Sun, Apr

Sun Valley's RV Crisis: Broken Promises, Unfulfilled Plans, and a Community in Desperation

RV CRISIS - Los Angeles City Council District 6 stretches nearly 20 miles across the San Fernando Valley floor, from Sun Valley west through Van Nuys to Lake Balboa. It crosses three freeways: 5, 170, and 405. Large clusters of parked vans, cars, and RVs dot the district, forming homeless camps that are a major concern for all residents, especially in Sun Valley that has turned into a massive illegal RV lot inviting homeless and others from all over LA.
Once again, LA failed to deliver on promises to clear these mobile, homeless RV
encampments. Mayor Bass promised to take action and start dismantling them. The Mayor’s office stated that in 2024 it would dismantle RV encampments through Inside Safe...in South Los Angeles, on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley… starting in February in the Harbor City area.
But February came and went, and not a single RV encampment has been cleared as promised. Due to some of these unfulfilled promises, hundreds of homeless RVs monopolize entire blocks across the city, in Sun Valley, in particular. Large, immobile RVs require large tow trucks. And, according to the city, destroying a dilapidated RV that might contain harmful chemicals can cost up to $9,000 per vehicle.

Mayor Bass made another promise to tackle the RV problem that is so far unfulfilled: developing “safe parking lots” where RVs can park off city streets with 24 hour security and bathrooms. Another campaign promise was made by current Council District 6, Councilwoman Padilla, to propose an actually enforceable RV ordinance that would put end to the Wide-Wide West of RV lawlessness in the city of Sun Valley. And that is nowhere in the horizon, either. In fact, the number of RVs keeps increasing, as majority are chased out of other cities and permanently camp in Sun Valley.

Sun Valley is a community already heavily overburdened by environmental pollution, a community victimized by all government and regulatory agencies, a low-income community of color that has been neglected since times immemorial.

There are, of course, parking restrictions on many streets in Sun Valley. But as the number of RVs has grown, enforcing those restrictions has become

People are afraid to come into the areas where the RVs are because we don't know what's in the RVs, or perhaps, we know exactly what’s in the RVs. And that applies to many businesses throughout the Sun Valley community.

There's an increase in crime, we've got prostitution we've got drug dealing, we’ve got mentally ill people living off RVs, vandalism of city property, theft from electrical poles nearby, debris underneath these RVs, vans, and carcasses of vehicles, piles of trash and human waste… And not just the RVs; there are countless abandoned vehicles, carcasses of vehicles, broken, dismantled, perhaps stolen, and people living inside these vehicles, trashing the street and creating safety issues for residents and park visitors.

In September-October of 2023 there were 3-4 RV fires alone on Tujunga Ave and Goss Street.

Burning RV on Goss St. and Tujunga Ave., and Carcass of vehicle on Tujunga Ave., Sun Valley 

We all witness how RVs endanger our residents and blight our neighborhoods, acting as magnets for crime and damaging the environment. The impact on our Sun Valley community neighborhoods is an issue of cosmic proportions. Sun Valley residents have documented how some homeless RVs dump raw sewage into the streets, how trash piles up around them, and how some RVs go up in flames, creating a fire hazard for residential neighborhoods. Dilapidated RVs also present a nuisance and health hazard, rodent infestation, unwanted activities.

Vinedale St. and Ratner St., across from US Postal Service, a Federal Facility, Sun Valley

People are afraid to use the Post Office on Ratner because of RVs, trash, crime, and dangers associated with mentally ill living in these RVs. I have spoken to USPS employees who expressed concern about this ongoing RV
infestation, and told they were risking their lives by working in this location, and every day, there is an incident at the Post Office, every day someone from the RVs would enter the Post Office and that’s a nightmare for all employees and Post Office customers.

I have personally emailed Congressman Cardenas’ office last year about this situation in the Post Office, but I have yet to receive a response.  

In Sun Valley we’ve got to be willing to stand up and say enough is enough, we’ve got extensive environmental damage being accompanied by ongoing public safety issues, unsafe sidewalks, and unsafe businesses with blocked driveways. We demand that government take immediate action. How much is enough?
When is the city going to address one type of homelessness that has quickly become an entrenched crisis, one that’s largely of LA’s own making? In Sun Valley we don’t even have an accurate count of RVs, vans and other vehicles used as dwellings in the streets.
Remember that back in 2019, the number of people countywide who were living in cars, vans and mostly RVs was about 10,000, according to data compiled by the LAHSA. Now, it’s over 14,000. Unhoused people in LA County used more than 14,000 vehicles (including RVs) as dwellings according to the region’s 2023 count, compared with about 9,300 tents or makeshift shelters.
Why the increase? Generally speaking, it’s the fault of officials at all levels of government that lead to astronomical rental prices that have pushed the poorest and most vulnerable onto the streets.
The plan was to prioritize removing RVs that were unregistered, inoperable, and dangerous. But a lack of heavy-duty tow trucks and cheap places to store oversize vehicles prompted unprecedented delays. So many delays, in fact, that LA got a mostly new council and new mayor while we waited.

In the meantime, a sense of permanency has pervaded many encampments, such as the ones on Penrose, under the 5 Freeway underpass, Tujunga Ave, Bradley, Ensign, and Cantara. And why not? There is no enforcement of any way, shape and form, including parking illegally in streets with posted signs for limited overnight parking for oversized vehicles. Despite our countless requests for parking enforcement, we’ve gotten nowhere. Let’s talk about law enforcement; if you drive without a license plate, registration, and insurance, you will get pulled over in no time. But if you park in a street with no registration, no license plates, no tires, no VIN number, you are invincible. Where is the fairness in all of this? Why do we have laws in place if no one is going to follow them but ordinary, hard-working tax paying citizens?

The de facto permanency of RVs also had the unintended effect of creating a booming market for so-called vanlords, people who lease RVs for a few hundred bucks a month, sometimes full of mold, without running water or working toilets, and park them, confident that they won’t be towed.

We blame neighboring cities for pushing RV dwellers into Sun Valley, because lawlessness in Sun Valley knows no boundaries.

There is trash everywhere and that’s not something that we really want to see in our community.
Much to the aggravation of many are the trash-strewn encampments on Ratner, Penrose, Vinedale, Cantara, Ensign, and many other streets in Sun Valley.
People who pay property taxes and have houses in the neighborhood have a right to want RVs, vans, and other vehicles gone. It ultimately falls in the city to figure out where they should go. What happened to Pathway Home?

(Mariam Moore is a resident of Sun Valley.  Also, a Board Member at Sun Valley Area Neighborhood Council, and the Chair of SVANC Environmental Ad Hoc Committee.)