Spread out on lawns and along the sidewalks: blankets and sheets. They are covered with old clothes, boxes of CDs, vacuum cleaners, pots, pans, glassware, chairs, hats, scarves, underwear, socks, and baby clothes.
Since the Depression laid its dollar-killing hands around the neck of Los Angeles, two years ago, junk sales have blossomed and proliferated and spread like dandelions. Jobless, insecure, fearful, angry; the people are throwing their vast array of crap onto the public sidewalks and private lawns of LA hoping to get $40 or $60.
Jack and his Mom
Outside a neat, small apartment in Sherman Oaks’ Posoville district, my friend Jack’s mom sells stuff every weekend. They live together in a three-room, vinyl-floored unit whose walls are decorated with carved crucifixes and many paintings.
White-haired, dressed in sweats, speaking in an accent that originated somewhere east of the East River, she gave me a hearty welcome. “Go to Unit #13 and see my son,” she ordered.
I walked through the gate, past the jellybean shaped swimming pool and knocked on the door. Italian, single, straight, 45, delivery service driver; Jack answered and gave me a hug.
He was watching the game, (whatever game that was I do not know), next to a bigger lug named Caesar, a large, oversized, crotch-picking co-worker in an AC/DC t-shirt and cargo shorts whose pockets held two freshly rolled joints.
Caesar, grinning ever so proudly, told me he had walked out on his wife of 14 years last week. She lived down the street with his two kids, 10 and 14. He had just come back from Las Vegas with Nikki. “I like to eat pussy,” he explained. His wife didn’t know where he was, which was fine with him.
Jack, though, has had some bad health problems lately. He can’t keep food down. He went to several doctors and has had a colonoscopy. He lost weight. He lost his appetite. He thinks he might be allergic to gluten.
The talk, as it does often these days, turned to “who caused the economy to crash”. I waited for the roulette wheel of scapegoats to spin and this time it landed on a surprise group.
Jack blamed “immigrants” who bought more house than they could afford and then crowded all their relatives in. These relations were all non-workers and non-citizens but they collected government benefits like disability, food stamps and unemployment. Their housing speculation (not Wall Street or the Federal Reserve or banks), he explained, had driven the whole economy into the ground.
Jack also talked about “who owns Beverly Hills” and how he found a website that named all the names of the property owners in every house and “none of them are Americans”.
Unloved and Unneeded
There are many garage sales in Los Angeles now. They are set up anywhere by anyone. You don’t even need a garage anymore.
All along the wide, sunny, indistinguishable arteries of Kester, Balboa, Roscoe, Vanowen, Tujunga, Riverside, Burbank, Magnolia, Woodman, Moorpark, Venice, National, Sepulveda, and Pico; a city is emptying its closets and cleaning out its drawers and dumping its used, unloved and unneeded detritus; hoping to sell for pennies what was once purchased for dollars.
These are the red-flag days in California’s economy and in its social order. We Angelenos, we Americans are becoming more like our garage sales. Put out on the street to be had for next-to-nothing. Cheapened, starving, and needy. Down to our last nickel. And perhaps ready to be ignited by someone who will gain power from the powerless.
Various scenes from a Van Nuys neighborhood “Posoville” that will soon join Sherman Oaks.
Los Angeles Times
August 10, 1991, Saturday, Valley Edition
OLD VAN NUYS’ NEW NAME GETS MIXED REVIEWS;
ADDRESSES: SOME CHARGE THE SECESSIONISTS WITH ELITISM. OTHERS ARE UNAWARE OR DON’T CARE THAT NEIGHBORS ARE NOW IN SHERMAN OAKS.
BYLINE: By JOCELYN Y. STEWART, TIMES STAFF WRITER
On the streets of Van Nuys and what once was Van Nuys, reactions to the announcement of yet another San Fernando Valley name change fell into three distinct categories Friday:
A) “I don’t care.”
B) “More money for me.”
