"It's cool out here," said Mora as he leaned on his car and watched a Western. "We are better out here than inside."
There were at least three other TVs in the parking lot, which was filled with cars and lean-tos. Interior lights to cars revealed children crammed together under worn blankets.
One family had packed nine children and a functioning television set into a compact car.
Among the oddest camping scenes was the median of a busy six-lane street in North Hills, where more than 40 people gathered.
They were mostly residents of a nearby apartment building and said they wanted to be close by in case they needed to get belongings or to use the building's toilets, which they operated by filling the tank with water from the swimming pool.
The campers in Los Angeles' Echo Park lake had to endure numerous problems, including the stench of the freshly manured lawn, twice-a-day dousings by the sprinkler system and the lack of usable toilets.
Gladys Contreras, 32, was camping out with her three children, guarding them from unsavory park regulars. "One is always afraid of drunks who use drugs," she said. "We don't have anything to rob but they might do something to you if you don't have anything to give them. . . . I was afraid to be here but it was preferable to dying in that apartment."
There were no similar worries for Matt and Joyce Baker and some of their neighbors, who were sacked out on a front lawn in a Northridge cul-de-sac. There, amid ranch-style homes set off by carefully landscaped lawns in the upper-middle-class neighborhood, the children sipped juice drinks and snuggled in comforters.
A rented industrial light was powered by a portable generator. From a gas-powered grill came pork chops and hamburgers.
Homes there were not badly damaged. "We were just tired of rocking and rolling inside the house," Joyce Baker said. And she said that the families were actually having a nice time.
"Who said you can't go outside at night in Los Angeles?" she asked with a laugh.
Times staff writer David Colker and special correspondent Kay Hwangbo contributed to this story.