NORWALK – Norwalk city officials spent nearly three hours answering residents’ questions and concerns during a special city council meeting at the Norwalk Social Services Center on Tuesday night.
The top of the complaint list included gang violence, illegal street parking, fireworks, and trash dumping.
One by one, residents came forward to petition the council to take more proactive steps towards illegal activities and code violations on one-way streets and in south side neighborhoods.
Norwalk resident Gloria Perez was the first to address the council. Knowing not all her neighbors and friends would be able to attend the meeting, Perez said she gathered together questions from them to ask the councilmembers.
“What’s being done about the illegal dwellings in garages,” she asked in Spanish. “Why are some people cited and others are not?”
With more than 60 residents and city staff in attendance, City Manager Mike Egan addressed each question.
“We understand it’s very expensive to live in the area, but living in garages is not safe,” said Egan.
Councilman Marcel Rodarte agreed, maintaining that enforcement of the ordinance is only meant to keep residents safe.
“We look like the bad guys when we enforce it, but it’s for your safety,” he said.
Egan also addressed gang violence, asking residents to help police and public safety officials by calling in more often when they see something suspicious.
“There have been focused efforts by the LA County Sheriff’s Department against gang violence, but it still flares up unexpectedly,” Egan said. “It’s much lower than it was 20 years ago, but I don’t want that to make you think we’re satisfied. We need your help.”
Several residents brought up Hermosillo Park, located at 11959 162nd St., where there have been regular gang sightings and shootings. One resident suggested building a police substation at the park and fencing off the front to reduce access.
Councilman Luigi Vernola reminded residents that anonymous calls to police are welcomed.
“We have to work together and we need your help,” he said. “Call in – don’t be afraid to get involved.”
Residents also mentioned illegal parking on residential streets, which inconveniences entire neighborhoods already strapped for free spaces.
“California law states that after 72 hours someone has to move his or her car,” he said. “The only thing the city can do is mark the car and come back 72 hours later.”
Rodarte suggested preferential parking for streets with crowding, but Councilwoman Cheri Kelley disagreed.
“Permit parking is a pain…it’s not a pleasant process,” she said. “Plus, 72 hours is way too long – by the time we come check, the car has been moved for street sweeping.”
Egan said there is no easy solution, but posting flyers on cars promising to crack down on violators is an option.
Illegal fireworks were also addressed as residents complained of the year-round nuisance.
“Fireworks are a big problem in Downey, La Mirada, and Santa Fe Springs,” said Egan. “We do try to enforce it with fines, but it’s hard to catch people in the act.”
Mayor Leonard Shryock asked if a fireworks ban would help, but the council groaned at the idea.
“Norwalk has 120,000 residents in it. We mostly use a complaint system and we only have so many employees…we cannot be everywhere all the time,” said Kelley. “It’s a state problem, California needs to step up.”