City of Los Angeles
George M. Uhl, M.D.
Health Officer
Al Torribio, Director
Div. of Info. and
Health Education
MA 4-5211, ext. 171

May 12, 1959

During the regularly scheduled Health Department Executive Staff meeting the Health Officer asked what action was being taken regarding the health and sanitation condition at the tents in Chavez Ravine. The inquiry was prompted by facts from public information media, normal Health Department procedures and legal responsibilities assigned by the Charter, statutes and City ordinances.

Under the Charter the Health Officer has the duty of enforcing all laws and ordinances relating to health and sanitary conditions. Under Section 32.00 of the Municipal Code the Health Officer has the authority and duty to inspect all buildings including tents and trailers used for living quarters and to enforce all ordinances and laws necessary for sanitary, vermin-free, healthful living conditions.

During the last year the Department vacated 726 individual living units by the issuance of written notices. These included shacks, sheds, garages and similar illegal living quarters. Fifty-two structures were vacated by action of the Board of Health Commissioners. These involved 350 living units.

Yesterday, May 11, the Health Officer and Executive Staff determined that the Department should continue to follow usual enforcement policies. The regular district inspection staff made an inspection of the tents in Chavez Ravine and issued two written notices which read as follows:

"You are hereby directed to comply with the following:

"Discontinue the use and occupancy of tents for living and sleeping purposes.

"This notice shall be complied with in accordance with the laws, ordinances and rules applicable thereto.


"This date may 14, 1959."

A reinspection will be made and if the notice is not complied with by Thursday proper notification and legal posting will be carried out to advise all concerned parties that the matter will be set for hearing before the Board of Health Commissioners at their regular meeting on May 21. At that time the Board will consider the case under the provisions of Section 31.21 of the Health Chapter of the Municipal Code which authorizes the Board to condemn and order vacated "any building, structure, tent, vehicle, trailer..." for any of 8 specific conditions including lack of toilet facilities, lack of an adequate water supply, etc.

If the Board finds conditions to be unfit for occupancy it may order the premises vacated within 5 to 30 days except if it finds "extreme health danger or menace to the general public" the Board may specify immediate vacating.

If premises ordered by the Board to be vacated are not vacated by the specified time the matter is referred to the City Attorney who conducts a hearing. If the case cannot be settled by a hearing the matter is referred to court for action.

In this, as in all similar cases, the Health Department is simply following normal, legal procedures. It will be noted that Health Department procedures afford ample opportunity for a full consideration of all of the facts. We believe this is why the Department successfully carries out vacating actions practically every day and the Board orders unfit structures to be vacated every week with little public notice. This was the same procedure which resulted in eliminating several thousand backyard trailers with a minimum hardship, legal action or public protest.