Speaking at the Van Nuys Planning Summit


On March 26, 2015, I was invited to address the opening of a new Van Nuys Planning Summit held at the Marvin Braude Center. The event was created and sponsored by Quirino De La Cuesta and the Van Nuys Community Council.

Here I am in the beginning of the tape, delivering remarks.

Charm’s End.


DSCF0011 DSCF0009 DSCF0045

If one were seeking calmness, emptiness, and quiet, a strange but real place to find it might be found on Victory Boulevard, north of Alameda in Burbank.

Here, after 6pm, on a Friday evening, between the close of business and the setting of the sun, I walked, with a friend and a camera, along this stretch.

DSCF0018 DSCF0057 DSCF0032 DSCF0025 DSCF0013

Back here, in the shadow of the mountains, somewhere east of the Golden State Freeway, the old Burbank hangs on, consistent in its ethos of cleanliness, orderliness, workaday business and enterprise, un-self conscious, without irony, quietly fixing cars; selling donuts, batteries, oil and lube jobs.

One-story buildings are occasionally broken up by 1970s English style castles and 1990s glass block offices. But the silent majority of style remains firmly in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s hands. There is no litter, no graffiti, no people selling things on the sidewalk, no people laying on the sidewalk or sleeping on benches, no dog shit on the grass.

DSCF0055 DSCF0031

But some people are suffering behind the tidiness.

At the very beginning of our walk, a middle-aged man was smoking a cigarette outside of a motel near Frank’s Restaurant. He told us he was an animator and had two sons, ages 13 and 15. He had lost his job, and later his home, and was evicted and now living in temporary housing room with his kids. He was white, and perhaps a little younger than me, friendly and well-spoken.

Yet, he too embodied something old and old time in his friendliness, as if he had stepped out of the Great Depression and into one of Dorothea Lange’s photographs.

I didn’t take his picture but his words are seared into me.

DSCF0010 DSCF0007 DSCF0049 Winchells Victory Burbank DSCF0029

 

 

Mostly Wholesome Van Nuys


Valley Times (1946-70) once published in the San Fernando Valley until it went bankrupt.

45,000 of its images are now being digitized and will be available online at the LA Public Library. To search for the images you must go here. Then enter “Valley Times and Van Nuys” in the “Keywords” box. Over 1,700 images will come up. Unfortunately, that is about the best search advice I can give. 

The booming Valley back then, seemingly a more wholesome and happier place, also includes many images of Van Nuys, some of which I’ve posted down below.

New boys and girls music groups at Van Nuys Junior High School, 5453 Vesper Av.  1/23/65

New boys and girls music groups at Van Nuys Junior High School, 5453 Vesper Av. 1/23/65

2/19/65: Motion Picture Club Camera's Dancers at Valley College.

2/19/65: Motion Picture Club Camera’s Dancers at Valley College.

2/23/65: Kids protest new anti-skateboard ordinance at Van Nuys City Hall.

2/23/65: Kids protest new anti-skateboard ordinance at Van Nuys City Hall.

10/8/64: Actress daughter sentenced to 30 days in jail for drunk charge.

10/8/64: Actress daughter sentenced to 30 days in jail for drunk charge.

8/27/64: Registration at Valley College.

8/27/64: Registration at Valley College.

11/16/64: Nazi gear found in trunk of man arrested for possession of tear gas.

11/16/64: Nazi gear found in trunk of man arrested for possession of tear gas.

11/20/64: Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys, CA. Out patient clinic.

11/20/64: Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys, CA. Out patient clinic.

3/4/64: New road signs in Los Angeles?

3/4/64: New road signs in Los Angeles?

5/24/63: Cesspool Protest at Valley Municipal Building, Van Nuys, CA.

5/24/63: Cesspool Protest at Valley Municipal Building, Van Nuys, CA.

12/3/63: New Fiat 1500 Spyder Convertibles arrive.

12/3/63: New Fiat 1500 Spyder Convertibles arrive.

Yesterday was CicLAvia


IMG_6876 DSCF0115

Yesterday, Sunday, March 22nd, was CicLAvia in the San Fernando Valley.

Lankershim Boulevard, from Chandler to Ventura, and Ventura to Coldwater Canyon, was closed to cars.

I rode from my house near Sepulveda and Victory to the starting line at North Hollywood Station.

It was foggy.

Mayor Eric Garcetti: articulate, young and progressive, spoke before the opening.

IMG_6871 IMG_6866

It was a perfect San Francisco day to ride bikes in Los Angeles.

Cool, overcast, gentle.

And the sometimes indifferent people were seemingly transformed into better ones.

