In a pre-trial courtroom hearing Wednesday, a judge granted an order to vacate the Sylmar property where human waste from around 20 RVs has been spilling onto the nearby sidewalks and streets. All the residents, including the property owner, must leave the property by Sunday, July 23.
The decision was made on Wednesday morning, July 19, at Van Nuys Courthouse West. During the hearing, a defense attorney for the property owner — Cruz Florian Godoy — asked that the hearing be extended and that their client be released on her own recognizance. She was previously charged with two misdemeanors regarding the parking of RVs and the maintenance of trash and debris.
The judge, Alicia Y. Blanco, granted the defense attorney’s requests; the next court date is Aug. 3. Godoy was present for the hearing briefly but had reportedly left before it was over. She will be required to attend the next court date.
However, the city attorney requested that as part of her release, that an order to vacate be placed on the property due to numerous safety hazards. On Tuesday, inspectors from multiple agencies, including the Department of Building and Safety and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), arrived at the Sylmar property, escorted by police vehicles.
After inspecting the property, (LADWP) cut off power to the property due to multiple fire hazards, including extension cords being hung “illegally,” RVs all operating off a power line and the proximity of propane tanks and the vehicles during a heat wave.
Additionally, officials from the City of San Fernando came Tuesday and red tagged a building on their side of the property that they found to be an illegal garage conversion — deeming it uninhabitable.
Due to the many safety concerns, the judge granted the vacate order. All residents at the property must leave by Sunday.
“The [LA] city attorney mentioned that the [Department of] Building and Safety was in the audience, as well as other departments that were on the property yesterday, and could attest to the damages that could result from the hazards,” said Kurt Cabrera-Miller, president of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, who was present during Wednesday’s pre-trial hearing along with approximately eight neighbors.
“If there’s still people on the property [after three days], then that’s a violation of her release conditions and so the owner could be remanded into custody.”
There is no word yet on what will become of the RVs, some of which Cabrera-Miller said are inoperable.
The cutting of the power and vacate order are just the latest developments in a situation that has been ongoing for years. As previously reported by the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol, numerous RVs have been parked in the backyard lot for at least four years and Godoy has been cited for several code violations, which had made no difference in shutting down the makeshift RV park.
The issue became worse in the last few months when human waste began spilling onto the sidewalks and streets, filling the air with a foul smell. The problem was also complicated by the fact that the property is located in both San Fernando and the city of LA.
One neighbor, Maria Macias, lives directly behind Godoy’s lot. She previously told the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol that living right next to the RVs placed an emotional toll on her family and resulted in her adult son becoming ill. She was present at Wednesday’s hearing and expressed some relief that something was finally being done.
“I think it’s a good step in the right direction because no one deserves to live in that [kind of] condition,” Macias said. “That goes for the community living around the property and also those people living inside the property.”
Although she’s glad some action is being taken, Macias still has some concerns — namely what will happen to the vehicles and waste that will be left behind.
“I’m going to feel better when I see that everything is being cleared from that property because I still don’t know what’s going to happen with the RVs [or] when they’re going to move,” Macias said. “And if the people leave, who’s going to clean the mess that is in there. I don’t know.
“Now that the inspectors and everybody knows the situation, hopefully they act and do everything possible so they clean up this nightmare,” Macias continued. “It’s been a nightmare [for us] for four years.”
What will happen to the RVs and waste isn’t the only concern. With the vacate order, everyone who has been living in RVs now has the problem of finding a place to live amid an intense summer heat. Cabrera-Miller said that it’s important to react to the news with compassion, that at the end of the day, the tenants are still people who no longer have a place to live.
“The individuals living there had the choice to stay there. Now they no longer have that choice,” he said. “Hopefully, they will utilize this time to use services [from homeless service agencies]. … We don’t want them to become another statistic to the homeless population because, even though they’ve been living in squalor, … they were still somewhat safe and now they’re going to be homeless.
“Hopefully, [homeless] services can get in there and house these individuals.”