County sends rodents packing Public health officials tackle a rat infestation that had residents of Westchester’s tony Kentwood neighborhood saying ‘Eek!’

County health officials are addressing an infestation of rats that centered on this Westchester home, where the animals were apparently being fed

County health officials are addressing an infestation of rats that centered on this Westchester home, where the animals were apparently being fed

By Gary Walker

An infestation of rats in an affluent Westchester neighborhood is on its way to being brought under control, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials.

Residents of the 6300 block of West 81st Street in Westchester began complaining in September about a swarm of rats invading their street, attributing the problem to neighbors they accused of feeding the rodents.

Public health workers have since visited the residence where neighbors say the rats are breeding and are working with the homeowners to eradicate the pests.

“Public Health has provided ongoing guidance to the owners at 6366 W. 81st St., conducting several inspections since September. A final inspection report will be created when all issues have been abated,” a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said. “Public Health will be visiting the property in early December to observe the owner’s progress in eliminating the concerns addressed in the initial inspection.”

In September, KTLA Channel 5 News reported that Larry Palkovic, an occupant of the home in question, acknowledged that he and his wife keep rats as pets inside the house. He said on air that rats have always been in the neighborhood.

“We’ve seen raccoons in the backyard,” Palkovic told KTLA. “The rats are part of the urban landscape.”

Palkovic could not be reached this week.

Public health officials say they have not received further complaints about rats from neighboring residences.

According to an inspection report issued in September, the Palkovics are required to eliminate the “infestation, harboring or breeding of rodents” and rodent-harborage conditions such as piles of debris, excessive vegetation and rodent burrows. They must also store pet food in pest-free containers and make interior and exterior repairs to the home.

The inspection report also indicated that complaints of feeding wild rats could have merit.

“It is recommended that the feeding of wildlife be discontinued,” the report states.

While “public health inspectors did not observe anyone feeding wildlife,” they found peanut shells and “excessive” rodent droppings under hedges west of the home.

Linda Black, the branch manager at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage for Venice and Marina del Rey, says it was critical for public health officials to get a handle on the rat infestation.

“Besides the public health aspect, there is the perception and fear for prospective home buyers that the county might not have this problem under control,” she said.

The Palkovics’ home is on the eastern edge of Kentwood, a very affluent neighborhood where Black said home prices have remained relatively high during the recent recession.

“If buyers are being scared off because of the vermin, that could have a significant bearing on home prices,” she added.

Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office learned of the rat problem in September and has been in contact with county public health officials as well as the office of L.A.
County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who represents Westchester neighborhoods
east of Manchester Avenue. Bonin’s office also facilitated
a meeting between county officials and the Neighborhood Council of Westchester –
Playa.

“Councilman Bonin was aghast at the situation when he first heard, and we immediately contacted the county supervisor’s office as well as county health to urge quick action,” said David Graham-Caso, Bonin’s communications director. “The latest update we received is that while the cleanup at the site is ongoing, as of now the rats are gone.”

As long as the Palkovics continue to take steps to rid the area of its rodent population, county health representatives say they will not face citations for state health and safety laws.

gary@argonautnews.com

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