A Quiet Enclave


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.


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.

Van Nuys, Tijuana.



North of Victory, along such streets as Langdon and Orion, there are beautiful homes, lovingly maintained, with lush plantings and comely architecture.

But out on Sepulveda, between Lemay and Haynes, the meridian that breaks along the west side is like a hellish scene out of Tijuana. There are discarded toilets, papers and plastics, cans and bottles, televisions, even a picture of a holy saint thrown down like so much garbage.


What civilized place would permit the public areas to look this deplorable? Have we no pride or self-respect at all?

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Thank you Facebook.

Thank you Facebook.

You are amazing.


Thank you for bringing friends into town whose photos are on my feed.

They never called or visited but I see they were here.


Thank you Facebook.

You are amazing.


Thank you for the photographs I took of up and coming actors.

They never thanked me but they posted the photos on Facebook.


Thank you Facebook.

You are amazing.


Thank you for the friends who liked when my mother died.

They never wrote me cards or notes but their likes meant everything to me.


Thank you Facebook.

You are amazing.


Thank you for actors who I wrote parts for… who un-friended me the next day.

They will surely love the next parts I write.


Thank you Facebook for the 10 amazing ways to make my food tastier.


Thank you Facebook for the 7 shoes I must own.


Thank you Facebook for the 50 restaurants I must eat in before I die.


Thank you Facebook for updates on amazing celebrity spouses.


Thank you Facebook for amazing people who’ve passed on.


Thank you Facebook for amazing me every single moment of every single day.


Thank you for filling up my life with your feed rather than letting me fill up my life with life.


Did I tell you that you are amazing?
If not, let me tell you that you are amazing.


Facebook you are amazing.

Changing Kester

Kester Avenue, a narrow North/South artery between Sepulveda and Van Nuys Boulevards, is, north of Oxnard St., an industrial and immigrant arrival point, a place of car repair shops, small apartment buildings, bodegas and liquor stores.

Long neglected, like the rest of Van Nuys, it has undergone some positive change, small but not insignificant: apartment construction, remodeled houses, some cleaned up properties.



At 14801 Califa, (near Kester and Oxnard) a property investor has taken a large industrial park and transformed it into a modern  post-industrial building. It has been landscaped with trees and plants, painted gray, adorned with metal doors and windows in a style best described as Culver City North. Envisioned as a rental property for media companies, it is within walking distance of the Orange Line.

Walls are untouched by taggers, possibly due to discreet security cameras ringing the property.

Remnants of old Van Nuys before and during WWII are also in evidence around the area. Steel buildings, used as citrus packing houses, and Quonset Huts with their arched rooflines, still exist near Oxnard and Kester.


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Walk on Kester north of Oxnard and you are in a man’s world of marijuana, liquor, used tires, transmissions, clutches, sand, gravel, cement, cheap beer, lottery tickets, tow trucks and dogs on chains. This is un-distilled and un-filtered Van Nuys, where hard-working immigrants take flat tires off cars and put bald ones back on.


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At sunset, the meanness is softened by orange and pink hues. Piles of tires turn into melted chocolates next to green boxes. Long hot days are ended and extinguished in icy lager Coronas.


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At Kester and Delano there long stood an old wooden house, a broken down slum place with discarded tires and trash. It has since been cleaned up and stuccoed up, as hygienic and impersonal as any Burbank tract house. But it is clean, which is notable, in a place where slumlords from Encino and Bel Air could care less.

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Mr. Pancho’s Market, long a fixture in the area, in now called “Los 3 Potrillos” (The Three Colts) and has been painted bright orange and I don’t know if they sell horse meat.





A four-story apartment building has been under construction for some time near at Erwin and Kester. It stands in uncompleted modernity behind scaffolding and plywood.

On the west side of Kester, one walks past the last seven decades of architecture and development.

6315 Kester is a two-story courtyard apartment building built in 1961. A bizarre (or unique) frieze of Roman soldiers on horses decorates the exterior. Starved for ornamentation, post-war architects in the late 1950s and early 60s borrowed from epic movies like “Ben Hur” (1959) or “Cleopatra” (1963) to cinematically embellish properties.


6321-6323 is a 1949 multi-family dwelling decorated with developer William Mellenthin’s (1896-1979) characteristic “birdhouse” designs over the garage. Mellenthin brought a rustic, Northern California feeling to this structure with board and batten siding, red brick, double hung windows and exposed beamed roof.

Sadly, this subtle, historically Californian style has little appreciation to The Vulgarians who now build in the San Fernando Valley. But in1949, it must have been a fine place to live, at a time when one could leave a window open at night, for ventilation without fear, and fall asleep to Tommy Dorsey on the radio.


And the 2015 tour wraps up at 14851 Victory, the slum mini-mall whose most notable feature is the trash on the side of the building that the tenants and the owner never clean up.


Kester has a lot of variety and stories, but suffers under the weight of neglect, which is a pity because it is a very human and historic place.

The Election is Over


On March 3, 2015 Incumbent Nury Martinez won re-election as the Councilwoman for the 6th District in Los Angeles. She beat her challenger Cindy Montanez.

In the months leading up to the election, Ms. Martinez’s office answered every small request I sent them.

They got the streets at Victory and Columbus, repainted with the “Do Not Enter” marks on the asphalt.

They put out patrols and arrested prostitutes.

They picked up discarded couches and debris.

They even got the curb painted in front of one house to get rid of gang tags.

Every request I made was answered with exquisite formality, sometimes with an email and a phone call.

There was again that tireless optimism in the air, that this time, finally this time, Van Nuys would cease being the dumping ground of governmental neglect and indifference.

But the election is over. The blight has returned.

The helicopters circle overhead unceasingly. Every day, every week, there are new acts of violence: a woman is stabbed to death in an alley, an LAPD officer barricades herself inside her house, a man stands on a balcony on Sherman Way pointing a gun at children below.

And garbage and debris pile up in parking lots, along curbs, while every request to “311” or Nury Martinez is ignored. There are shopping carts full of garbage in the Wendy’s parking lot at Erwin and Sepulveda, and there are many sofas and chairs dropped along the median and the sidewalks north of Sepulveda on Victory.

These are the small illegalities hanging like a noose around the neck of Van Nuys.

And when someone abuses a handicap parking placard, or breaks into your home, or throws a loud party and drops beer cans on your lawn, maybe it doesn’t rise to the level of the war in Syria. But it still sucks. And there is nobody who seems in control in Van Nuys.

Why run a city like this?