It Can Happen: A Los Angeles Pothole Gets Filled

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Next to other drivers, the biggest scourge for Angeleno motorists might be the city’s countless potholes. And the City has a 70-year backlog of requests to have them remedied. But Mayor Garcetti and some councilmembers have announced a “blitz” on potholes. But are they actually being filled? DnA bore witness to the filling of one pothole in Atwater Village.


Next to other drivers, the biggest scourge for Angeleno motorists might be the city’s countless potholes. And it is no surprise they feel like they are a permanent annoyance. The City has a 70-year backlog of requests

So last July L.A.’s mayor Eric Garcetti announced ‘Operation Neighborhood Blitz,’ a program aimed at filling the many treacherous holes that are a fixture of L.A. streets.

This has prompted  City council members to follow suit and — knowing that pothole filling pleases voters — make sure the public knows about it.

So when DnA got an alert that a pothole was to be filled in Atwater Village, Caroline Chamberlain went to watch the process, along with District 13 Councilman Mitch O’Farrell (in Mayor Garcetti’s former seat) and an entourage: Mark Simon from the Bureau of Street Services; Field Deputy Mary Rodriguez; Street Services employees Bets and Al who did the work of plugging the hole; and Ester Fishman, an Atwater Village businesswoman who had initially contacted the city about the offending pothole.

Located on an alleyway off of Revere Avenue and Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village, the pothole (potholes, really) has proven to be a nuisance to local businesses. This alleyway was never intended for heavy use, but because of the lack of a left-turn option at Seneca Avenue (one street over), it leaves motorists little choice but to frequently utilize the alley.

In general though, pothole repairs are prioritized for heavily used boulevards.

And in case you are assuming that wealthier neighborhoods in L.A. receive swifter pothole repairs (like L.A.’s neighboring cities Santa Monica and Beverly Hills), it turns out that some of L.A.‘s most affluent neighborhoods, such as Hancock Park, Bel-Air, and Los Feliz have some of the city’s worst streets while some of L.A.’s least affluent cities enjoy some of the best pavement.

Back to Atwater Village. The pothole repair truck arrived on schedule and the filling of a pothole began. Before the process started though, the dapper councilman dressed for the part, laughed that “fluorescent yellow is the new black,” as he put on his luminous safety vest and helmet (pictured above).

Ever wondered how potholes get filled?

The process starts off with the area being swept off for any unnecessary debris, then a black tar-like substance is painted over the cracked surface.

Next the truck dumps out a pile of asphalt over the potholes.


It’s then smoothed out with a rake-like  tool.

Then comes the whacker. Appropriately named, this lawn-mower shaped device smoothes and compacts fresh asphalt and temporarily shocks the ear drums with its loud vibrations. Bets of Street Services (above, right) says the machine surprisingly provides a nice arm work out too. (Could that be L.A.’s new workout fad?)

whackerOnce the surface was smoothed over, the whole process was repeated one more time.

I asked Al and Bets if I could interview them about how they feel about filling potholes in Los Angeles, but was intercepted by a Bureau of Street Services employee who informed me they could not provide any statistics about the number of potholes they fill, how often the truck comes out etc. But they were permitted to tell me they like their jobs.

How do you get a pothole fixed? 

It’s a challenge, in part because of a lack of funds. Street Services officials estimate $263 million annually is needed each year over the next decade to fix L.A.’s ailing streets. However, according to a 2012 report in the Los Angeles Times, the Bureau of Street Services receives only $100 million each year for street repairs.

But if you want a pothole to be repaired, the best thing you can do is to report it.

You can report it by calling 1-(800)-996-CITY, using the myLA311 app,  or by filling out a Service Request Form online.

Another reason it’s important to report potholes, is that if your car is damaged by a pothole the city is aware of, you may be eligible to be reimbursed for the cost of repairs.

According to the Mayor’s office (from the graphic below), pothole repairs have increased by 17.3% from 2012 to 2013.

So report your local potholes, wait patiently, and maybe you will get a visit from Bets, Al, the whacker, and your local councilmember.

annual pothole repairs