"One call to City Hall" -- that's how Los Angeles bills its
311 information line.
Just dial the three numbers for help with any city service.
Some callers interpret that offer very broadly. They make some peculiar requests.
One man once called shouting, irate. Someone had littered his lawn with Butterball turkeys. He expected the city to send someone out immediately to take the shrink-wrapped birds away.
Read the story of the turkeys and more in
my latest City Beat story.
And check out what I sent out on Twitter from the scene:
View the story "L.A.'s 311 operators have heard it all" on Storify] L.A.'s 311 operators have heard it all People call L.A.'s 311 operators to get bulky items picked up, find out when their trash days are, learn their council members'names, schedule inspections -- and so much more. Some just call to talk. When the phones ring, the operators never know what they'll get. The job's busy, but not boring.
Storified by LA Times City Beat · Sat, Dec 08 2012 12:10:07
For my next City Beat, I head to a City Hall office to see how the 311 operators field calls from all over Los Angeles.LA Times City Beat
LA's 311 operators work in this City Hall office building: http://pic.twitter.com/OMRcmGR9LA Times City Beat
The Main Street entrance to City Hall East features a mural by Millard Sheets: http://pic.twitter.com/ZvPw0bwuLA Times City Beat
The 311 operators' call center is on the 10th floor. You know when you've arrived: http://pic.twitter.com/9o1SnJxgLA Times City Beat
The 311 operators' work environment is pretty much generic cubicle land -- except for the views: http://pic.twitter.com/9zgPfi6kLA Times City Beat
Some of the operators can see the mountains from their desks: http://pic.twitter.com/oDJQNYOQLA Times City Beat
But the operators mostly stare at screens. This one helps them zone in on which street light is out: http://pic.twitter.com/jehbNDg2LA Times City Beat
They can even call up a photo to confirm by the caller's description that they've got the right one: http://pic.twitter.com/RDTaGI4MLA Times City Beat
Their software is detailed and sophisticated. This screen lets them file graffiti complaints: http://pic.twitter.com/jAeNSVAhLA Times City Beat
LA residents call 311 about everything. "We're like a human Google," says operator Raquel Lopez: http://pic.twitter.com/Xr1oinw7LA Times City Beat
Lopez took a 311 call around Thanksgiving from a man furious that someone had scattered Butterball turkeys on his lawn.LA Times City Beat
And then there was the woman who called 311 because she wanted a wall tested for STDs after a transient urinated on it.LA Times City Beat
LA's 311 call center usually gets 2,000-3,000 calls each weekday, 700-900 each weekend day: http://pic.twitter.com/u5yyCPIdLA Times City Beat
The screens around the office show them how many calls have come in, how many are waiting, etc. http://pic.twitter.com/p3Zvs8zWLA Times City Beat
The operators try to jazz the office up: http://pic.twitter.com/rxwNSeFiLA Times City Beat
They decorate their lockers, some rebelliously: http://pic.twitter.com/yalYDHuzLA Times City Beat
Some like operator Debbie Rettig dress snazzily for work: http://pic.twitter.com/CKu6CZYqLA Times City Beat
Two hours into the day today, 311 had taken more than 1,000 calls -- this despite big budget cuts. http://pic.twitter.com/eFsTa35TLA Times City Beat
They used to be open 24 hours to help us solve our problems. They had to cut back to 8-4:45. http://pic.twitter.com/ZFdL1Ea9LA Times City Beat
City cuts meant they lost half their staff. They are down to 35. Mario Aldaz has been there 10 years: http://pic.twitter.com/HsiAaHATLA Times City Beat
When you next dial this number, maybe take a second to say thanks. Not everyone does. http://pic.twitter.com/Bc3geIETLA Times City Beat
Do read my latest City Beat -- on Butterball turkeys & the lively days of LA's 311 operators: http://lat.ms/RhUV5jLA Times City Beat
-- Nita Lelyveld
Follow City Beat on Twitter at @latimescitybeat and on Facebook. Send ideas for City Beat dispatches to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Operator Raquel Lopez, who has been answering the city's 311 information line for seven years, listens to a caller. "We're like a human Google," she says. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times