The Local Sweeties and Public Safety.


Courtesy of a community minded neighbor, we folks gathered tonight in a computer lab inside Casa Loma College on Kester to hear Senior Lead Officer Erica Kirk, Gang Officer DeLeon and a man from the Los Angeles Department of Building Safety speak about property crimes, prostitution and gangs.

The people were mostly older, largely white, and on friendly terms with one another. Before the speakers began, two chatted up about church, “I don’t hear the bells ringing any more!” and on grandchildren, “My granddaughter still works in Woodland Hills for a sod broker!”

Around the building, within spitting distance, ghetto apartments were sprayed with gang signs, prostitutes walked freely, speeding cars plowed through red lights, and old refrigerators and couches were dumped alongside the road.

But inside the room, reassuring voices of authority, festooned with badge and pistol, spoke of laws and arrests, patrols and progress against criminal activity.

Abandoned houses, trashy front yards, barking dogs at 3am, explosions, gunfire, helicopters, stolen cars, discarded marijuana containers, dumping, ubiquitous sex trade, stinky winds that blow sewage smells into the bedroom, none of these facts of life in Van Nuys would soon disappear, but some attendees were damn angry and determined to speak up and put a stop to the madness.

“Why don’t you arrest these prostitutes and ship them up to Nevada where it’s legal!” one man yelled. “They’ve been at it for forty years on Sepulveda.” And I pictured a sad whore, walking in the sun since 1975, wrinkled, abused and hated by local homeowners.

Another new arrival to Orion came with his pretty wife and spoke about his accounting of the used condoms found on streets around his beautiful estate.

“Since August 1st I’ve counted 33 condoms on Blucher, 44 on Langdon, 53 on Peach Avenue and 27 on Blucher!” he announced. My mind, always visual, imagined a sticky, gooey condom near a peach. For his wife, inviting the grandchildren into the front yard while a sex act was going on in front of the roses and white picket fence was quite appalling.


Some gentle people seemed innocent as to the fact that they lived amongst violence and anarchy. “The Mexican Mafia? What’s that?” a woman asked.

Another older woman spoke of her son coming home at 3am and passing three young men tagging a stop sign near Valley Presbyterian Hospital. “He stopped his car and rolled down his window and asked them why they were doing that,” she said. Officer DeLeon advised that it was, perhaps suggestible, not to confront three taggers at 3am in Van Nuys.

If Donna Reed and her family were transported to tonight’s meeting they would fit right in. That old time Angeleno, who came of age after WWII, whose life was formed in a sea of childish televised wonderment , made an appearance tonight, as delightful and improbable as Walt Disney meeting the Devil.

The local sweeties who came for this meeting were the nice ones who make up the silent and invisible and powerless backbone of Van Nuys. They cannot compare, in numbers or influence, these citizens, to the 180,000 who are in Van Nuys illegally, and whose presence regularly is spoken of in terms reverential and pandering, as when immigration reform comes up, as if we as a nation are commanded to do something to break the system further and destroy national sovereignty in the name of political correctness.

These people who gathered here tonight are regularly told there is not enough money for law and order, but when I spoke up and asked the crowd if they would pay fifty cents a gallon tax on gasoline to double the size of the (13,000) LAPD and bolster it, nobody raised their hand. “Why don’t you tax cigarettes?” a female cancer patient asked.

There will no doubt be more community meetings in the future, but the prospect for improvement in Van Nuys is dim. Without leadership, even the best intentioned community group, even the best cops on the beat, cannot hope to overcome the nonsensical and insane carnival of crime that dances all around us day and night. IMG_9557 IMG_9552



The Sun Came Up Slowly Above Sepulveda.

15200 Victory Blvd. 2 15200 Victory Blvd.Under dark, glassy, reflective, translucent, stormy, gray, inky blue clouds Van Nuys awoke today.

The hot sun and its aggression were held back. And the light came up slowly. The workers sat in their cars along Victory waiting for the red light to turn green.

