Estate Sale.


15149 23

15149 22

15149 21

15149 20

15149 19

15149 18

15149 17

15149 16

Two people, a Guatemalan born man, and his wife, raised three girls and one boy in this 1933 Van Nuys house.

The children grew into adults. They went to college, then graduate or medical school, and became highly educated professionals.

The parents, and another relative, stayed behind in the old house, a Spanish style ranch with a red tile roof and backyard full of fruit trees, and numerous potted, flowering plants.

All the old people died a few years ago. Now the house is being prepped for an estate sale. The lady running the sale is my friend. She invited me into the home to survey it.

It seems that nobody ever threw anything away. And every square space of the property was full of mountains of metals, tools, cans, bottles, wood, and machinery.

Packed tight in the front of the house was a tiny kitchen, dining room, living room and a two bedrooms. But in the back was a secret, unofficially constructed warren of rooms and an old patio converted to an indoor sewing room, and another bathroom, added on.

15149 14

15149 15

15149 13

15149 12

15149 11

15149 10

15149 9

15149 8

Outside, a jerry-built outdoor sink was plumbed up to an exterior wall. External electrical outlets taped up to live connections was nearby. A family of raccoons made their home above old lawn mowers and a rusted gasoline blowtorch. Any space that could store things, did.

Yet, these people were not pack rats or hoarders. They were, most likely, born poor, and through thrift, industry, and hard work, and a strong dose of Catholic faith, they persevered and prospered.

The front of their home has always been neat. The lawn is cut, the driveway swept, the cyclone metal fence keeps guard along the street. Birds of Paradise have grown large and cover the front living room window.

And when this house is sold, and the contents banished or transferred to new owners, the life of people who once inhabited this home will be erased forever.

15149 7

15149 6

15149 5

15149 4

15149 3

15149 2

15149 1

Teardown on Kester


dscf0013

dscf0012
Up until a few days ago, a blue and yellow auto repair building with Honda, Datsun and Toyota signage stood at Kester and Delano, a retro oddity imprisoned behind high, steel- spiked fencing.

Now the fence is down, and a bulldozer is making fast work tearing up the asphalt and the evidence of the existence of the former business.

What will go here? It seems likely that it will be another modern apartment, like the one just to the north of this lot. That makes sense, as this area is predominately residential, and the auto repair was the only one of its type north of Delano.

What is sadder is the probable fate of the mid-century building. It might, in a more imaginative use, be saved, and surrounded by gardens, trees and chairs, transformed into a cafe. It could, in this area, provide badly needed nature and respite from the violent cacophony of grit, crime, and poisonous fumes that surround it.

And if an apartment is built, let us hope it imitates the modernity, restraint and white crispness of the new units next to it. We have had enough of the multi-colored, brown and rust, red and orange, loopy, asymmetrical, glib, cartoonish and “fun” styles that have disfigured much of modern Los Angeles housing.

Even Kester, once on the critical list, seems to be turning a corner.

dscf0010

dscf0009

dscf0006

FRESNO V. ECKBO


Here in Van Nuys:

Excellent article. You somehow manage to explore and explain the different facets of ideology, design and practicality without bias. I have a new appreciation for the mid 1960s pedestrian mall even as it failed to ignite the rebirth it intended.

Originally posted on Landscape Architecture Magazine:

BY MIMI ZEIGER

BEDIT_LAMdec14_Eckbospread To revive downtown, the city appears poised to drive right through a masterpiece.

From the December 2014 issue of Landscape Architecture Magazine.

The city of Fresno sits in the middle of California’s San Joaquin Valley. When you drive into town from Los Angeles, the landscape is agricultural and framed by roadside eucalyptus trees. It gives way to off-ramp clusters of gas stations, fast-food chains, and light industrial warehouses. Most of Fresno’s neighborhoods, after nearly 50 years of decentralization and flight from the urban core, sprawl north, tracking the edge of the San Joaquin River. The city’s historic downtown and civic center are a near ghost town.

At the heart of downtown is the Fulton Mall. In the early part of the 20th century, it was Fresno’s main drag, Fulton Street, six blocks lined with banks and department stores. In 1964, the landscape architect Garrett Eckbo turned the…

View original 3,544 more words

Blight Walk.


DSCF0002 DSCF0010

DSCF0031
6552 Columbus Avenue; owner: Marinel C Agbunag
DSCF0016
6522 Columbus Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91411 Alex Barker, owner.

The houses are unoccupied, neglected. The parched grass grows high, bottles and cans are everywhere, and their owners are seemingly oblivious to their blighted properties.

This is not a slum. This is Columbus Avenue between Hamlin and Kittridge, where some absentee owners have allowed large parcels of land to fall into abuse, or permitted and set up illegal businesses towing and storing cars.

For many years, complaints from residences about the eyesores have flooded into Former Councilman Tony Cardenas’s offices and are now on the desk of Nury Martinez, whose Field Deputy, Guillermo Marquez, joined LAPD Lead Officer Erica Kirk for a walking tour of the shabby, un-chic area.

Both Officer Kirk and Field Deputy Guillermo Marquez are consummate professionals: responsive, articulate, hard-working and complete attributes to our area. They spent hours yesterday listening to the gripes and the stories of crime and neglect.

DSCF0038
6522 Columbus Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91411 Alex Barker, owner.

DSCF0045 DSCF0023 DSCF0021 DSCF0040 DSCF0039

Yet responsibility for the empty houses goes back to the owners who created, selfishly and without logic, properties that do not produce income and bring down the value of other homes around them.

In Los Angeles, it seems impossible to find affordable houses for purchase for people who make less than $100,000 a year. And others sleep in their cars, or in RVs, or on park benches. Rents are over $1500 a month, for two bedrooms, even in Van Nuys.

