City Needs to Regulate RV’s and Van Lords

Several RVs have parked in the swimming pool lot in Westchester, taking up public spaces.

(Editor’s note: This is part two about encampments near and on Westchester municipal parking lots, near the Westchester public park and swimming pool.)

It is easy to buy a broken-down RV, there is an auction at 220 Broad Street in Wilmington, every Thursday.

Once you buy the RV, you can drive/tow it to a street in Los Angeles and park it, and possibly never move it again.

You can put in four bunks – and “sometimes they take out the steering wheel, so they can add more bunks,” a former van tenant, whom we’ll call Ben, told CTN.

The rent per person living in the RV “apartment” is $450 a month and a deposit is required.

“They’re making a lot of money,” Ben said, and added “A number of RVs are owned by the Russians” and added that his contact was Dimitri.

Before becoming an RV dweller, Ben used to have a home in a gated community, he said.  He divorced in 2000 and gave up the home. He moved to a boat for three years. He ended up in West Hollywood apartment with sailor friends “They were too rowdy,” Ben said, and that they were all evicted.

It was then he rented his first bed in an RV and given the location of his new address near the Stoner Recreation Center area in West L.A.

He liked that location, but his van lord, Dimitri had a new family he wanted to move into the Stoner RV, so Ben was asked to move to a “new” RV and location at Washington Avenue at Abbot Kinney. He also didn’t mind living in Venice, but he hadn’t lived there long, before Dimitri had another family he wanted to place.

Once again, Ben was asked to move, which is how “I ended up in an RV on Loyola [in Westchester] with Ed,” Ben said. He added that “Ed” was a difficult/problem roommate.

One night Ben woke up and “I found a rat crawling on me.”

It turns out Ed kept a pet rat.

Ben moved out that morning, called Dimitri and asked for his deposit back, “He wouldn’t give it to me,” he said. “I argued, you have vermin in your place.”

But there’s no one in the city overseeing RV’s so there was no place to go to get his deposit back—or alert the City of a vermin problem.

Vans on the side streets of Westchester, such as the one next to Otis Art School are rented out to “tenants” by van lords.

Ben said that after he moved out Ed discharged waste into the street, which caused a problem for the remaining RV renters on Loyola Street.

Living in that RV was part of the reason, Ben found the Westchester municipal swimming pool lot. It was then he bought a micro-camper or a teardrop camper, which is lightweight. He had ordered a trailer hitch from Amazon and was waiting for it to arrive, so he could hook it up to his Mini Cooper, when he spoke to CTN.

“Living in an RV is a choice,” he said.

He has been married twice, once was a marriage so that a “hot” woman could get her immigration papers. He has children.

Ben said he attended John Hopkins and has a pension. “I’ve traveled the world and practiced law for three decades,” Ben said. “I’m in good health – except for my teeth.” Like many living on streets, several teeth were missing and others were discolored.

When asked where he sees himself in five years. “I don’t want too get too old,” said Ben, 71. “I’ve lived a full life.

“You can’t control the circumstances of your birth,” Ben said. “But you can control your death.”  He said that would be easy enough to make a decision about when with all the fentanyl on the streets.

Another RV owner in the municipal lot also “has a food stand on a sidewalk on Lincoln.” With almost nonexistent health department oversight of food stands, these pop-up stands are largely unregulated. A shooting of a woman 27, on February 2, around 5:40 p.m. was near the pop-up food stand that served Armenian food. Traffic was tied up during rush hour.

On this morning, April 4, a woman RV dweller, also in this lot, called her life “so stressful,” and she spoke to CTN.

Initially when she moved to Los Angeles 16 years ago from the East Coast to join her two sons, she had an apartment. Then she was brutally beaten, leaving her disabled. “They caught the guy, and he was put in jail for seven years,” she said.

Her doctor told LAHSA, “give her a voucher.”  She had an apartment for five and a half years, but then in 2018, St. Joseph’s told her she had to move because she owed $1,200, but that they would find her a new place.

