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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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West of Van Nuys Blvd. near Hamlin St.

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

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Sunday Morning Victory


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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.

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Marvin Braude Center
Marvin Braude Center

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

 

 

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Friar St. at VNB

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Along Friar Street

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Friar at Sylmar

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Anna & Vartan: Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Victory Bl.

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Friar St.

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Friar St. View SE

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Friar St.

The Golden Age of Gasoline.


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In the 1920s, fanciful, imaginative, inventive gas stations were built all over the Southland.

They mined every era in history, borrowing minarets from the Middle East, Chinese pagodas and southwestern adobe ranch houses.

But the most memorable and dazzling ones looked forward to the future, sweeping in with illuminated glass signage, polished steel pumps and graphically inventive designs.

Attendants wore clean uniforms, and proudly serviced cars, luring drivers in with not only prices, but entertainment.

One station offered an all female staff, the other clothed their workers in jodphurs.

Comic book characters like Tarzan, dinosaurs from the pre-historic age, and Pegasus from Greek mythology, all gathered to sell gasoline.

One hundred years later we see that the people on the front lines in clean uniforms were the public face of a dirty business, one that has led the planet Earth into endless wars of terrorism, despotism, the melting of the icebergs and the degradation of our oceans, rivers and air. We are still fighting over oil, even as it swallows us up from the pipeline plains of Alberta to the violent sands of Arabia, even as its toxic vapors diminish human, animal and plant life in every corner of the globe. Fracking into rock for oil makes earthquakes in Oklahoma. But its addiction is unending. Everyone wants oil, from the warriors of ISIS to the kid in his 1988 Honda on his way to Valley College.

Our price for a cheap ride to the nail salon ends in the extinction of nature.

But for thirty cents a gallon, a family in Los Angeles once had a joy ride on the smooth road, going from shopping center to beach with the top down. And those days are gone forever.

Photos from the USC Digital Archives.

Verdad y Vida


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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.

 

 

The Capriciousness of Life.


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I was down in Venice yesterday on a foggy Saturday morning, down there to attend a training video for a new food processor I’ve been hired to test.

I parked on Sunset near 4th Avenue, not far from Gjusta, where I went to eat. They sell loaves of bread for ten dollars there.

And along Sunset I passed a man and a woman and a tent, their home I assumed. I ignored them and went to the restaurant and ordered eggs, toast and coffee for $16.

On the way back, the man and the woman had moved, and set up their tent on 4th Avenue.

Camera in hand, I went over to introduce myself.

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The man, Alexander, said he was from Pomona and was 22-years-old. The woman, Dina, said she was 44 and from Egypt. They both said they met in Israel.

They said they were artists. And they had ended up here and had no means of supporting themselves, so they were living in the tent, on the sidewalk, chased away by residents and police.

Alexander was smart, funny, articulate and intelligent. He said he was Jewish, an anomaly in Catholic and Hispanic Pomona. Dina said she grew up in Egypt, a Muslim, and her father was blacklisted for writing against the regime. She said she had children in Israel.

Alexander told me that the hardest part of being homeless was how exhausting it was. They had to be constantly moving, like Bedouins, and forage for food. Cleaning up was not easy, they washed their hands along the curb. Yet they seemed clean.

“Capitalism can be cruel. Even in poorer countries, people seem to look out for each other, to help. In America, the indifference is noticeable,” Alexander said.

“All of my family live in the same compound,” Dina said, thinking of her kin back home. And what would they think of her now?

Dina had the flinty, tough, tenacious soul of a woman from the Middle-East. She was genuinely touched that I cared enough to stop and speak with her, and discuss her plight and struggle.

They both said they needed a backyard to stay in. That would help them feel settled. I wondered why there was not a place in Venice or Santa Monica, in a community full of backyards, where one couple could camp out temporarily.

Their goal was to save $3,000 and return to Israel.

I don’t exactly understand how they got into this position, but I am sure that life doesn’t always reward the moral and punish the immoral.

Sometimes it is capricious, and good people end up in bad places, and if they are lucky enough, can dig out and get back on their feet.

But why is it that nobody can lend them a backyard and few bucks?

A few blocks from Dina and Alexander, Google is building a new office. And a friend of my brother rents a small apartment on Rose for $4,500 a month.

And Dina and Alexander sleep in a tent on the sidewalk while all around them humanity passes by.

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A Quiet Enclave


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There’s a little area of Glendale or east Burbank or whatever you want to call it, a quiet neighborhood nestled into the confluence of Griffith Park, Victory Blvd, and Riverside Drive.

Old, snug, shaded, smelling of horse and hay, hit with the low, dull roar of the nearby 134, its winding houses and cottages are silent, eccentric, redolent of the old Western town, and completely out of tune with the flash, bang and sprawl city of Los Angeles.