C) “They changed the name??”
One day after Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky declared that a 40-block section of southern Van Nuys will be officially absorbed by Sherman Oaks, some Van Nuys community leaders charged the secessionists with elitism. But many residents were either unaware of the change or did not care that their neighbors opted for the ostensibly more prestigious address.
Standing in the driveway of his house on Vesper Avenue, which remains in Van Nuys, it was clear Allan (Red) Jenman fit comfortably into category A.
“I’m not included, so I’m crushed,” he said, laughing with good-humored sarcasm. “Other than that, I personally don’t care.”
Jenman, who has lived in the Valley for all of his 70 years and in Van Nuys for 18, said he does not recall the days when the newly seceded portion of Van Nuys was called Sherman Oaks, as the secessionist residents maintain.
Still he said of the name change: “It isn’t going to make any difference.”
For Rebecca Urias, who has lived in her house on Tobias Avenue in Van Nuys for only two weeks, the homey feel of her new neighborhood — regardless of the name — is a welcome change from the urban life of Santa Monica.
“Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, it doesn’t matter,” she said, holding her son, Christopher. “It’s a nice neighborhood. It’s quiet here. We hear the crickets at night.”
Debi Akin moved from Sherman Oaks to Van Nuys four months ago. She was unaware of the name change, and found it meaningless but not in the least offensive.
“If they’re going to use all this taxpayers’ money to make the change, I think it’s stupid,” she said, holding her daughter, Zoey. But she added, “It doesn’t bother me at all.”
It does bother Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn.
“For the most part, people feel abandoned,” Schultz said. “Here are people who think the easiest way to solve those problems is to get a community name change,” he said of the former Van Nuys residents.
People should work together to rid the area of the problems that have given Van Nuys its declining reputation, rather than distancing themselves from it, Schultz said.
Developer David Honda, past president of the Mid-San Fernando Valley Chamber of Commerce, which once was the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce, said the move was “carving the nice sections out of Van Nuys.”
But proponents of the name change argue that the area was actually Sherman Oaks until 1963, when the Post Office instituted ZIP codes. Residents were confused because the deeds on some houses said Van Nuys while others for houses on the same street said Sherman Oaks.
Yaroslavsky said the decision to make the change for the 2,000 residents between Magnolia and Burbank boulevards was based on a detailed analysis of the situation. “There is a history to this area,” he said. “A history of association with Sherman Oaks and not Van Nuys.”
The change will clear up the confusion surrounding the area and help residents get mail quicker, he said.
Schultz disagreed. “I don’t think the real issue was so much clearing up confusion as it was getting rid of the Van Nuys address and getting a Sherman Oaks address which is going to increase property values,” he said.
Residents of affluent Chandler Boulevard, now part of Sherman Oaks, bore him out. Money, not mail, was on their minds.
“I’m very pleased,” said Barbara Caretto, standing in her house on Chandler. “With a mere stroke of a legislative pen someone has increased my property value by about $20,000. Could I complain?”
Florence Later, who has lived in the area for 35 years, said she also expected property values to increase and welcomed the change.
“Sherman Oaks has a better, more savory reputation,” Later said.
Standing in front of a vacant Van Nuys house on Cedros Avenue with an “Open House” sign in the yard, Realtor associate Robert Heinstedt likened the change to others that have occurred in the Valley recently.
“West Hills, North Hills, Valley Village and now Sherman Oaks,” he said. “A name change to try to latch on to more affluent, expensive areas.”
Some in the newly named area may see an appreciation in home values, Heinstedt said, but he questioned the sanity of it all.
“I have a Mazda,” he said. “If I apply to have the name changed to a BMW does that make my car worth more money? That’s what they’re doing.”
Don’t knock Van Nuys, Cardenas says
By Rick Orlov, Columnist
Updated: 03/29/2009 10:25:11 PM PDT
The group seeking to separate from Van Nuys and adopt Sherman Oaks as its name is picking up some City Council opposition because of the tone of its campaign.