“They never called,” she said and called them, but they never returned a call. Her sons helped her get the RV, where she now lives. A man they knew needed money for a funeral for his father, so the sons gave a donation  in exchange for the father’s van.

The woman’s problem is the van’s title is still in the name of the deceased: she can’t get the registration changed because she was told at the DMV that the man has to show up with her to make the change. She tried to tell them “he’s dead!” But she was dismissed, without help.

She turned 64 on April 8.

“It’s disgusting how people are treated,” she said. “You don’t hear anything nice about the homeless. You not treated as an individual: it’s like being profiled and criminalized.”

About LAHSA and the social workers, “They either don’t know what they’re doing, or they don’t care.”

She would like help with registering her vehicle. She would like very much to have an apartment again and she said she would give up the RV.

CTN has her number if LAHSA or St. Joseph’s can help her with a voucher.

CTN drove around Westchester near the park. The number of vans on the side streets and the amount of trash near some of them must be a safety hazard.

The city says it cannot tow RVs because it doesn’t have any place to put them. And by not doing anything, the city is allowing people to be taken advantage of by van lords, that allow people to live in less-than human conditions. One would guess that none of these “apartments” allowed by the city have a smoke detector or a fire extinguisher.

The RV’s, which seem to be parked permanently in the Westchester swimming pool lot, do not allow public access to parking, which is unfair to families who depend on the park for green space.

Signs are posted to keep larger vans off the side streets, but CTN was told it is not enforced. In the case of the white van, it would not be considered an RV.


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8 Responses to City Needs to Regulate RV’s and Van Lords

  1. ANNINE MADOK says:

    I can help her with the RV. She needs a death certificate and the title. That’s it.

  2. Karen Jones says:

    Very good article. The issue reamains complex and infuriating. We need a federal policy, federal dollars, and way better social services and binding laws.

  3. clark brown says:

    Move the RVs to the large, vacant, City owned parcels at LAX located at LaCienega and Century and 111th and Aviation, among others, Adopt an ordinance which bars all camping in public places even in a vehicle which LAMC 41.18 does not do. Contact me for more information.

    Clark Brown
    Board Member Venice Neighborhood Council

  4. Sue says:


    She could not get the death certificate from the son–the best would be if she were offered a spot inside.


  5. Tony says:

    And…. HYGIENE. Waste is mostly dumped in a storm drain. We will have wide-spread diseases soon. Also Sue: in the last two weeks the Palisades Bowl has experienced:
    A presumed “unhoused” man defecating on a residents deck.
    A man wandering around the community naked from the waist down.

  6. Sue says:

    Please call or email the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness (, so they can reach out to this individual and perhaps provide assistance in dealing with this man from the “Beach Detail.

  7. Debra says:

    Thank you all for your comments. This situation in and around Westchester Park is dangerous and makes it impossible for many people to use our public library, ballfields, senior center, the rest of the park, and two grocery stores we have that used to be safe. The area is a crime hotspot. When there’s a cleanup in other areas of the CD, we get a bunch of homeless arriving in Westchester looking confused and disoriented. This is a family community, and they realize this is not what they had in mind, and here they are. This week, the library was put on lockdown because a homeless man was behaving erratically and either smoking or wielding a pipe. LAPD responded. There were two robberies just outside the park in the last week. Having all the vehicle dwellers there is basically a green light to homeless to move right on in. If this park isn’t safe, no park is safe from this. We hope the council office will turn attention to this park and to the RV communities surrounding the park very soon

  8. Tristy Chambers says:

    There needs to be clear rules for those who can’t afford regular sticks and bricks. I am currently homeless, because my van broke down. It’s sat in a shop since November 2023. It’s a 1995 so you can’t pop in a reader to know what is wrong with it. Never getting to it. There isn’t money in it. So I’m looking for another van or vehicle to live in.

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