Makeshift RV park stirs controversy in Sylmar. But is it a hazard or a help?

Is a stand of recreational vehicles on a dusty lot in Sylmar a helpful alternative to the region’s notoriously overpriced housing, or a safety and sanitation concern that needs to be addressed?

The answer depends on whom you ask.

At the heart of the matter is a single lot on Hubbard Street in Sylmar, where one house illegally sits alongside about 20 RVs that serve as residences.

Many on the lot can’t afford to rent a home elsewhere, and some residents told The Times on Friday that the landlord works with them to make the crowded yard as affordable as possible. Others living in the area, though, complain about putrid conditions at the site, as well as the alleged dumping of human waste, according to a report from ABC-TV Channel 7.

One neighbor tearfully told the news station that she worries about the health of her grandchild, who is no longer allowed to play outside. She’s one of more than 100 people who have signed a petition decrying the conditions, the station reported.

The Los Angeles city attorney’s office has charged the owner of the lot, Cruz Florian Godoy, with two misdemeanors for unlawfully erecting a structure without applying for and securing all permits and licenses required, according to the criminal complaint. Godoy is also accused of failing to maintain the building in a safe and sanitary condition.

Godoy has pleaded not guilty. Her attorney could not be immediately reached for comment Friday.

In a statement, L.A. City Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said a Department of Building and Safety inspection of the property resulted in violations. The case, however, is complicated by the fact that the lot straddles the dividing line between the cities of Los Angeles and San Fernando.

Rodriguez, who represents Sylmar on the City Council, said the number of recreational vehicle encampments in L.A.’s public right-of-ways increased 22% from 2019 to 2022, and “our community was not immune to this impact.”

“While this case is pending with the courts for sanctions,” Rodriguez added, “I will continue to use every resource at my disposal to mitigate the health and safety risks it poses to the community.”

A Times reporter visited the site Friday but was not allowed onto the property. However, several people could be seen milling about.

One nearby resident told The Times that cars often fill neighboring streets and unsightly fencing along the perimeter of the property obstructs the street view.

A renter on the lot told ABC anonymously that tenants are forced to clear a clogged sewage line if they are unable to pay their entire rent. He said he worries unsanitary conditions may have made some of his neighbors sick, but he fears retribution if he reports it.

José Castillo, who identified himself as a resident who maintains the property, said he and Godoy were working with city inspectors to address their concerns. But he would not let a Times reporter onto the property, saying Godoy was in Guatemala.

Castillo acknowledged there had previously been busted pipes at the property, but said those had been fixed and they work diligently to make repairs as necessary.

Castillo said Godoy is providing a service for dozens of people by offering them a place to park their RV and live. Many who live there, he said, would otherwise be out on the street. Homelessness is on the rise, both in the city and wider Los Angeles County.

“She is not hurting anyone, on the contrary, she is helping people,” Castillo said.

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