And the law says you cannot clear homeless people and their belongings off public sidewalks.

And the law also says you cannot compel errant property owners to fix up their private homes and rent them out or sell them.

So all around our neighborhood, where the average house sells for over a half million, some have decided that just letting their houses sit empty and open for crime and vandalism is the best policy.

And that is why we went on a walk yesterday, a walk that went around in a circle along Columbus, Haynes and Hamlin and ended up in the bright, hot sun with promises and handshakes.

“Better Call Marty” Re/Max Grand Central Marty Azoulay 818-424-5045
DSCF0052
15102 Haynes/ 15105 Hamlin; owner Kathy J. Bauer.

Future Gardens of Van Nuys?


One of the continuing themes of this blog is to look at what we are and imagine what we might be.

I think about that as I walk around Van Nuys, a misbegotten and deformed district.

But also an oddly lucky place where land is abundant and cheaper, yet frequently and usually, neglected and wasted.

DSCF0093

At 14550 Sylvan St., between Van Nuys Blvd. and Vesper, there is now an empty courtyard surrounded by buildings on three sides. They once fixed cars here. This is a street full of fine old buildings, including the former Van Nuys Library (now a law office) and the former post office. There are also small stores: a tailor, a barber, a school, and a storefront church.

This is where a garden belongs.  Buildings are small scale and human, within walking distance of every important building in downtown Van Nuys.

I took photos (with permission) from England. The  ‘London Permaculture’ Flickr page shows urban gardens transforming bleak and hostile spaces into fertile and green growing areas.

Brown brick, beer guzzling, working-class England can be drab, but these gardens are a morale booster for their users.

4875262608_37ee8bed18_o 4875232792_63e85a5525_o

 

DSCF0090
Sylvan near Van Nuys Bl.

Our alleys, behind Van Nuys Boulevard, can be fixed up with cafes, bars, trees, plants and lights. Eating, drinking and socializing can replace public urination, rats, tagging and trash.

DSCF0042
14526 Victory near VNB

At 14526 Victory Boulevard, the NCJW (National Council of Jewish Women) has a donation center which again, is a North facing forecourt that would also do nicely as an outdoor beer garden, pocket herb garden, etc.

4875185840_23295da3e0_o

Friar St.
Friar St.

At Friar and Van Nuys Boulevard there is a large parking lot, which is across the street from another large parking structure, in an area with too much parking. Why does Van Nuys, in this ramshackle location, with its empty storefronts and dead buildings, need 2,000 parking spaces?

There are wasted opportunities of land and development all over Van Nuys.

We live in an environment built for the lowest common denominator of mediocrity and exploitation.

DSCF0009
West of Van Nuys Blvd. near Hamlin St.

Who can marshall the resources to bring money and planning into Van Nuys?

4875151558_205265f2d0_o

Sunday Morning Victory


DSCF0018

On a Sunday morning along Victory, east of Kester, the wide street is mostly empty.

It is also empty on Van Nuys Boulevard.

And the only person on Friar Street pushes a shopping cart with her belongings.

 

Under the dull fog, Van Nuys might be sleeping late.

Sleeping off Cervezas.

Many work on Sundays, but some do not.

 

Here are sidewalks without trees or humans.

 

Cars speed past the ghosts of late The Modern Era.

 

Where medical doctors practiced the most advanced medicine in 1960.

 

Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson were the Presidents.

 

And confident young builders hired talent young architects and erected thin paneled office buildings along thriving and newly widened Victory Boulevard.

 

Men worked at jobs back then. They wore suits.

 

Women smoked and wore high heels and lipstick and gloves and called themselves ladies.

 

And kids got in trouble, riding skateboards on the sidewalk or chewing gum in class.

 

It was a troubled time when blacks were called negroes.

 

And men were sent off to fight war in Vietnam.

 

But Van Nuys was still fine, still humming along: safe, secure and industrious.


 

We live in a rich nation. But all around us, people sleep on benches, and push their belongings in shopping carts.

People sleep on the sidewalk in front of the Chase Bank which has assets of $2.6 trillion and is the largest bank in the United States.

They are sleeping under the arches of the Marvin Braude Center, seat of the government of the City of Los Angeles in the San Fernando Valley.

DSCF0088

Marvin Braude Center
Marvin Braude Center

Marvin Braude Center
Marvin Braude Center
And what you see today can break your heart.

 

 

DSCF0050
Friar St. at VNB

DSCF0056
Along Friar Street

DSCF0060
Friar at Sylmar

DSCF0010
Victory Bl.

DSCF0012
Victory Bl.

DSCF0016
Anna & Vartan: Victory Bl.

DSCF0026
Victory Bl.

DSCF0033
Victory Bl.

DSCF0034
Victory Bl.

DSCF0037
Victory Bl.

DSCF0041
Victory Bl.

DSCF0042
Victory Bl.

DSCF0051
Friar St.

DSCF0052
Friar St. View SE

DSCF0053
Friar St.

Verdad y Vida


DSCF0055 DSCF0053 DSCF0052 DSCF0049 DSCF0047 DSCF0043

Near the corner of Saticoy and Sepulveda actors in Verdad y Vida (truth and life) washed cars, stood outside the Tangiers Motel, rode to the D&K Liquor store on bike, and dramatically flashed police car lights to pull over, frisk and handcuff a suspect and his large bag.

And a little man with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth confronted me as I photographed.

“Why you take picture of motel and police? Why you do this? Why you take picture of me near motel? What you doing? You not supposed to take picture!”

I showed him the back of my camera, the digital review of images just shot.

There were signs and more signs and no close ups of people.

He was not in my camera.

“You not supposed to take picture!” he said.