GRANADA HILLS (CBSLA) — Saturday, a cleanup that neighbors had been asking about for years was finally wrapping up as residents of a Granada Hills neighborhood feared for their safety and property values due to an apparent junkyard that had taken over one home’s yard.
“I’m so excited I can’t even tell you,” said neighbor Sylvia Meldonian. “I feel like our prayers have been answered.”READ MORE: Man Fatally Shot In Officer-Involved Shooting In San Fernando
Neighbors have been trying to get the city to force the owner to clean it up for nearly three years, but to no avail.
“They failed to protect us, they failed services, and the property taxes that we’re paying right now is for nothing, we’re not getting anything from the city,” said Sam Meldonian, a concerned neighbor.
Now, the city, the Los Angeles Police Department, and even the television show “Hoarders,” have gotten involved.
CBSLA learned that the city is finally going to stand up and try to fix the problem for neighbors by filing a nuisance abatement.
The Los Angeles Police Department was also seen on Bircher Street, going door-to-door interviewing neighbors — the same people who say they have been fighting for years to get the mess cleaned up.
Following Kristine Lazar’s investigation, neighbors told CBSLA that fire inspectors were spotted at the property and that “Hoarders” had gotten involved.
From overhead, it looks like your typical, well-maintained San Fernando Valley street, until you get to the house in question on Bircher Street.
“It’s turned into a nightmare, really,” said neighbor James Eric.
Trash and belongings piled so high, you can barely see the house itself.
“It’s a junkyard,” said neighbor Tina Alleguez. “Not only is it an eyesore, I mean the piles of garbage and trash and everything else is a health hazard. We have vermin, rats, rodents, and God knows what else.”
Over the past couple of years, neighbors say the son of the owner of this house has been treating his mother’s front and back yard as a junkyard.
“It’s a situation where an individual has people coming in at all hours of day and night disposing of truckloads of junk,” said Alleguez.
Since 2018, there have been 11 complaints filed against the property, and three are still pending. The code violations range from having too many items on the property and operating a business illegally out of the house or garage.
“It’s not like it’s recycling useful things, most of it looks like it’s just trash and it’s never-ending,” said neighbor Les Claypool. “They come in the middle of the night, they drop stuff off, they pick stuff up, they block the street.”
When Lazar knocked on the door, the homeowner’s son said he wasn’t able to talk.
“We’ve complained to LAPD, the L.A. Fire Department, to Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety,” Alleguez said.
“The neighbors should not be stuck with this,” said Mark Adams who owns the California Receivership Group.
His company works specifically to clean up nuisance properties. Adams contacted CBSLA after seeing our story and Lazar learned that the city is going to try to use a company like his to take action.
“The state legislature passed this law allowing a court to appoint a health and safety receiver who is an agent of the court,” Adams said. “So when we get appointed, we have the powers of the judge basically to get a property cleaned up.”
Last week, the residents got an email from an inspector with the L.A. City Fire Department. The inspector said that cleaning up the property could open the city up to a lawsuit and that the funds to remove the trash debris are not available.READ MORE: Man Fatally Shot In Rowland Heights
He concluded by writing “I have dozens of similar cases that have been in court for several years with no resolution.”
Adams however, said a receivership could get the junk cleared in two to three months, and the costs, he says, are not that significant.
“This is probably a 7 to 15 thousand dollar cleanout,” Adams said.
The cost to clean it up is then covered by a lien against the house. Adams says for whatever reason, Los Angeles has been reluctant to use his services in the past.
“We do business all over California, San Diego, Orange County, Sacramento, Fresno — and L.A. has not embraced this remedy before,” Adams said.
Councilman John Lee, who represents Granada Hills, previously said in a statement, “My office has been working with neighbors and City Departments on this issue for months. The matter is now with the courts. I understand the anger and frustration of adjacent neighbors, but there are various rules and regulations regarding the City taking over an individual’s private property. I will continue to fight for legislative options that could give the City the ability to deal with unruly and uncooperative neighbors and keep our community safe.”
Days later, Lee conceded that the judicial system had failed the neighborhood
“Because they have no prior criminal record, because this is a misdemeanor, there is a warrant, but you can’t make an arrest on a case like this,” Lee said.
When asked why residents feel the city has failed them and hasn’t done enough Lee responded saying, “We have issued fines against the property. We have gone through the exact process. Unfortunately, there’s something called the constitution, that gives them rights as property owners.”
But the neighbors say, they have rights too.
Lazar asked Lee if he thinks three years is an acceptable time to wait for this to be handled to which he replied, “Absolutely not. I do not think it’s acceptable and it should have been much, much faster.”
The Los Angeles City Department of Building and Safety said in a statement:
“Since 2018 Building and Safety (LADBS) has received multiple complaints related to open storage and inoperable vehicles and has enforced multiple code enforcement cases.
In July of 2018, in response to a complaint, LADBS issued an order to clean up the property. The property was cleaned up in August 2018 and the case was closed.
In October of 2018 in response to another complaint, LADBS issued another order to clean up the property. The property was cleaned up in November of 2018 and the case was closed.
In May of 2019, in response to another complaint, LADBS issued another Order to Comply for open storage of trash and debris and inoperable vehicles.
In August of 2019 a Notice to Appear Citation was issued to the responsible party for not complying with the order issued in May of 2019.
As a result, LADBS Code Enforcement Bureau also filed a Criminal Complaint against the owner of the property.
The case is now with the City Attorney’s Office and there is a court date pending.”
Alleguez said, “We can’t seem to get any of these agencies that are supposed to protect our interest as citizens, we can’t seem to get them to do anything.”
LAzar asked the LAPD if the elderly woman who owns the home is physically OK, as neighbors say it’s her son who has been doing the hoarding.MORE NEWS: LAUSD Begins Phased-In Reopening Starting This Week
Police said she has been checked on and is safe.