I’m drawn back here. Especially on days like yesterday when the skies were dark, and gray clouds spread over the San Gabriels in a convincing display of more ominous meteorological conditions.

It was cool and autumnal when I turned up Winchester Avenue and parked near Riverside.

Hidden in the crook, under large trees, I found a sprawling, two-story high, hacienda apartment with a red tiled roof, white painted brick and a lush green lawn obliviously and joyfully unworried by drought. Adirondack chairs, twig chairs, plastic chairs, and a barbecue threw off an impression of eternal leisure and life without worry. A 1965 Turquoise Chevy Chevelle sat on the driveway: as if yesterday was still today and what was old was still young.

California, up until about 1960, built apartments that looked like well-to-do homes. You might live here poor, work as a waiter, scrape by on next-to-nothing, but you were surrounded and intoxicated with hope and dreams and a stage set of domestic happiness. Your aspirations were given to you the moment you arrived at Union Station. Only later did you realize they would be taken away.

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The streets are clean in Burbank and Glendale, often spotless.

Coming from Van Nuys, which gives a social excuse to every ill around us, it is remarkable that Burbank and Glendale are run so seemingly well, with a presentable public face that is simultaneously progressive and traditional.

Streets are swept. Windows are washed. Alleys are paved. Walls have no tags or markings. There are no shopping carts of clothes tied to trees. There are no tent cities of the dispossessed under the overhangs of buildings.

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And there are many small motels here. But I didn’t see prostitutes and pimps and hookers and johns and the sex community walking along Victory in Glendale.

Maybe the laws are tougher here. Maybe the police and the courts and the residents work together. Whatever they are doing here they are not doing on Sepulveda Boulevard.

At a public safety meeting last week in Van Nuys, held jointly by Councilwoman Nury Martinez and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, the issue of homelessness came up. Ms. Martinez spoke to a resident complaining that public sidewalks are now taken up with the private possessions of individuals. The Councilwoman said the courts had sided with the people who tie their shopping carts to trees and put up tents in the alley. “You can’t haul away their belongings.”

Legally, the illegal is legal.

And that is the way the new world works. What would have been unimaginable in 1945, 1955 or 1965 is tolerable today because everyone knows that toleration—not the law—is the highest principle liberalism can aspire to.

The inhumanity and injustice of allowing people to live on sidewalks and eat trash and set up tents anywhere, that must be tolerated because “we are understanding.”

Maybe it would be inconvenient for him, but Mayor Garcetti should allot some time in his schedule to drive way out to Glendale from LA City Hall and contemplate what they are doing that provides some space for civilization and contemplation that is missing in much of the San Fernando Valley and greater Los Angeles.

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Two New Large Scale Developments in Van Nuys


The San Fernando Valley Business Journal reported that two new proposed housing projects, one on Sherman Way west of VNB, the other near Oxnard and VNB, are in the works. Principals in the projects showed their plans to members of the Van Nuys Community Council the other night.

Here is the article as it appeared in the SFBJ:

Residential Developments Proposed for Van Nuys

By KAREN E. KLEINWednesday, May 20, 2015

Developers floated two residential proposals before the land-use committee of the Van Nuys Neighborhood Council on Tuesday, including a subdivision that got the green light to move forward.

Storm Properties Inc., a Torrance residential developer, wants to build a $29 million small-lot subdivision that marks its first foray into the San Fernando Valley.

The proposal calls for 58 single-family homes at 14700 Sherman Way, just west of Van Nuys Boulevard. Small-lot homes are separate residences but can be so close that the units can have the appearance of condominiums.

Alan Kwan, the firm’s director of acquisitions, said they would be priced from the mid-$400,000s to the mid-$500,000s.

The subdivision got a positive response from the land-use committee, which recommended that it move forward to the full Neighborhood Council next month.

The vacant land was originally bought as an expansion site for Church on the Way, whose main sanctuary is at 14300 Sherman Way. Kwan said the church’s plans have changed and his firm is in escrow to buy the parcel for an undisclosed price.

Storm Properties has concentrated on residential infill projects in the South Bay, but the firm is increasingly interested in the San Fernando Valley.

“We love Van Nuys in particular. It seems to get a bad rap, but we look for areas where we can get a lot of value and where neighbors are supportive,” Kwan said.

The second project is a mixed-use, transit-oriented development slated for 4.5 acres at 6100 Van Nuys Boulevard. It would feature 384 apartments and about 17,000-square-feet of retail space at the busy corner of Oxnard Street. It is adjacent to the Orange Line busway.

Keyes Automotive Group operated a showroom on the property, which is owned by a family.

Brad Rosenheim, principal of Rosenheim and Associates Inc., a Woodland Hills land use consultancy, represents the landowners. He said the project is still in preliminary stages.

“We’ve got a lot of work left to do on this,” said Rosenheim, who plans to return to the committee with more detailed plans.