Mounds of debris and dilapidated trailers, buses and campers strewn over 8 acres in Kagel Canyon will be cleared against the landowner's wishes, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ruled Tuesday.
Neighbors had complained for more than 5 years about conditions at the property, which is owned by Robert Winemiller, 70, and is north of Lake View Terrace. They said Winemiller had rented the trailers and other vehicles to numerous families over the years.
Although no formal eviction proceedings are planned, officials acknowledged that any of the remaining residents--estimated at anywhere from six to 20 people--would lose their homes during the cleanup. An Oct. 6 county clearing of a smaller nearby lot forced at least two families to move.
After the meeting, neighbor Jonathan Asher--whose home has a panoramic view of Winemiller's cluttered property--said he was glad the supervisors had finally stepped in. Similar orders had been issued by the county in June, 1986, and May, 1987, but Asher and other neighbors maintain that no significant action had followed those orders.
"But it sounds to me like this is a much stronger stance than the county has ever taken before," Asher said.
Supervisors unanimously agreed that the property is a public nuisance and that Winemiller should be charged for the cleanup work, which county officials said could cost between $8,000 and $12,000.
Building Rehabilitation Supervisor O.B. Thompson said work will begin Nov. 2 or 3. Thompson said more than 70 car hulks parked on the property would not be towed away because Winemiller has a state garage permit that allows him to park cars there while he works on them.
Winemiller's attorney, Maria Alvarez, described her client as a victim who was being unfairly penalized for his rural life style. In the first public acknowledgment of neighbors' claims that people were living in the rusty trailers and campers, Alvarez said Winemiller has provided low-income housing, sometimes to homeless people.
"His action should be commended and not condemned," Alvarez said. "He's in a remote area--it's not Beverly Hills or Bel-Air. It doesn't have the same aesthetic requirements as some other places."
Alvarez said Winemiller has lived on the land since 1930, predating all of his present neighbors.
Winemiller attended the meeting but declined to speak. His grandniece, Susan White, told supervisors that she lives in one of the houses on Winemiller's land and has been helping him clean up the property. But, she said, "We can't do it all at once."
She and Alvarez asked that Winemiller be given more time to finish the work.
Thompson said that for several years the county had "tried to accommodate Mr. Winemiller in every way to get him to clean up his property," but "he has used every legal avenue that he possibly can" to block those efforts.
"So far, he has just waltzed us around with broken promises," Thompson said.
Asher predicted that if the county does not reinspect the site frequently, Winemiller will "try to bring all the dead trailers and the homeless people and the rusty cars back again."
Already a new trailer and some trash have appeared on land that the county cleared Oct. 6, Asher said.