Councilman Tony Cardenas, whose district abuts the area, said he is concerned with what he sees as the campaign’s derogatory tone toward Van Nuys.
“One of my constituents came to me about it and I said I would keep an open mind,” Cardenas said. “But then I went to their Web site and saw they had pictures of Van Nuys, showing it run down, and then pictures of Sherman Oaks, showing how nice everything is.
“I didn’t like that. I don’t think they have to be derogatory to Van Nuys.”
The area that wants to separate from Van Nuys is bounded by Hazeltine Avenue, Sepulveda Boulevard, Burbank Boulevard and Oxnard Street.
Councilwoman Wendy Greuel, who represents the area, has not yet taken a position, nor has the matter been considered by the council’s Education and Neighborhoods Committee.
Both the Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks neighborhood councils have come out against the name change.
Residents say they are more closely associated with Sherman Oaks than Van Nuys because it is where they shop and where their children go to school.
KPCC is having another one of their fund drives. I have to speak up about how personally attached I feel to this radio station.
Public radio seems to be one of the last intelligent, insightful and informative sources of news and culture that exists. Our culture is becoming vastly more stupid everyday with an assault of cable news, reality TV and celebrity oriented websites. The same large scale evil and ignorance that brought us to the brink of economic collapse in the casino of finance, has also destroyed the newspaper and broadcast TV news business.
Formerly international news companies, such as CBS, now have almost no foreign correspondents in any country, and depend on feeder news from such sources as BBC to report from nations like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. Newspapers are bankrupt and going under. The LA TIMES itself ( owned by the debt heavy Tribune Company) may be extinct by the end of 2009. Imagine the scale of stupidity that now infects our voting population, who must make critical decisions on our nation’s future with the smallest brain power in the history of the republic.
KPCC is wonderful in its widespread catholic approach to stories. It considers everything, from the local Los Angeles school system, to the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, to be worthy of discussion. Free of commercials, KPCC programs mercifully do not put infomercial voices like KNX’s Melinda Lee, on the air for six hours every Sunday to advertise cooking tips and cooking products. Public radio is not here to make a profit, it is here to inform and enlighten without selling anything but discussion.
Some people don’t care for public radio (most famously David Mamet) because of its perceived “left-wing” biases. But the stations like KPCC brings in voices from all sides of the political spectrum and take listener phone calls from a variety of views.
Money is short now, but KPCC is a critical contributor to the freedom of speech and thought that makes America stronger. Both personally and publicly, the survival of it is more crucial than ever.
Imagine living in a city where the only sources of news are FOX TV and the DAILY NEWS? Many of us already live in such a place.
Hmmm….not everyone in “Part of Sherman Oaks” agrees with the push to rename a section of Van Nuys, “Sherman Oaks”.
She is a great old lady, having been with the same man for 98 years, yet she suddenly announced that she is marrying someone new.
“I’m going to be Mrs. Sherman Oaks,” she told me.
I was quite shocked. She said nothing negative about her husband, just that she was ready to marry someone else.
“It just makes sense to me. I want to take his name. I’m not unhappy, you see, being Mrs. Hatteras Kester, and I don’t think it will hurt Mr. Kester at all if I leave him,” she said.
Had he abused her? Was she unhappy in the marriage? What caused her to make this decision?
“I eat with Sherman, I shop with Sherman, my grandchildren love Sherman. It just seems logical, ” she said.
She was dignified, but basically a plain spoken and unremarkable looking old woman. Once she had lived with Mr. Kester amidst many acres of orange and walnut groves, but after World War II, they sold the land along the Southern Pacific railroad line and settled into a comfortable suburban life that suited her.
“What does Mr. Kester think?” I asked.
“I haven’t even asked him. I just got up one morning and decided that it made sense to walk out on him and start a new life with a new husband. Nobody is hurt by my decision. Absolutely nobody,” she said.
