Beverly Grove residents urge city for help with vacant building turned encampment in neighborhood

Beverly Grove residents are pleading for help from city officials after a vacant building in the neighborhood turned into an encampment last year.

The property, 416 S. Robertson Blvd. was sold last year and became vacant, according to residents. Over the months, there was little to no upkeep and the building became a space where unhoused residents lived for months.

"The owners of the building do not even put enough effort into boarding up the building. It's turning into a slum because of this thing here," said Yari Horilczenko on the encampment. Horilczenko has lived in the apartment building next door since 1999.  

Residents said the problem isn't necessarily the fact that the people took shelter there, but some of the issues and crimes that have persisted ever since.

"These are people with mental conditions, and they need help," said Horilczenko.

Horilczenko filed a police report with LAPD after he said he was attacked in September.

"I went out to hose the lawn down when the sun set, and I saw this guy who I've seen before cycling around, not looking very well. I saw him breaking into the side [of the vacant building] which was already broken into, and I said, 'Hey you're trespassing,' and he just looked at me and glared and came straight over and punched me in the face," he said.

Horilczenko is not alone either. Other neighbors have reported concerns too.

"We've been threatened many times. I'm a 23-year-old grad student, so I don't feel safe a lot of times being followed and yelled at. It's gotten significantly worse," said Megan Kalili, who lives in an apartment building next door.

SUGGESTED: Petition calls for vacant St. Vincent Hospital to reopen for homeless care

Kalili's roommate, Lauren Shemtov, said she was chased during one of her walks.

"I normally go walking in the mornings. I walk down the street, and I've been chased by one of the homeless men in there and haven't been walking since because it's a safety hazard, and I don't leave without pepper spray. I got an email from our building manager and they said a homeless man went in and stole a garage door opener from a car, so they had to replace all of our openers for safety measures too," said Shemtov.

Kalili contacted Councilmember Paul Koretz' office for help, and received a reply stating she was not the first person to reach out about the property, and that the application for the property owner to have demolition permits has been stalled.

"I reached out to Councilmember Paul Koretz about the issue because I was so done with it. They responded to me saying the owners of the building submitted a permit to demolish it, but they've had trouble expediting the permit. Obviously, we have a lot of compassion and empathy for these people, and we want to make sure they're safe and we can find the best option for them," said Kalili.

FOX 11 reached out to the property owner for comment, but did not receive a reply. However, this week, city officials erected a fence outside the building.  

"The very next day, the fence came up. I have to say I think you [Fox 11] get a lot of credit for this," said Horilczenko.

LAPD also came on Monday and arrested four people for trespassing. Captain Jerry Chaney said he has "directed officers to provide extra patrol and address trespassing violations and other any illegal activity occurring at the location."

However, the same day after the arrests, video showed a man back on the property even with the fence up.

"We're all very nervous about this. We have a little comfort and hope about this fence but for the way they got back in or that guy got back in, it's like no," said Horilczenko.

SUGGESTED: Petition calls for vacant St. Vincent Hospital to reopen for homeless care

Captain Chaney also said the following in a statement:

"In response to your email, we are working in partnership with various City entities to address the community’s concerns and the crimes that are occurring.  We have met with the property owner and provided recommendations to secure the property.   Although a fence was installed, the primary point of entrance to the property remains unsecured.  Additional recommendations were provided to the property owner to secure the front entrance, disconnect the utilities and remove all interior debris.  We also recommended that the property owner monitor the property daily to verify its security. Additionally, we are working with the Council District Field Deputy to provide outreach services for the unhoused individuals who are living at the property."

Koretz' office sent the following statement:

"My staff and I absolutely sympathize with the community and we have been working to help take care of the situation by partnering with departments and agencies.  This week we requested that LADWP turn off the power to the building and we are aware that crews went out to address the matter.  We have also been in discussions with LAPD who have been monitoring the situation and went out to assist LADWP on shutting off power, as well.  But most importantly, we are helping the property owner with the final permit application clearances to get demolition and new construction permits completed in order to start the demolition of this structure.  In the meantime, the property owner has also been asked to secure one section of the property that needed reinforcement."

Horilczenko believes the building needs to be demolished.

"This problem hasn't been solved. The only time it'll be solved is when they demolish the building and start building units they want to build there so we live slightly on edge here," said Horilczenko.

However, Horilczenko said one of the main problems — lack of shelter for the unhoused residents — remains.

"When we clear them away from there, they'll go somewhere else and you'll be filming someone else's story in another location and it's the saddest thing, and I just wish the city would do more," he said.