In Sylmar, near the corner of Hubbard Street and Fellows Avenue, unfortunate residents have been dealing with the foul smell of human waste spilling onto the streets for months. Although some have gone to local officials for assistance, a complicated jurisdiction hasn’t helped matters.
The waste stems from a single plot of land that contains one house and around 20 RVs that are being occupied by renters. Although all the vehicles remain parked within a lot, which is on private property behind fences, the waste left behind is not — it’s being dumped onto the ground, concerning residents.
One of the neighbors, Alex Lombera, said that some RVs have been on the property for a long time, but the problem with the waste started occurring a couple months ago when more of them began showing up. Although a recent issue, it’s one that’s highly noticeable due to the strong stench.
“My room is towards the front [of the house], so I have to keep my windows closed,” Lombera said, “but when I get out of the car and when we step out of the house, it’s a really horrible smell.”
Lombera also noticed that after the owner of the property, Cruz Florian Godoy, began letting in RVs, there was an increase in homeless people that would come by the neighborhood, tagging in the nearby alley and thefts of items from nearby cars, including catalytic converters.
“It started ever since [the RVs began coming in],” Lombera said. “The neighborhood is no longer safe.”
Lombera said she wants the RVs gone, or if Godoy obtains a permit to keep them there, that she follows up with local officials on health, safety and security issues.
According to an individual at the property, Godoy does have permits to keep the RVs on the lot. However, a permit search by media has produced no record of their claim.
Godoy is currently charged with two misdemeanors in Los Angeles County Superior Court regarding the parking of RVs and the maintenance of trash and debris. She has pleaded not guilty.
Lombera isn’t alone in her concerns. A petition has collected at least 117 signatures from neighbors saying they don’t feel safe. One of them is Denise Mejia, whose family has lived in their current home for more than 30 years.
She said that some RVs had been on the property for roughly three years but observed that the number suddenly increased dramatically only recently. The waste flowing onto the sidewalk began not long afterwards, and with it came the foul odor.
“At first, it was hard to say what it was. No one really knew what the smell was,” Mejia recalled. “But once our neighbor notified us that she could actually see it [the human waste] coming down the sidewalk, she called us to witness it.”
Mejia also noticed an increase in thefts after more RVs started coming to the neighborhood, although she does not want to put the blame on those living in them. She recalled parked cars getting broken into and getting items stolen; one of those vehicles was her uncle’s truck.
Although residents have been reaching out to local officials for assistance, the situation is complicated by how the neighborhood sits geographically. Most of the property, as well as all the RVs, is within the city of LA, but most of the neighbors — and a small portion of the property — live in the City of San Fernando. Both Lombera and Mejia reside in San Fernando.
Nick Kimball, San Fernando city manager, explained that city staff met with affected residents and conducted a site visit on June 28. Although staff reportedly found possible code violations regarding fencing and unpermitted structures, they didn’t find anything they could do regarding the RVs or the waste dumping.
“As a smaller City, San Fernando does not have the same level of review and fewer administrative steps, but we don’t have any authority to issue compliance notices or citations in the city of LA,” Kimball explained. “We have been reporting these issues to the city of LA [Department of] Building [and Safety] and other entities, but they have their established processes that they must work through.
“We empathize with the residents of that area and will do what we can to assist, but the alleged major violations are in the city of LA and not within our jurisdiction.”
LA Councilmember Monica Rodriguez released a statement: “Upon being notified of this issue, my office initiated the inspections of the property in question with the LA Department of Building and Safety, which resulted in violations and notices for compliance. This case is further complicated by the fact that the property is both in the City of Los Angeles and the City of San Fernando.
“While this case is pending with the courts for sanctions, I will continue to use every resource at my disposal to mitigate the health and safety risks it poses to the community and continue collaborations with leaders to accelerate compliance.”
Mejia said that it should be up to whichever city oversees the property to determine whether it can house RVs and how many should be allowed — not just for the safety of the neighborhood, but for those living inside the property.
“There are rumors that have been going around our neighbors that actually some of the tenants in the property are very sick,” Mejia said. “With the heat now, the conditions are probably going to get worse than what they already are. … There’s a lot of people moving into the property, too many, and I don’t think that’s a healthy living condition.”