A trash-covered home in L.A. draws outrage, worry and a ‘Hoarders’ producer

For years, mounds and mounds of trash have surrounded a Spanish bungalow in Los Angeles’ Fairfax neighborhood.

The front yard holds hundreds of white trash bags stacked 5 to 6 feet high. The bags are joined by a tangle of buckets and accumulated debris, like shoes, scooters, empty jugs, newspapers, Levi’s jeans and old Parliament cigarette cartons.

The lawn is not visible. A short metal fence cloaked in ivy blocks off the property. The moat of trash in the yard reaches the driveway, encasing a red Toyota Corolla Twin Cam in crumpled tarps, coat hangers, broom handles, coffee cups, more newspaper and more plastic bags.

Nearby, an old downspout has been refashioned into a sign with handwritten instructions to the U.S. Postal Service: “Deposit U.S. mail here,” with an arrow pointing to a bucket on the ground.

For as long as they can remember, residents in this stretch of Martel Avenue just south of Melrose have complained to L.A. city officials of overgrown vegetation, mounds of trash and junk.

Since last July, the Department of Building and Safety has fielded more than a dozen complaints related to trash and improper storage at the property, according to city records. The complaints remain under investigation, but the city issued an order to comply in November.

With compliance not in sight and with the heaps of trash persisting, the complaints ratcheted up this week, triggered in part by a post on Nextdoor and a report from KTLA on what it called L.A.’s “trash house.” The TV station on Monday broadcast aerial footage of the packed backyard.

“It’s a fire hazard. It’s filthy,” said Miriam Kosberg, whose family has owned the property directly behind the house since 1955. “There’s garbage all the way up to the back fence,” she added, gesturing behind her family’s property.

Kosberg said she and her family hear the sounds of animals in the backyard and believe the swarm of mosquitoes in their yard is due to standing water and other detritus next door.

“It’s been like that for years,” Kosberg lamented. Eventually, their family built a wall in their backyard to fortify their property.

“It’s unsanitary,” said another neighbor of 22 years who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a fear of online harassment.

She and other neighbors said one downstream effect of the heaps of garbage is vermin. They believe there are disproportionate numbers of rats and mice in the area. Security cameras have picked up images of rats prancing on retainer walls, neighbors say.

The woman said she’d complained about the property since the early 2000s.

“We are fed up, but we’re compassionate,” she insisted. “In a perfect world, he gets help and someone helps make his environment nicer for him.”

The homeowner is Raymond Gaon, who has held the two-bedroom bungalow since the mid-1990s, according to public records. The Times could not reach Gaon for comment.

For years, Gaon’s front yard and its debris were shrouded in a phalanx of tall plants, bushes and large trees.

In 2014, L.A. Department of Building and Safety ordered Gaon to remove garbage and debris, clear his driveway, remove overgrown vegetation and stop using his yard as open storage. Three years later, the city filed two misdemeanor criminal charges for not complying with an order and failing to maintain his property; the case was dismissed in 2019 “in the furtherance of justice.” Around that time, conditions at the property noticeably improved.

Exterior shots of the home’s front yard from around 2018 and 2019 on Google Maps show the front yard was well-kept, although plywood slats obscured the view into a backyard that contained debris.

Jonathan Fromen, a developer and contractor who built the home next door and is building another home on the same street, said he got to know Gaon and his sister over the years. Gaon is often seen collecting bottles and other waste from trash cans on Melrose Avenue. “He’s a super nice guy and sweet,” said Fromen.

Around 2018 and 2019, Fromen recalled being ecstatic when he saw Gaon’s yard was being cleaned up then.

“Because it was fantastic for us,” he said. He and his crew even assisted in clearing up the property. There were “cars, animals, birds in cages,” he recalled.

At one point, tow trucks came to haul away the cars on site, he said.

But in the last two years, the rubbish has continued to accumulate. A spokesperson for Katy Yaroslavsky said the L.A. City Council member’s office had learned of the home this week and was working with the Department of Building and Safety and the city attorney to address concerns.

Fromen said he’d offered to buy Gaon a container and help him fill it up to clean his yard.

But, at this point, he said, “I think the only thing that can be done … is the city needs to force him to clean up his yard.”

Courtney Lemarco, executive producer of the TV show “Hoarders,” said he’d heard about the trash-strewn home from his barber on Melrose Avenue.

On Tuesday, Lemarco — clad in a Versace shirt — was walking around Gaon’s street and hoping to make contact with neighbors to see if the homeowner might be a candidate for his hit TV show.

“What we do is we can work with him to do the cleanup,” Lemarco said. But he said his show can also “come in and figure out what the root cause of that problem is, and hopefully create new behavior patterns that can attack this and help him break this habit.”

As he surveyed Gaon’s yard from across the street, Lemarcao said he’d seen well over 100 homes of those who hoard.

“From the outside it looks pretty extreme,” Lemarco said, before qualifying his statement, “You really can’t tell until you go into the inside.”

Original News Source Link – LA Times

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