An illegal collection of 25 camper vans parked on a suburban California street has been oozing human feces and urine onto neighbors’ property, which they claim has been making them sick.
The setup is located on a private property by
“vanlord” Cruz Godoy, who rents the RVs to people with nowhere else to live.
However, authorities say she hasn’t got the required permits or proper facilities — but still took years to act, despite floods of complaints from angry residents.
Maria Macias, whose yard backs into Cruz’s lot, said while she feels bad for the people living in the RVs, the stench coming from the illegal campers has been “unbearable for years.”
“It’s been so stressful,” Macias told The Post in tears. “I just wish someone could help. We have all gotten sick because of all the feces is everywhere. And then we see them trying to clean early in the morning with really strong chemicals to get rid of the smell, but we don’t know what’s in the chemicals.”
The Post was on hand as Los Angeles Police Department officers accompanied officials from the city’s Department of Water and Power to cut off the electricity to the camp in Sylmar, Calif. on Tuesday.
As temperatures reached over 100 degrees Tuesday afternoon, some of the residents walked out of their campers confused, angry and flustered after discovering their power was suddenly cut off.
“I was sleeping because I work at night, but I have my three sons here and I don’t know what to do now,” said Claudia, who declined to provide her last name.
“It’s f—king hot right now and now I don’t have electricity. I talked to (Cruz) and she also has no power. No one knows when it will be back on.”
Hector Rivera, who lives about a six houses away from the home, alleges Godoy — who declined to talk when approached by The Post — not only rents out illegal RVs, but garages and sheds.
“The smell is so bad, the flies … and there are unsavory people running around the neighborhood,” Rivera said. “People have been sick and we think it might be the fumes (from the house).”
Carmen Cisneros, who has lived next door to the property for the last 30 years, said she is also concerned about the stench around the property, which permeates her home.
Cisneros said her chain-linked fence separating her property from Godoy’s has buckled under the weight of the plywood the landlord has placed in order to block her view into the illegal RV lot.
“The feces and urine runs down the street and the smell is unbelievable,” Cisneros said. “Cruz used to have a shop at the swap meet, but when that shut down during the pandemic, she brought it to her house. Then I started seeing RVs about three years ago.
“At first I saw three and all of a sudden both sides (of the property) became full. I didn’t care so much at first as longs as they stayed on their side, but then the wind would blow the smell over.”
Neighbors last week implored the local neighborhood council to do something about the RV residents and the illegal dumping. Residents also collected over 100 signatures, which they plan to present to San Fernando and Los Angeles officials.
Another neighbor, Debbie, said members of her family have contracted mysterious illnesses since the illegal RVs and families started living on the large property.
“It’s the smell,” said Debbie, who did not want to reveal her last name. “My husband has been sick for three years and the doctors just can’t figure it out.
“We used to call it the ‘Big House’ with the previous owners. It was gorgeous. Then right before COVID, this started — the smell. It’s awful. When you drive down sometimes you see liquid and you gotta figure, “Where is this coming from?’”
Macias said she has seen more campers parked at the lot on Hubbard Street during the height of the COVID pandemic about three years ago. But she became increasingly alarmed in January after her family started smelling and seeing raw sewage seeping from the illegal RV lot into her driveway and flowing down the street.
Macias said she’s also caught people living in the campers tossing trash into her yard. Other neighbors said they have seen residents who live in the illegal RVs throwing bags of trash in dumpsters owned by other homeowners living down the block.
“I feel bad for the people paying rent there because it’s not their fault,” Macias said. “It’s the woman who is making all that money from them. I feel sad for them because they are going to suffer also.”
The illegal RV lot is another example of the increasing problem of the “van lords” trend in California, where owners look to turn a quick buck by buying campers and renting them out cheaply to take advantage of the explosion of homelessness which has happened since the COVID pandemic.
Other camps have popped up by the side of the road in Hollywood and tony Marin County in the north of the state.
The LA City Attorney’s Office has filed criminal charges against Godoy for not complying with building and safety codes, including illegally permitting parking of RVs in her yard and not properly storing trash and other debris. She is scheduled to appear in a Los Angeles court on Wednesday.
Neighbors said people who are renting campers are paying anywhere from $500 to $1,000 per month. The average rent in Sylmar, Calif. is about $1,890, according to Zumper, a website that tracks rentals.
Kurt Cabrera Miller, president of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council, said Cruz has been cited various times over the past decade by the LA Department of Building and Safety.
“They have about 27 RVs in the back of the property and they’ve had a lot of issues with the sewage,” Miller said. “As far as I know, the first case that I saw was filed in 2010 and a lien was put on the property in 2016 on that case.
“Since then there has been 41 violations — open and closed cases of building and safety violations. It’s been an ongoing thing. She fixes one thing, and then something else happens.”
Manny Femat, who used to live in one of the RVs, said Godoy helped him when he was homeless. He still drops by once in a while to help Godoy clean the property.
When LA Department of Water and Power technicians cut the power lines to the property on Tuesday, Femat confronted the group.
“There’s a child living there who is handicapped,” Femat told The Post. “It’s not right! They didn’t have to do that. If anything happens to that child … God bless America!”
Femat said Godoy should be rewarded for helping the struggling families and people like himself who were homeless.When he lived at one of the RV’s, Femet said he was paying Godoy $500 as month.
“I was living in my car and she gave me a place to live in,” Femat said. “She’s a great person and she doesn’t deserve to be treated this way. She’s not making millions. She deserves an award, if anything.”