Humidity, and the hint of rain, the blessed promise of water, hung in the air.

The Barn (in back)


Bulldozers carried pieces of broken-up pavement in the Wendy’s parking lot as mechanical jackhammers tore into old asphalt. Construction workers attacked the building, skillfully peeling and nailing glossy, modern effects.

West down Erwin, old cars and overgrown bushes flank houses where age and decay cannot hide. The past and its four-wheeled rusty remainders sit on driveways.

Erwin Near Langdon  Victory, where quiet houses sit next to six lanes of traffic.

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Back on the corner of Sepulveda and Victory, right where the police shot a man to death after he broke their window with a beer bottle, the empty parking lots and bank buildings are mute, without feeling, marooned in a landscape of cheap indifference.

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There is no civic center, no park, no church, no place to sit. The frenzy of cars and donut shops, office supplies and Jiffy Lube, this is one of the many centers of Van Nuys. But the center cannot hold. The consensus of American life is scattered here, as it is all over the land. Somewhere in the shadows, thousands of homeless are waking up in alleys, in their cars, behind buildings. The normality of life seems normal but things are awry.

When the traffic eases, people will speed past here, and some will run across the intersection to board buses, and the day and its distractions will obliterate the early morning calm.

Blight Walk.

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6552 Columbus Avenue; owner: Marinel C Agbunag
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.

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

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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
15102 Haynes/ 15105 Hamlin; owner Kathy J. Bauer.

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.


Stop, Thief!

Yesterday, around Noon, I went to meet my brother for lunch near his office at LaBrea and Wilshire.

I was early. We weren’t meeting until 1pm so I took a walk along the south side of Wilshire heading west, passing Detroit, Cloverdale and S. Cochran.

On the north side of Wilshire, I saw a middle-aged Asian woman in a green apron chasing a red-haired, plaid shirted male east towards Detroit. She was screaming, “Stop him! Stop him!” He kept looking back and outran her, eventually boarding a bus parked at Wilshire and LaBrea.

I ran too, crossing the street, breathlessly getting on the bus and telling the driver, “You have a man who just robbed a store on your bus. He is in back. I am calling LAPD!”

The driver waited. I called LAPD and reported a “hold-up” of a store on Wilshire and that the suspect was aboard a Metro bus. The police operator made me repeat the description of the suspect several times (“red hair, plaid shirt, middle-aged, white”).

I stood next to the bus, on the sidewalk and waited. The bus and its passengers, including the suspect, waited.

Then after about ten minutes, cops arrived.

Two police cars, including one unmarked, pulled behind the bus, shoved the rear engine cover up and crouched down, drawing their guns. Another car of cops went in front of the bus, and the police told us to all get out of the way.

I ran to the corner with others, and we watched, behind building at LaBrea, as the cops worked.

Then the driver got off and pointed at me, and a cop, his silver gun drawn, rushed at me and told me to put my hands up, to face the wall, to get down on the ground. His partner also ran at me, and I yelled, “I’m the one who called the police!” My hands up in the air, guns aimed at me, I was suddenly endangered and suspected of something. I don’t know what.

I was told to hand over my wallet and ID. And then I was allowed to put my hands down. The officer asked if my current address was the same as the one on my driver’s license.

“Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir…”

The suspect was removed from the bus, laid down on the sidewalk, handcuffed, and the other passengers got off and ran to another bus, parked down the street.

My brother came out of his office in the Samsung Tower, crossed the street, and asked me what happened.

Sweat poured down my face. We walked over to a restaurant for lunch. I ordered an iced tea, sat down at a table, wiped my face with a napkin and told him the true crime story.

Later, after lunch, I walked down Wilshire to find the lady who had been chasing the robber. I found her inside a little Korean convenience store. The cops had already visited her. Speaking not much English, she thanked me for my apprehension of the suspect, an action that might have ended my own life.

She gave me a cold iced tea.

Oh, and she said the thief had stolen three packs of cigarettes.