Trailer Park Cited Over Slum Conditions : Pacoima: City Atty. James K. Hahn says the operators made ‘only halfhearted attempts’ in two years to fix the alleged violations.
Employing legal tactics normally used against owners of slum tenements, the Los Angeles city attorney’s office on Thursday charged the operators of a squalid Pacoima mobile-home park with 14 criminal violations of state health and safety laws.
The Pacoima Trailer Park, which is occupied mostly by poor Latinos living in small trailers and cabins, has been issued more than 240 citations in the past two years by government housing inspectors. Violations included leaking sewage, outdoor piles of trash and dog feces, and electrical wires lying in water puddles.
After touring the park at 10641 San Fernando Road in July, state Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) said conditions were so bad in its 39 units that “you wouldn’t let an animal live in” them.
The city attorney’s complaint, filed in Van Nuys Municipal Court, named as defendants the president of the firm that owns the park, Stuart Glazer of Westlake Village, and its manager, Martha Davidson. Also named was Glazer’s company, Old Britania Land Corp.
Glazer, 41, could not be reached for comment. A woman who answered the door at the park manager’s office said Davidson did not wish to comment. She also ordered news reporters off the property.
The charges, which are criminal misdemeanors, were announced by City Atty. James K. Hahn, who spoke before reporters and a battery of television cameras on a dusty street corner outside the park as a small crowd of curious tenants and neighbors looked on.
Each count in the city complaint carries a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail and a $400 fine, Hahn said. An aide said it was the first time such charges had been filed against operators of a trailer park.
Violations have been found at the park, which is enclosed by a cyclone fence and located across the street from railroad tracks, during inspections dating back to May, 1989, Hahn said.
During a July 19 inspection, state Housing and Community Development Department officials found two dozen “life-threatening” code violations. When they returned 10 days later, 14 violations remained uncorrected. These included outdoor electrical appliances hooked up to trailers in an unsafe manner and improperly vented water heaters.
Several violations were found under a rickety awning attached to a trailer occupied by an 82-year-old man. The awning covers an oxygen tank he must breathe from for medical reasons.
Hahn said the uncorrected violations posed dangers of fire, electrical shock and combustion gases entering trailers, and formed the basis of the city complaint.
Hahn said the park’s operators, who he said charge tenants $300 to $500 in monthly rent, had made “only halfhearted attempts” to fix the violations over the past two years.
“They’ve been dragging their feet and we won’t allow them to drag their feet” any longer, Hahn said.
In the past, tenants have complained of broken toilets, cracked flooring and other problems. Local homeowners have repeatedly said the park is a magnet for drug sales and prostitution.
As Hahn spoke Thursday, children scampered through the park and older tenants sat on their front steps, seeking relief from the sweltering heat.
Outside one run-down trailer, discarded beer and soda cans were stuffed in two garbage bags. Two men and a small girl sat on the steps, listening to Latino music. Drying laundry hung from the fence and a wading pool went unused.
One young tenant talked briefly with reporters over a low cinder-block wall, although an older woman told her not to.
“If they wanted to be real managers, they wouldn’t let the trailers look like pigpens,” said the tenant without giving her name before rushing off.
But another tenant, Jason Joseph, 20, blamed his fellow residents for most of the problems.
“They put graffiti on the walls, they don’t sweep the floors, they don’t clean their yards. About the only thing they do is sleep and flush their toilets,” he said.
“You can’t evict them,” he said. “They try to evict them and they get Legal Aid. And then they wind up with seven months’ free rent.”
Joseph added that Glazer, who he said took over the park four years ago, has made improvements, such as paving dirt streets and building a washroom.
Asked why it had taken two years before legal action was taken against the park’s operators, Hahn said his office only recently received information from state housing officials that led to the complaint being filed.
He charged that the state has too few inspectors and “hasn’t been aggressive in bringing these kinds of cases for prosecution.”
Traci Stevens, assistant director of the state Housing and Community Development Department, said the state has been “quite aggressive,” noting that it inspected the park numerous times.
She said Hahn’s “whole media event” was triggered in late July when the state forwarded to his office a detailed report on violations at the park and asked that criminal charges be filed.