CITY HALL -- Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell introduced a motion Wednesday which directs staff to report back on how the city can improve on addressing the issue of excessive accumulation --also known as hoarding-- and how the City can better protect individuals afflicted with this disorder, and those who live adjacent to such properties.
O’Farrell’s motion directs the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Chief Legislative Analyst, the City Administrative Officer, the Department of Building and Safety, Housing and Community Investment Department, the Department of Animal Services, the Los Angeles Police Department and the City Attorney’s Office to report back on steps that can be taken to address, evaluate and improve the fire safety protocols when dealing with issues posed by dwellings occupied by individuals who engage in excessive storage.
“There are disconnects, and a lack of communication, between departments when it comes to handling hoarding cases,” said O’Farrell. “I want to make sure that departments are properly reporting dwellings with excessive accumulation of items so that we can better protect neighbors and the first responders when they arrive at the scene of a fire.”
A dramatic house fire in Atwater Village made headlines in January. The home’s yard appeared to be packed with vehicles, mattresses, debris and items covered by a large blue tarp, aerial video showed. This same location was also the scene of a fire just 13 months earlier.
"Los Angeles City Firefighters are all too familiar with the danger associated with hoarding in residences throughout our City,” said Captain Frank Lima, President, United Firefighters of Los Angeles City. “These conditions put our Firefighters, local residents, and the occupants themselves in great danger in the event of an emergency. The United Firefighters of Los Angeles City thank Councilmember Mitch O'Farrell for showing leadership on this issue and asking that this very serious problem be addressed immediately."
O’Farrell also wants City departments to consult with the Los Angeles County Departments of Public Health and Mental Health on procedures and interdepartmental communications. In addition, O’Farrell wants to hear from staff about best practices from other major metropolitan centers, as well as recommendations for possible revisions to the current Los Angeles Municipal Code.
Approximately three to five percent of Americans engage in excessive storage. This is a medically recognized disorder, in which an individual has persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. Left untreated, a dwelling occupied by someone suffering from this disorder can become packed with acquired belongings, often including hazardous materials, combustible items, as well as unsafe electrical wiring, deteriorated structural elements, and vermin.
The motion will next be heard in Public Safety Committee.