The RV Encampment

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 11.51.53 AMParked along Tujunga Avenue in North Hollywood, on the east side of the park, between Magnolia and Riverside, a remarkable new residential community of homeless people has been established in a line of permanently parked RVs.

Visible and egregious, with their reflective cardboard stuffed inside windshields to cool down the metal houses in the summer sun, these faded and rusted motor homes are testament, depressing and sobering, to the high cost of housing in Los Angeles and the inability of so many to find a suitable and safe place to live.

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I walked along here today and photographed some 15 vehicles where people live.

In front of one, a woman and two men were in lawn chairs, sitting in the shade. The lady asked me, in a friendly way, why I was photographing and I told her it was for my blog.

“I’m homeless. We’re all homeless,” she said.

And I told her I knew that. And I also said I was photographing these four-wheeled residences to let others know how their fellow human beings were forced to live.

“God bless you,” she said.

And I continued my walk.

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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.

There are no sudden storms in the Southland.

There are no sudden storms in the Southland.

They are slow, and anticipated for many days before arrival.

The rains of Los Angeles are not the violent and fast moving ones from my youth in Illinois.

They come from San Francisco, imported and exotic, served only in winter.

They travel, as if on a slow moving freight train, chugging down across the mountains, picking up wind and moving clouds with great effort, until, by eminent domain, they seize this region in rains, pushing out that squatter the sun, drenching the city in something purifying and disorienting, dark and light; a benevolent symphony of Earth’s workings, cleansing and renewing.

The rains of Los Angeles are a strange corrective of nature. They are more powerful and more intimidating than the human cesspool city of sudden violence and crashing cars. The Army of the Clouds is a conqueror who must be obeyed. Under occupation, rivers are rerouted, trees blown over, electrical current shut off, oceans churned, roads made impassible.

But they are kind in power, artful in practice.

They transform the ugliness of asphalt into reflecting pools.

They tame cars, dragging them through curbside baths.

They throw dark daytime shadows across the city.

And after they pass, one looks east, towards Pasadena and the nation beyond it.

And we stand, once again in the sun, in the Southland, in our winter.

Left to our own devices.

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“Almost Lost Her….”

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(Postcard courtesy of Valley Relics)

Assisting Tommy Gelinas of Valley Relics in his cataloging of unique and historic items related to the San Fernando Valley, I came across this June 1974 postcard sent from Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys to a family in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

“My Dearest Ones,

Sorry I haven’t wrote sooner but so worried and upset over Mother. Almost lost her. Her pulse was dropping down to 15 from time to time. Then a week ago last Sunday she had a heart attack in the hospital. A week ago today they did surgery and put a pace maker in. She looks great and feeling so much better. If all goes well she will go to my place a week from today.

Love you.

Edie and Jim”

The medical center, still standing but greatly enlarged at 15107 Vanowen St., is described as a “unique circular medical center, located in the San Fernando Valley.”

Alleys and Architecture.

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(Photos: Andrew B. Hurvitz)

Last year, on a visit to Japan, I discovered alleys that were vibrant, clean and functional.

In a country where 127m live on land mass that is smaller than California, space is put to good use.

Little houses, imaginatively designed, are integrated into narrow streets and alleys. (Photos: Dezeen)Cave-by-Eto-Kenta-Atelier-Architects_dezeen_1sq dezeen_Small-House-by-Unemori-Architects_0sq House-by-Tsubasa-Iwahashi-Architects_dezeen_1sq House-in-Fukasawa-by-LEVEL-Architects_dezeen_3sqa KKZ-House-by-International-Royal-Architecture_dezeen_ss_50 Monoclinic-House-by-Kazuko-SakamotoAtelier-Tekuto_dezeen_sq Switch-restaurant-and-residence-by-Apollo-Architects_dezeen_3sqa

Whether an entrance is in front or back makes no difference to a Japanese house.

What counts is the integrity and artistry of the architecture.

LA, and the entire state of California, has an extreme shortage of affordable and civilized housing.

Why not emulate Japan and make use of our alleys, the back of our buildings, and enormous asphalt parking lots to create civilized spaces for residential development?


Sherman Oaks alleys below.

Photo credit: Andrew B. Hurvitz


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There were 120 narcotic “Norco” tablets in the prescription bottle on March 31st.

Six days later there were seven.

The medicine was supposed to be administered to an elderly cancer patient, bedridden, in pain.

But the physical therapist probably stole the medications, stuffing 100 or more pills into his pockets.

And yesterday that was the morning news, in my life, at 5:30am. Later I drove down to Marina Del Rey and reported the “burglary” to the sheriff and filed a police report.

A mollusk on a mattress: my mother.

Unable to lift, eat, or wash herself.

A cancer victim.

A crime victim.

Dependent on live-in home care workers, visiting nurses; tethered in fragility to life, eaten away by lung and bone cancer, yet strangely alert and intelligent to her bodily decay and the circumstances around her.

I was angry, nervous, agitated, betrayed. And my mother spoke from her horizontal position and said, “The important thing is to remain calm.”

My command center was my phone, electrified with texts.

Dr. G refilling the L-Dopa.
Dr. H refilled the thyroid.
The handrails were delivered.
How could the PT spend 14 hours in five days on physical therapy?
Who lost the Access Transport card?
We need eggs.
They won’t refill the Norco without a police report.
The premium blue disposable underpads arrived.


The day was hot and windy and blinding.

And then the sun slipped down and left the last hues of light over Venice.

Calmed by a glass each of beer and wine I walked on Abbot Kinney after 7pm, moving past shop windows, past bored clerks staring into cellphones.

Everything at that hour distracted as I wandered in and out of pretty stores.

Lubricated and intoxicated, I went into Elvino Wine Shop. I tasted a Croatian Red and walked out with a French Bourgueil Cabernet Franc.

I was wandering involuntarily now, sadness sedated, lulled into a dark gray perfume store furnished like a laboratory, lined with clear glass bottles.


“Spray the Santal on your left hand,” she said.


And then I was in my car driving in darkness over Beverly Glen.

The love theme from Spellbound played.

I saw Ingrid Bergman holding onto Gregory Peck, wrapping him in love, rescuing him from collapse, guiding him through danger, analyzing his dreams, fighting his delusions, saving his life.

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.