Los Angeles Councilman Joe Buscaino introduced a resolution this week seeking to have miles of Union Pacific Railroad tracks in his district declared public nuisance areas, which would allow the city to clean up the areas at the railroad company’s expense.
Buscaino, who represents District 15, accused the company of failing to maintain the tracks, which “primarily run through communities of color,” including Watts, Wilmington and Harbor Gateway. Union Pacific, in a Wednesday, Feb. 24, statement, blamed trespassing, unlawful homeless encampments, dumping and other illegal activities for making the company’s maintenance and protection efforts difficult.
“We have a track record of working to resolve these issues,” the statement said, “and will remain engaged with the councilmember and the city of Los Angeles to address this very complex issue.”
Buscaino introduced his resolution on Tuesday. It must first go to the Public Works Committee for a vote and then to the full City Council for final approval.
In a hard-hitting social media post, Buscaino accused Union Pacific of not spending enough money and employing too few people to keep the areas around the tracks clean.
“I join the affected communities who are fed up with the lack of basic standards of maintenance along these tracks from a company who made $6.3 billion for their shareholders in 2020,” Buscaino wrote on his Facebook page, “and who boasted that Trump’s tax cut bill saved them $5.9 billion in 2017.”
None of that money, he said, “has been invested in the communities who suffer daily from the environmental, noise and physical impacts of having a heavy freight corridor literally in their backyards.”
Buscaino also said the 175 special agents the company employs to oversee the property are too few.
“Union Pacific, a Fortune 500 company,” Buscaino wrote, “has done little to nothing about illegal dumping, graffiti, large encampments and overgrown weeds and other vegetation for which they are responsible.”
The company, in its response, suggested the current homeless crisis has stymied efforts to maintain the tracks. Homeless encampments continue to be an issue city and countywide, even as officials work to open temporary shelters and build more permanent housing.
Union Pacific has “developed a compassionate relocation program for homeless individuals that works in cooperation with local nonprofit partners to offer needed social services,” the company said. “Through these efforts and more, Union Pacific has dedicated a significant amount of resources to maintain our right of way.
“While we have compassion for individuals who lack permanent housing, safety remains our highest priority,” the company added. “Trespassing on railroad property is dangerous for the homeless, the public as well as Union Pacific employees.”
The company has set up a public contact process — 888-877-7267 or RMCC_in@up.com — for residents to report transient encampments and other problems.