Hundreds of RVs lining stretch of LA County bringing crime and filthy conditions, residents says

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Friday, August 18, 2023
Residents say RVs lining stretch of LA County bringing crime, chaos
The Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce says there are 500 RVs parked on its streets, but politicians say some of those vehicles should soon be cleared away.

EAST GARDENA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce says there are 500 RVs parked on its streets, but politicians say some of those vehicles should soon be cleared away thanks to a Los Angeles County program that clears encampments.

The RVs are located in the East Gardena-West Rancho Dominguez area in unincorporated L.A. County.

"The majority of these RVs - they don't exist. There's no VIN, there's no license plate, there's no registered owner," said David Matthews, the president of the Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce. "It's basically just a vessel on the street. Unfortunately, our elected (officials) are thinking this is considered housing and this is not housing.

"As you can see and smell, no one should be living like this."

RELATED: Amid homelessness crisis, stretch of LA County has become an RV wasteland

Hundreds of otherwise-homeless people, including many children, are living in broken-down RVs in this stretch of LA County.

Five hundred RVs call these streets home, according to the Harbor Gateway Chamber of Commerce.

Business owners and residents tell Eyewitness News the RVs have brought crime, environmental issues and chaos with them.

According to the chamber of commerce, there's been 47 RV fires since January. Destroyed RVs could sit on the street for up to six months until the county removes them.

Business owners tell Eyewitness News the RV fires are intentionally set after someone either failed to pay rent or ended up in a dispute. One fire on Compton Boulevard took out power to some of the local businesses for two days.

"You're seeing people with small children, you're seeing those who have pets or those with health conditions that probably should be in a hospital... It is quite appalling here," Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda said.

This comes as residents and business owners in East Gardena are calling a growing RV encampment a health and environmental nightmare: "You can't make money when you're in the middle of this kind of toilet."

Cerda says the problem has spilled into her city.

A section of unincorporated L.A. County is represented by Supervisor Holly Mitchell.

"There's not enough leadership that's happening here, and again, I know the supervisor. She's a friend of mine. I've even had some conversations. I've been told she's doing more," Cerda said. "There are some challenges here as far as when they take the RVs - how they can't immediately dispose of them. There's some issues like getting towing companies and finding parking.

"Understandable because everything takes time. But I think it's been a long time that the area has sat like this and the people have been, for some time, complaining."

"Today is the first time we've ever seen the septic tanks being emptied by the county, that they're paying for it," Matthews told Eyewitness News. "That took three years, so that's progress."

Isela Gracian with Mitchells' office says help is on the way thanks to the county's Pathway Home project, which clears encampments and houses those in tents and RVs.

An operation in unincorporated Lennox cleaned up West 101st Street along the 405 Freeway. Fifty-nine people were housed.

"East Gardena is the first location for Pathway Home for the RVs, given the challenges, the safety issues that we're seeing and experiencing here in East Gardena," Gracian said. "We are working on getting the first one launched. It's going to help the residents and the constituents be able to connect to housing and have a cleaner neighborhood."

Mitchell's office says their goal is to stop pushing RVs into unincorporated parts of the county and clean up the area for good.