Immediately on the border of South Pasadena there is an ‘RV encampment’ that locals say “needs to be removed and the once vibrant park area restored.” The prolific graffiti, the landfill-like conditions, the gang activity, the direct threats of violence to park goers and local residents, and the flowing drug exchanges are among the regular complaints: but the threat of fire is intense, and endangers local South Pasadena homes.
Back to the fires at the end – first, situational awareness
This situation is all about red-tape and the fallout of what is decidedly bad decision making about ‘the homeless problem’ by L.A. City Council back in 2021. It has become apparent that new language is needed to describe truly dangerous ‘RV Encampments’. Locals are desperate to empower local authorities to activate their resources and correct this specific problem spot – “These are not ‘homeless’, this is something else” say residents and park goers in South Pasadena and LA adjacent residents alike.
It’s making life in parts of South Pasadena miserable. “…We are not safe at all. We’re sitting ducks,” says a local resident referring to her family. “They’ve threatened to burn down our house when we’re at work… It’s been over two years of nearly nightly problems. This is terrorizing… we never know what or when it’s going to be next: cars blasting extremely loud music at 3 a.m. rattling the house, horrific yelling & screaming, gun fire….at all hours of the night… they laugh at the police if they come… We have been warned by the RV people that they will retaliate if we call the police or mess with them at all.”
South Pasadena residents have been calling and reporting to all the available authorities and government resources about this ‘RV Homestead’ for over two years.
The area of jurisdiction is technically within L.A. City Councilmember Kevin de León’s – district 14. The border is literally the South Pasadena city boundary line. This is also part of the problem.
South Pasadena Police & Fire are only a few feet away from being able to respond and act on the problem, but are not allowed. Calls and 911 emergency reports fall to LAPD’s very busy and equally understaffed Hollenbeck division.
When 911 or non-emergency calls are made, and police are available to arrive at the scene, their hands are tied by ‘new’ rules of engagement and, unless an officer actually witnesses a crime in action, they can’t do anything about it. The illegal homesteaders know this, and mock the system by merely hiding out or leaving the area until the police or fire patrols leave – usually about 10 minutes. Then it’s business as usual – being a menace to the park area and neighborhood. Residents report hearing the dwellers laughing as they return from briefly evading a visit from the police.
The LAPD is not to blame. The South Pasadenan spoke with LAPD personnel, and the message was clear: “our hands are tied in these situations, unless we directly witness a crime… our engagement is limited due to LA City Council policy” says an LAPD Hollenbeck division patrol officer at the scene responding to a complaint call.
L.A. Parking enforcement has not done anything about citing or towing the dilapidated RV’s. Locals report that the vehicles are non-running. They have been illegally parked for years, have expired tags, and are in a dangerous traffic spot.
This is the short list of the reports to authorities and police (provided by locals):
– Threats of Arson and Violence: To our property and my person (reported to 911).
– Thefts: Mail and security cameras.
– Illegal Fires: Constant fire hazards (reported) with refusal to use public BBQ grills despite warnings.
– Car Burglary: $4000+ loss from gated residence (reported).
– Disturbing the Peace: Nightly disturbances (reported).
– Illegal Dumping: Everything from trash to drug paraphernalia (ongoing for 2 years).
– Traffic Hazard: Accidents on Marmion Way Exit.
– Dead Animals: A bizarre and intimidating threat involving dead chickens (reported).
– Health Effects: Serious physical and mental health impacts from sleepless nights.
– Authorities’ Responses: Ineffective assistance from various services, though LAPD or SPPD is not to blame.
– NOTE: The residents in the area truly appreciate the stepped-up patrols, it does help somewhat.
– 911: (too much to say here, but they can’t do much for the most part)
– 211: Useless waste of valuable time.
– 311: useless (they are very good at passing the call off to anyone else – ZERO assistance at all – many calls)
Then came the box of dead chickens
A bizarre report from one resident of ‘a neatly wrapped box of recently killed chickens left at our mail box area’. The South Pasadenans were left thinking: “is this a threat? Voodoo?” There was no blood, and each fully feathered chicken was carefully and tightly wrapped in a teeshirt. There were four dead chickens – maybe one for each of the South Pasadena resident family members whose home is adjacent to the encampment.
Authorities were called, took the chickens away and made a report. The South Pasadena residents have been unsettled ever since.
The real threat of fire, and actual local fires allegedly caused by area ‘homeless’
The most deeply disturbing issue is fire. There have been three very large fires in the area in the last 24 months. The precarious location of this ‘RV Encampment’ and how the tents and tarps are situated, combined with the open fire cooking, makes this a fire hazard, according to fire officials.
To add fuel to risk, LA Parks & Rec has not been able to perform their regular foliage maintenance in that area. There are downed trees, dried leafs and loads dead branches, and a lot of rubbish strewn in all directions. The South Pasadena residence adjacent to this area is in the path of this risk.
Keeping a watchful eye, helping those in need, contacting authorities, working with local council is not enough locals say. Action is required on Marmion Way, as well as other difficult spots on the border, as soon as possible.
At the request of the local residents involved in this report, it should be known that this is a very difficult subject to discuss in this way. There is empathy for this particular group, and every possible city, county, and local resource has been contacted multiple times to assist this ‘RV Group’ of people. Apparently, to no avail. Furthermore, the local South Pasadena residents have helped many of our ‘unhoused neighbors’ and ‘temporary visitors’ with cash, food, water, fuel, legal resources, tow-trucks, and more. The Marmion Way residents only wish that the people get the assistance they need, and find themselves in a better place.