A cop saw me inflating my bike tire before the race and said, “Let me walk you down to where they have a bike repair station.”

IMG_6857

DSCF0111 IMG_6860

Shopkeepers along the route waved and handed out chapstick, water, and energy bars.

In Studio City, I stopped and ate a Belgian waffle at Waffles DeLiege food truck.

Fortified and energized I turned around and rode the route back to the starting point in North Hollywood. And continued down Chandler.  Making my way home, under trees and cloudy skies, along deserted streets .

IMG_6865

 

Alma Imogene Payne Waters (1922 – 2014) at 14336 Gilmore St., 1952


screenshot_414DSCF0084 DSCF0083

Don Waters (b. 1954), who grew up in Van Nuys and now lives in Missouri, has been a longtime reader of this blog.

After seeing my recent photos of Gilmore Street, he recognized one particular bungalow court at 14336.

His parents, Donald (1929-2007) and Alma (1922-2014) had lived there in the early 1950s.

A 2007 obituary provides some family biography.

Don, very considerately, sent me a 1952 photograph of his mother, standing in the courtyard of the complex.

It must have been a quite pleasant neighborhood to live in: schools, government offices, stores, and churches, within walking distance.

In 1952, the San Fernando Valley was on the precipice of speeding into the future full throttle.

And now, in 2015, we look back and wonder what went so very wrong.

Nobody wears skirts in Van Nuys anymore.

116Imo@VNapts

Gilmore St.- Diptychs


Here are six diptychs I created from yesterday’s walk down Gilmore St. between Kester and Tyrone.

VscoCam Gilmore7

“You write a blog to improve Van Nuys? That’s good cause this place needs a lot of improvement.”-Man at Central Lutheran Church

 

VscoCam Gilmore5 VscoCam Gilmore4 VscoCam Gilmore3 VscoCam Gilmore1 VscoCam Gilmore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilmore St. Between Kester and Tyrone


DSCF0021 DSCF0023 DSCF0030 DSCF0037 DSCF0040 DSCF0042

I walked along Gilmore this morning, a varied street one block north of Victory, and found old bungalows, church gardens, crappy apartments and neatly tended ones; along with a shoe repair shop, new Chinese food and a Mid-Century pharmacy.

Gilmore is an old street. A sidewalk was paved in 1929, but the road goes back further than that.

It was part of old Van Nuys, near town, school and church.

In the obliterating 1950s-70s, many old houses were torn down and replaced with rentable apartments, way before the revived fashion for “Mission.” If Gilmore had been preserved as only homes, it might look like today like a neighborhood of Pasadena.

 


DSCF0060 DSCF0064 DSCF0067 DSCF0074 DSCF0075

Guns, gangs, crime.

One might understand a small shopkeeper viewing the aforementioned with fear or suspicion.

A Photographer?

Yes it is the photographer, with a camera slung around his neck, who gets the nasty stares and the unwanted questions.

At the colorful Kovacs Pharmacy, a pharmacist came out, confronted me and wanted to know why I was shooting photos.

She asked for my card. I had none. I told her I was a photographer.

She went back inside.

Does one need to have an answer for taking a photo? Would you ever dream of walking up to a stranger- talking on the phone- and asking who they were calling? Would you walk up to a driver stopped at a light and ask, “Why are you driving?”


 

DSCF0077

DSCF0082 DSCF0084

At 14417, next door to Kovacs, time stands still as faded light illuminates a garage set way back in the yard, the kind of house and garden that once dotted this street.

At Sylmar Avenue, the Van Nuys Elementary School is still handsome and historic, roofed in red tiles and painted in warm tan.

The infamous spray marker of the Barrio Van Nuys (BVN) marks a fence outside of a bungalow court across from the school.

DSCF0093 DSCF0095 DSCF0098 DSCF0099 DSCF0101

The Central Lutheran Church, whose white and red brick façade on Victory at Tyrone seems sad and neglected, has a surprisingly vigorous and lush group of edible gardens spreading over at least a half acre or more of land. Very well-tended and green, the vegetables and plants propagate magnificently in fertile soil alongside wooden stakes and raised beds. It looks like a future bumper crop. Its gentle greenery stands in stark contrast to next door car repair and vacant parking lots.

When people talk about the revival of Van Nuys, of making the community better, they might start by visiting a street like Gilmore. Narrow and walkable, tree-shaded and neighborly, it has a variety of both individuals and institutions who are already contributing positive change to this district. They are feeding the homeless, educating the children, planting organic gardens and making Van Nuys come to life in the most unexpected and surprising places.