Los Angeles County on Thursday ordered nine people to move from squalid Kagel Canyon property where abandoned cars and debris were cleared in response to complaints from neighbors.
A bulldozer scooped up the refuse from Robert Winemiller’s property in the wake of complaints about the unsightliness of the car hulks and other junk that have accumulated in the 58 years since his family bought the land.
Caught in the middle were Sharon Scott, 43, and Atanacio Contreras, 38, and his wife and six children, who live in trailers on the land. County officials said they must leave, but allowed them to stay temporarily because they had no immediate place to go and because Scott’s trailer has rotten tires and could not be moved.
Many homeowners who moved into Kagel Canyon in the past decade have objected to squatters in the area and to the people living in campers on Winemiller’s property. On Thursday, dogs could be seen roaming among piles of trash and scrap lumber. In addition, the neighbors have complained about squatters parking campers on land adjacent to Winemiller’s property.
A contractor was sent to clean up the Winemiller property because it does not conform to the county’s building code, said Jean Granucci, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Works. Winemiller has improperly stored abandoned vehicles and mobile homes, devaluing neighboring property, she said.
“I don’t think it’s fair at all,” Winemiller, 70, said of the cleanup. He has appealed a county plan to clean up property across the street, where he lives.
Contreras and Scott said they did not know where they will move.
“I take no pride in seeing somebody leaving,” said Russell Cataldo, a nearby homeowner. But he added that the canyon “has become a prime target for every Tom, Dick and Harry with a camper. . . . In six months, none of this property is going to be worth a dime, not to mention the fire hazard.”
Cataldo said the county has done little to curb the problem of squatters living in campers without indoor plumbing. The people on Winemiller’s property share a bathroom in an unoccupied house.
Representatives of the county’s Health Services, Sheriff’s, Public Works and Regional Planning departments are expected to meet later this month to discuss the problem of squatters and zoning violators, a county spokesman said.