Estimated read time: 6-7 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — There's a lot to love in the Glendale neighborhood: a golf course, a nice little park, a few tennis courts, and the Jordan River Trail.
"Doggone it, this is a good neighborhood!" exclaimed longtime resident Dub Slade.
It's so good that Slade said he's noticed lots more people moving in over the last 18 months.
"We were OK with a few of them moving in," he said. "I had no idea that we were going to have 20 families as our new neighbors."
Slade wasn't talking about families moving into the neighborhood homes. Instead, those new neighbors are on wheels, parked along the street for days, weeks, even months.
He told KSL investigators the RVs started showing up around a year ago, parking in front of an old waterpark along 1700 South and on the neighboring side streets.
Raging Waters. Seven Peaks. It's had different names over the years. Now, the slides and pools sit in ruin as the city decides what is next for the property.
While the summer of 2020 saw teens trespassing for TikTok videos, neighbors say the shenanigans near the waterpark have gotten worse and have spread throughout the neighborhood.
"We just jokingly called it the RV park," he laughed.
But the jokes turned into legitimate concerns.
Adriel moved into her home directly across the street in 2019. She said ever since the RVs moved in, she's found used needles in her yard, toilet paper with excrement on it, and she snapped photos of a man she said ran an extension cord from her home to his motorhome.
"No trespassing" signs now adorn her fence.
"There's people taking a shower in the drinking fountain and homeless people all around," she said.
Residents are fed up with the trash and criminal activity. For 18 months they say they've been trying to get the city to enforce its laws without success. Join @MikeHeadrickTV in an hour on @KSL5TV as he investigates this Neighborhood Neglect. pic.twitter.com/i7TEiXDfFS— KSL Investigates (@KSLInvestigates) September 21, 2021
Adriel said the public restroom at the park has become a place her family avoids, explaining, "they're taking full-on showers over there, getting completely nude within view of our house. It's a pretty common thing that just keeps happening."
She said a couple of RVs have caught fire, and trash is everywhere around the RV camps.
Complaints abound, what's being done?
Multiple residents we spoke with told us their frustrations. They said they've reached out multiple times to Salt Lake City and the police, but claim little has been done.
"We've called and asked for help, and the story we got is, 'We're just not enforcing that right now,'" said Slade.
"We called parking enforcement, and then we get told, 'Oh, I'm sorry, we can't do anything about it,'" added Adriel.
According to public records, Salt Lake City Police responded to 214 calls for service on 1700 South, between Redwood Road and 900 West, from June 1, 2020, to August 24, 2021. The No. 1 reason for these calls were "transient problems."
City records show more complaints made through the SLC Mobile app. The 84104 zip code includes the Glendale neighborhood, along with Poplar Grove and communities to the west.
"Concerns regarding homelessness" is now the No. 2 reason for calls to police. Those complaints started trickling in around 2017, but they've risen 512% in the past two years — going from 81 in 2019 to 496 so far this year.
"Parking concerns" fell into third place for total complaints in this area, and those calls saw a 287% increase: 87 in 2019 to 337 complaints in 2021. That's up from fewer than 10 parking complaints in a full year in 2015 and 2016.
"(We've been getting complaints) at least the last year, year and a half," said Andrew Johnston, current director of Salt Lake City's homeless policy and outreach.
But Johnston said the current city ordinance regarding parking violations does not match up with the current city problem of people living in their vehicles.
"Technically, we've got a parking ordinance for 48 hours," he explained of RVs, "but there wasn't really anything to enforce on people living in a vehicle. It was meant to be for vehicles that are left to park."
Parking enforcement officers can write citations, but they cannot tow a vehicle with people inside.
That's where Johnston said the RV issue requires a multifaceted approach, involving police response and the Salt Lake County Health Department.
Getting everyone on the same page has been difficult.
"We've presented a pilot program for the city… to the city council, to start talking through, how do we address camping cars and camping RVs more effectively in the city and have a humane approach as well?" said Johnston.
It's the human element that poses the biggest challenge.
People living in these vehicles are not homeless, according to federal definitions, but this is a homeless issue.
Dan Dixon had been living in one of the RVs parked on 1700 South.
"If it gets towed, I'm devastated," he said. "That's the only thing I've got, everything I have."
The sentiment was echoed by Chuck Layton, also living in an RV.
"That's what everybody calls it, RV Row," he said. "It was like tent city downtown… and we was called RV Row."
In early September, the Pioneer Park Coalition called out Mayor Erin Mendenhall for what they called a lack of enforcement of the city's anti-camping ordinance.
While it appeared these RVs are camping along 1700 South, they do not fall under that ordinance. The only enforcement the city can use is those violating the illegal parking code.
A day of cleanup, long-term solutions needed
On Sept. 8, the county health department, along with Salt Lake City Parking Enforcement and Salt Lake City Police, executed a planned clean-up day along 1700 South.
KSL-TV was there as inoperable trailers and RVs were hooked up and towed away.
"It's a great day," exclaimed Slade. "After weeks, months, even years of crime and constant complaints."
Others were not so thrilled.
"I'm supposed to be heading to my daughter's funeral," Krystle Keller said through tears. "Instead, we have to deal with this."
Lt. Russ Amott with the Salt Lake City Police Department was on the scene and explained that the trailers that were towed were deemed health hazards by the health department.
"If they're going to live in them, they have to be cleaned up," Amott said. "Most of them were inoperable. The health department took a look at them and said they're uninhabitable. They're just so dirty inside and the garbage collected around them, it's just a serious problem."
Glendale residents that day deemed the enforcement a victory, but worry this is a temporary Band-Aid on what will need to be a complicated solution.
"They'll park somewhere for a couple weeks, and then they move," said Adriel. "Then, they come back, and it's a vicious cycle all over again."
KSL Investigators went back to 1700 South on Sept. 20 and observed two RVs and two vans parked on the street.
It was unclear how long they had been parked there.