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They Set 1,800 Traps At LA's City Hall And When They Checked Them: No Fleas

Los Angeles City Hall. (Matt Tinoco/LAist)
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Three hours into Friday's meeting of the L.A. City Council, city staff reported back on what they found -- or rather, didn't find -- after inspecting City Hall and several adjacent buildings for rats and fleas.

City staff, along with workers in L.A. County's health department, placed 1,800 flea traps in the floors and ceilings of Los Angeles' halls of power. And then they checked them.

"An analysis of the traps revealed that we had found silverfish and some occasional invaders such as millipedes," said David Paschal, an assistant general manager for the city's general services department. "No fleas after we examined those 1,800 traps."

Paschal added that some rat droppings were found on some of the lower floors in L.A. City Hall, but burrows were found only outside the building.

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"We recognized immediately that rodents are living in the planters and living in the soil that's adjacent to the buildings in the civic center," said Paschal.

The report came more than a month after a deputy city attorney went public with claims she had contracted typhus after being bit by fleas while working in her office in City Hall East. She took her story to KNBC. A few days later, city council President Herb Wesson authored a motion calling for an investigation of vermin in the civic center, and an audit of how city employees store food and dispose of their trash. He also proposed removing all the carpets in the building.

READ MORE: LA City Hall Has A Rodent Problem. Downtown Has A Typhus Outbreak. Here Are The Facts

That meant more headlines about typhus in downtown Los Angeles.

This image depicts a female Oriental rat flea, Xenopsylla cheopis. (Photo by James Gathany/Courtesy of CDC/Ken Gage)

The flea-borne disease has been in the news since the county health department first declared a "typhus outbreak" in downtown Los Angeles last year. That initial declaration prompted national headlines, and drew attention to the deplorable conditions fostered on the street by Los Angeles' homelessness crisis, particularly in Skid Row.

But some homeless advocates called foul, saying the outbreak declaration was driven by politics, not public health.

"It's highly, highly suspicious," said "General" Jeff Page, often referred to as the de-facto Mayor of Skid Row, to LAist in October. "I see it as a result of the business sector putting pressure on the Mayor and the City Council to do something now about Skid Row's conditions."

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The reason some questioned the timing? It came as Los Angeles was weighing whether or not to settle a polarizing lawsuit filed by several Skid Row residents. A temporary restraining order issued by a federal judge in 2016 had made it much harder to do encampment clean-ups in Skid Row.

The case, Mitchell v. Los Angeles, hinged on whether the city violated the constitutional rights of homeless people by seizing their property off the street and destroying it.

READ MORE: Is The Skid Row Typhus Outbreak A Manufactured Crisis?

Many in the downtown business and development sector pushed the city try the case in federal court, out of concern that a settlement would continue to complicate clean-up efforts.

Against the wishes of the business community, the city council voted this week to settle the case.

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