“I feel badly about the situation,” the woman’s sister told neighbors during a Zoom call arranged by Palisades Senior Lead Officer Brian Espin on Wednesday. “We’ve tried to help her. We can’t get her to take help. We don’t know what to do, either.”
Daniella, the woman in question, has been living in her car on Albright Street, less than a block from Caruso’s Palisades Village.
In a December 15 Nextdoor Palisades posting, a neighbor wrote: “Our front lawn is NOT A TOILET! The woman living in her car here for the past year-and-a-half is using our lawns as a toilet. She exposes herself daily to our children when she relieves herself.”
The neighbor continued, “When I called 911 to report indecent exposure, the police came quickly and found her about to pee on our lawn again. But they won’t remove her as she’s ‘exposing herself to urinate.’ I mean, who do we call now?”
Despite repeated offers of help from the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness, Daniella has been resistant to leaving her vehicle and accepting other housing.
Espin requested the West Bureau LAPD mental evaluation unit (MEU) meet her, and they did on December 21.
MEU Senior Lead Officer Gregory Parker said, “We can’t force someone into treatment.” He said they can act only if someone is determined to be gravely disabled or threatens to hurt themselves or someone else.
(Gravely disabled is defined as unable “to feed and take care of oneself.”)
Parker said that “she refused any resources and is fixated on her pet.” The dog, Duke, was living in the car with Daniella, but neighbors were concerned about its welfare, and it was removed and placed with a family – and is doing well with regular food and exercise.
Under current legal definitions, Daniella is not considered gravely disabled. She receives an unemployment check – she worked until 2020 – and can feed and clothe herself.
Espin said, “It’s up to the individual to see how far she wants to go to fix her situation.”
More than one person pointed out that a person’s mental illness might prevent them from realizing they need help. Residents were told that under current laws there’s nothing the police – or the family – can do.
Sharon Kilbride, co-president of the PPTFH, explained that Daniella is chugging bottles of vodka—and engaging in excessive amounts of drinking. Kilbride was told that since the car is Daniella’s home, there is nothing police can do.
“That’s her choice,” Espin said.
Someone asked about towing her car, and Espin said that because she’s living there, it cannot be towed because of the Community Caretaking Doctrine. That is California Vehicle Code, Chapter 10, Removal of Parked and Abandoned Vehicles (22650-22856) that states, “A removal pursuant to an authority, including, but not limited to, as provided in Section 22651, that is based on community caretaking, is only reasonable if the removal is necessary to achieve the community caretaking need, such as ensuring the safe flow of traffic or protecting property from theft or vandalism.”
“Her car has been unregistered since 2020. Can’t you do something about the tags?” a resident asked LAPD.
The resident was told it’s just parking citations and there is no arrestable crime.
Another resident asked about the woman exposing herself when she urinates and defecates on neighbor’s lawns: wouldn’t that be indecent exposure? Espin said that “indecent exposure goes back to intent and in this case it’s not gratification.”
Over and over the mantra was, “We cannot force her to move anywhere. We can’t force anyone into treatment.”
Then, Detective Kosal Bun suggested filing a police report: 1) anytime she trespasses onto a yard; 2) when she litters, 3) anytime she disturbs the peace with screaming, and 4) for public drunkenness.
Although those actions will result in citations and not an arrest, with multiple reports, “We could use it as leverage with a judge to have her mental health considered and she might be able to be declared gravely disabled.”
“We need police reports,” Bun emphasized. “We need residents to make reports whether LAPD shows up or not.” He said that reports could be made over the phone to the West L.A. Police station (non-emergency # 877-275-5273 or Espin 310-444-0737 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
“If we have multiple reports, then the family could take control as conservatorship,” Bun said. “Until we have that, the courts won’t take her away.”
In the meantime, the family and residents feel helpless as they watch someone who they say, “continues to deteriorate.”