The Day Great Architecture Comes to Van Nuys.


Proposed development at 6908 Vesper Avenue goes before the PLUM.

Proposed development at 6908 Vesper Avenue goes before the PLUM.

At last night’s Planning and Land Use Meeting a few developers proposed a few developments for review.

A 49-unit apartment building, three stories tall, was characterized as ruinous to a neighborhood of mostly single family homes.

A 5-story senior apartment complex seemed to pass muster, after its parking and setbacks were revised.


In the large land mass that is Van Nuys, there is very little construction.

The downtown is shabby, full of vacancies.  The only new businesses sell pot, massages and bail bonds.

Victory, Vanowen, Oxnard, all compete for the ugliest street awards.


I wondered, after leaving the meeting, what might happen if Mayor Eric Garcetti brought architects, developers, community leaders and the citizens of Van Nuys together to create a Van Nuys Experimental Architecture District.

It makes sense. Land is cheaper. There are vacant lots and substandard buildings. Property could be acquired cheaply and the location is great, right in the center of the SFV.

Borrowing photos from the architecture website Dezeen, I came up with some projects that might be built in Van Nuys, and perhaps objections that might be raised.


“Where’s the parking?”



“You’ll have a bunch of derelicts hanging out. And that wall is going to be tagged.”



“This is crazy. It’s way too big. And I don’t want my neighbors looking down at my wife when she’s showering.”



“I mean this is just silly. You have crazy colored windows all over the building. And the angles make me dizzy. What about something more Mission Style?”



“I agree we need some new buildings on Van Nuys Boulevard. But these should have at least 1,200 parking spaces for cars along the street. That’s how you make a development!”



“It looks like a toaster to me. And the neighborhood is all 1950s ranch houses. The circle looks like a target and that makes we worried.”



“Just because Eli Broad donates $100 million for a Van Nuys Arts Center doesn’t mean he can ram this down our throats.  I object because where are the front porches?”



“Why is one column diagonal and the other vertical? To me it seems crazy. And underneath this you’ll have homeless, skateboarders and maybe teenagers making out and doing other things they shouldn’t!”



“Ok, it’s a church. I get it. But where is the one steeple? It’s nothing like what you see in Vermont and that’s what I think Van Nuys should look like.”

Rain in Van Nuys: November 14, 1952

From the USC Digital Archives come these photographs of flooding in Van Nuys at Tyrone and Sylvan Streets (a block east of the Valley Municipal Building) after heavy rains.

Caption reads: “Mrs. Agnes Snyder removes debris from car on flooded street. Wayne WIlson (bare foot) crosses St. Overall views of flooded Tyrone Ave. — cars submerged. Kids in stalled car.”

There are smiles on the faces of people, a lack of jadedness, that seems characteristic of that era. The hardship is harmless, nobody is getting hurt, the flooding is inconvenient and messy, but they are making the best of it.

Imagine the same situation in today’s Van Nuys.

A herd of fatties stuck inside their SUV, DVD player and boom boxes blaring, everyone on their mobile phones, three enormous women with tattoos, dressed in black leggings, broadcasting their “movie” on their smartphones with scowling and angry faces, never knowing how to live in the moment.

The Best Thing to Happen in Van Nuys in 50 Years…..(is a month away)




The best thing to happen in Van Nuys (in the past half century) is about a month away from opening.

MacLeod Ale Brewing Company must already exist because they have a Facebook page. But further proof is evident at 14741 Calvert St. (east of Kester, three blocks north of Oxnard) where workers installed tanks and sinks, concrete counters and concrete floors, and a large cold storage room.

MacLeod will brew and serve fresh British style ales. Married owners Jennifer and Alastair Boase are carving out a civilized niche of craft brewing in the industrial heartland of old Van Nuys. Joining them is Head Brewer Andy Black who left Rhode Island, studied his passion in the UK, and came out to California.

Like Eagle Rock Brewery, also housed in a concrete industrial building, MacLeod will have a cinderblock facade. Nothing will really show the passerby that something great is happening inside.

But just wait until May…..




Striped Buildings.

A developer presented a plan for senior housing, on a site at Vose and Van Nuys Boulevard, at last night’s Van Nuys Planning and Land Use (PLUM) meeting.

This is along that very wide part of Van Nuys Boulevard where the blight of downtown Van Nuys gives way to an airy nothingness of expanse into the Valley moonscape. Eight lanes of roadway go north and go south, past McDonalds, Aamco Transmissions and Earl Scheib’s Paint and Body.

The proposed four-story complex is on land now occupied by Baires Auto Market. Baires is housed in what looks like an old pancake house, white framed and peaked roof, in a mid-century Protestant style, where blueberries and syrup were poured after Sunday services.

Renderings of the new four-story age and memory challenged facility show broken blocks of verticality, indented and tinted, dressed up with trees and vines.

An architect and a corporate spokeswoman described the frailty of the intended residents, ideally desiccated and disabled, unable to drive, and therefore not capable of making more traffic. Kitchenless units will be occupied by dwellers who will dine in communal dining rooms, monitored and managed by round-the-clock workers, arriving in shifts, parking in one of 61 underground spaces.

