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Why Does South LA Have Gated Alleys

Have you ever wondered why South LA has so many gated alleys? Well, odds are you haven’t, but you might find this history interesting, especially if you’re planning to buy a house near one.

Today we’re talking about alleys. Odds are, if you’ve driven in South LA, you’ve seen these green gates either guarding alleys or flung wide open. Believe it or not, the city is not responsible for anything in between these gated allies. And this story goes back to the mid 90s. 

Alleys have always been liabilities in Los Angeles. They have been hotbeds for illicit activities and illegal dumping. Originally, alleys were  designed to provide easy access to public utilities and trash pick up, but instead, they became a money pit for the city—where Los Angeles spent millions of dollars clearing them up. In fact, in the early 90s, the Los Angeles Times reported the Department of Public Works spending $4 million annually to clean up illegal dumping in alleys in South LA alone.

Through the Nuisance Alley Conversion Pilot Project, the city paid the $3,700 tab to install the gates, and to clean the alley one last time. The residents were given the key, the alley became shared private property between the nearby property owners, and the city crossed the alley off of its cleaning list. And by 1996, the Nuisance Alley Conversion Pilot Project had sealed off 214 alleys, mostly in South LA, with hopes that the project would pay for itself with fewer illegal dumping pickup requests.

Now, more than 20 years later, many of these same alleys have become glorified parking lots fitted with warped, bent-out-of-shape gates. 

I’ve personally lived next to one of these gates for years, and I’ve talked to several residents about them. The locks promised to keep uninvited guests have often been cut, and the bars on the gates have been bent.  

Now, in these alleys, the city no longer enforces parking restrictions, no longer maintains the paved alleyway roads, and no longer fulfills any clearing request in the bounds of the alley. With the Nuisance Alley Conversion Pilot Project disbanded by the mid 2000s, residents who live next to these gated alleys are forced to fend for themselves. 

What’s worse? This $3,700-per-alley project has not solved the illegal dumping issue in South LA—and the city at large. In fact, South LA, which accounted for most of the illegal dumping pickup requests in the city, is still a leading contributor.

According to the Los Angeles Controller website, there were 21,941 illegal dumping pickup requests filed across LA City in 2020. South LA accounted for 5,404 or nearly 25 percent of the requests in the cities. 

The gates in the alley have, at best, only relieved the city of the responsibility of cleaning up the dumping in the alley, but these requests are rampant outside of the alley. 

So yes, in short, the Los Angeles City Council installed these iron green gates across Alleys in South LA and other parts of the region to relieve itself from cleaning it up. Even with these new gates, the alleys have remained the same—only without support from the city.


  1. Destinee M Destinee M

    So what does the residence to do if they have this near their home? How do you get rid of the parking issue?

    • Hi Destinee,

      Unfortunately, the NACP—and city council for that matter—didn’t plan for this reality. I have, however, had the opportunity to talk to Marqueece Harris Dawson’s office (Council District 8), who provided more details on this.

      Emergency services such as encampments, parking violations, and crime can be reported through 311. If 311 refuses to service the area, you can take a screenshot of that and send it to your city council representative (Council District 8 or 9).

      Additionally, if you can get all of the neighbors whose homes sit against the alley to agree, you can install no-parking signs and see if you can partner with a local tow company. No-parking signs need to be visible in the lot in order for a tow company to agree to remove a parked vehicle. I’d talk more with a company about that alternative.

      I hope this helps at the least.

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