She had many children, and quite a few grandchildren, and she was walking out on a partnership that had worked well for almost 100 years and remarkably, she had not one negative word to say about her soon to be ex-husband.
Mr. Kester, from what people tell me, has not even uttered a word about his wife’s abandonment. He runs a taco stand up on Victory and Kester and his wife refuses to go up past Oxnard because there is an insurmountable industrial belt blocking her passage by automobile.
“He is happy where he is, but what counts for me is how happy I want to be married to someone else. Is there anything wrong with that?” she asked.
I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman like her.
Facts are being marshaled, and selectively cited, to support the secession of an area of Van Nuys so that it can officially call itself “Sherman Oaks”.
On a blog “Part of Sherman Oaks” you can read this:
San Fernando Valley neighbors have banded together in an effort to become officially recognized as a part of Sherman Oaks. A core group of neighbors living in the 91411 & 91401 zip codes organized themselves in order to spread the word throughout the entire community that we the neighbors residing east of Sepulveda Blvd, west of Hazeltine Ave and south of Oxnard Blvd down to Burbank Blvd are a Part Of Sherman Oaks.
Lawn signs are quite numerous now. I drove along Hatteras Street from Van Nuys Boulevard (still has that horrible name) to Kester and there are “Part of Sherman Oaks” signs planted on many lawns. It reminds me of some sort of a latter-day Anschluss, where, in 1938, Germany invaded and then absorbed neighbor Austria. The difference here is that the richer and more powerful residents of Sherman Oaks could care less if a few hundred homes in Van Nuys joined them.
What distinguishes the disputed area of Van Nuys that would make it want to go south?
I live north of Victory, near Van Nuys High School, on a street that has large homes on large lots and is home to a number of discreetly wealthy and creative people. (I only fall into the second category). But when I drive off of my street, I enter the slum of Kesterland, with its armies of men waiting on corners for work, the filthy and unkempt businesses that cannot sweep the gutters daily, badly maintained apartments that leave trash and toys all over, and lots of cars that emit smoggy exhaust. This is Van Nuys and this is what is looks and feels like on its busy boulevards. It is, yes, it is, disgusting.
And the people who keep up their homes, and don’t park their cars on their front lawns and don’t blare mariachi music when they wash their cars, they also don’t seem to shop or eat tacos or buy their shoes North of Oxnard. It seems that the neighborhood committee, which lists factual reasons why there is some sort of physical barrier separating them from the rest of Van Nuys, really think that culture and immigration should not be mentioned.
An industrial zone is not a “natural barrier”. Greater Glendale and Burbank both have industrial areas within their communities, and there has been no outcry from Hollywood Way and Magnolia to secede from the rest of Burbank. That is because Burbank has a positive connotation and “Van Nuys” does not. And when one drives through Burbank, one is transported, magically, back to the 1950s, in a city of crew cuts, American flags, and Bob’s Big Boy.
And lest one believes that mostly white homeowners are better at keeping up their properties, I invite them to come to my street where the best maintained houses are owned by natives of Guatemala and Mexico and the worst kept places are inhabited by whites. I would venture to guess, and indeed I know, that the ugliest aspects of urban decay in my neighborhood, other than tagging, involve billboards, above-ground power lines, and that endless stream of automobile traffic made possible by under investment in public transportation. The slum apartments are “managed” by those who come from east of the Meditterranean, not south of Texas.
I frankly do not think that any community group which expends its energies, not on improving its community, but rather in superficial Potemkin village, Orwellian name changing will ever achieve anything positive. The fortunes of Sherman Oaks are going down, along with the rest of the world. And there is litter on Ventura Boulevard, and criminal activities galore in the real estate, pornography and entertainment industries whose prosperity built up the great glories of Sherman Oaks.
But hell, if you think you can make a go of it, why not call yourself “North Beverly Hills”?