volunteers have created a clean-up coalition to see if they can tackle the problem as a team. They hope to not only beautify the neighborhood but also gather data on street pollution that will put pressure on LA City Council to enact solutions.

The movement began organically with multiple residents gathering groups to pick up trash. Soon these clean-ups were happening sporadically across the neighborhood.

This caught the attention of Venice resident Christopher Lee, who decided to build venicecommunitycleanups.org as a one-stop-shop for residents to find out when clean-ups are happening, who is organizing them, and where they are occurring.

“I realized we had a lot of disparate efforts to clean up the neighborhood, but there was very little coordination or unity between them and a lot of these groups weren’t sharing information or were competing for the same volunteers on the same day,” said Lee.

The website tracks where trash is being collected and how much is gathered. Lee intends to consolidate this information over several months to create a data driven case for the City increasing spending on sanitation in the area.

“The fact that so many community organizations and individuals are reflexively repeating trash pickup points to a lack of city services and supporting us here in Venice Beach,” said Lee.

This problem is not new to Venice, which is known for its bohemian attitude and relative tolerance of homelessness. However, many residents say it is getting worse.

“The trash pollution has greatly increased during the pandemic due to both lack of street sweeping and increase in homeless encampments and overflow,” said local resident Brennan Lindner. “It also occurred that the city was not emptying (or perhaps not emptying frequently enough) local trash and recycling bins.

Lindner coordinates clean-ups under the Venice Chamber of Commerce’s Chamber in Action Committee. At the most recent VCC clean-up, volunteers gathered enough trash to fill one and a half pickup trucks with garbage.

“Over the past 4 months, over 50 Venice residents and business owners have come out and donated their time to positively impact the community,” said Lindner, describing the Chamber’s clean-up events. “With dwindling city services and accountability from our leaders, we’ve been able to make our neighborhood cleaner and provide a safe opportunity for people to make a difference.”

Group clean-ups temporarily paused during the latest spike in Covid-19 cases, but have now resumed with new PPE and health and safety protocols.

The VCC Chamber in Action Committee is leading their next clean-up on Sunday Jan. 24 from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

The team will be cleaning Rose Ave. between Hampton Dr and Lincoln Blvd and will meet in the Whole Foods Market Parking lot. All volunteers will be provided with gloves, trash bags, brooms and rakes as well as a hot cup of coffee following the clean-up.

“It’s been rewarding to drive Lincoln Blvd. with my children who have joined the clean ups, and they can take pride in their work,” said Lindner. “We look forward to expanding our efforts with other partners and stakeholders to keep Venice clean for all.”

Clara@smdp.com