Over 80, weak, needing assistance, losing their memory, infirm; the suffering of age was advertised as an attribute. For here would come those who would not need schooling or parking spaces, but just a temporary place to live before death.

And there was the illustration of the new building, broken up in colors and pieces, a collection of cliches, impossibly inoffensive.

All over Los Angeles, along the new condos on LaBrea in West Hollywood, over in Santa Monica, and here in Van Nuys, we live in-between newly erected stripes and corrugated boxes.

The new buildings have mass. But it is presented not in grandeur, but shame; fractured, divided, sliced, multi-tinted. It is a style meant to soothe communities, and to disguise big projects by making them seem small and insignificant.

It almost makes one long for the arrogance of brutalism.

The new architecture is poll-tested and market-driven, without balls or bravado.

6100 N. Cedros Ave.

Van Nuys, CA 91401 Photo by Andy Hurvitz

A corrugated metal building with pitched roof, concrete floor and whirlybird ventilation, one of three structures in a row, stands at the corner of Cedros and Calvert.

The neighborhood is a mix of immigrants living in old houses and apartments, as well as light industrial companies: air conditioning, auto repair and body shops, marble and stone wholesalers, pest control and towing companies. There are many children nearby mixing moms with guns and gangs, the toxic air of auto paint, the rumbling beats of mariachi, the sounds of shopping carts and glass making their way to the recycler, dogs barking behind iron fences in concrete-paved front yards.

But a few doors down, at 14741 Calvert, later this year, MacLeod’s Ale Brewing Company will open and serve home brews in the British style, an exotic addition to a neighborhood where gasoline and tequila are the liquids of choice.

Presentando El Palacio Kester.

Back in 1965, a forward thinking developer built a two-story apartment building at 6345 Kester in Van Nuys.

He called it “Le Magnifique”,perhaps the last time the French language was used to name a building in our area.


So advanced, it was awarded a “Total Electric” plaque proudly affixed to the exterior.

With deep, wide, shaded balconies, underground parking and a convenient location in the heart of bustling, clean, prosperous Van Nuys, it provided a nice starter residence for young couples, recent arrivals to Los Angeles, and perhaps a few retired people.

Now the Mid-Century modern apartment has been transformed.




Back from a long, intoxicated weekend down in Tijuana, it has been knocked-up with twin pregnant cornices, painted in bands of Salsa Red and Cheez-Whiz Gold, and wears a large pair of decorative lions on two sides of its newly engorged and expanded bulk. Pasted on the ends of the building are decorative stone pieces to dress it up even more, while adding the appearance of more weight, causing the obese trollop to seemingly dance in platform heels atop her vaginal garage entrance.

This is Van Nuys when things are looking up.



Posture Contest, Van Nuys, 1958

Posture_contest_1958 copy


Posture_contest_1958 copy 2

It is hard to imagine that there were once posture contests and posture winners in Van Nuys.
Leaders, like President/General Eisenhower, stood straight.

On May 5, 1958, The L.A. Examiner wrote: “Loretta Fountain, 17, of Van Nuys High School, brushes away tears of joy as she holds trophy for best posture in senior girls division of posture contest.” Ms. Fountain was joined by Barbara Hinze, 14, Van Nuys Junior High, junior girl winner; Harold Lindsey, 18, Banning High, senior boy winner; Paul MacGregor, 14, Sutter Junior High, junior boy winner.

Today youthful good posture has been replaced by the slouching, texting teen.

(Photos: USC Digital Library)

Chandler Boulevard 1940s

Chandler Boulevard 1940s

A Pacific Electric “Hollywood” Streetcar travels down placid and empty Chandler Boulevard sometime in the 1940s. This mode of transport was removed in the early 1950s as the private car took over Los Angeles.

(Alan Weeks Collection)

Waiting for the Bus on Sepulveda

Bus Stop Crebelley, Vaud, Switzerland © 2013 Gerald Verdon

Bus Stop
Crebelley, Vaud, Switzerland
© 2013 Gerald Verdon

Later this year, friends and family from Zurich, Switzerland will visit here in Van Nuys. In that lovely nation public transport is dignified, clean, cheap and abundant. (see photo above)

The visitors will see Los Angeles with Swiss eyes, a city where trash sits on Sepulveda in both human and inhuman formations. Only Disneyland and Magic Mountain will come close to presenting an ideal city. That’s our American dream.

But for the bus riders who must wait in the sun, without protection, for 30 or 45 or 60 minutes, before a bus arrives, for these people trudging up to work at low paying jobs putting bagels into bags, or unloading boxes, imagine how their day starts before work?

Imagine they must sit here at the beginning and sometimes the end of their day. And think of what this says about Los Angeles, that our bus system is so neglected that people are treated no better than garbage.

What do Mayor Garcetti and Councilwoman Nury Martinez plan to do about this?

734 Bus at Sepulveda and Busway, Van Nuys, CA.  By Andy Hurvitz

734 Bus at Sepulveda and Busway, Van Nuys, CA. By Andy Hurvitz