Blight Walk.


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6552 Columbus Avenue; owner: Marinel C Agbunag
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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.

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

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.

Alma Imogene Payne Waters (1922 – 2014) at 14336 Gilmore St., 1952


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Don Waters (b. 1954), who grew up in Van Nuys and now lives in Missouri, has been a longtime reader of this blog.

After seeing my recent photos of Gilmore Street, he recognized one particular bungalow court at 14336.

His parents, Donald (1929-2007) and Alma (1922-2014) had lived there in the early 1950s.

A 2007 obituary provides some family biography.

Don, very considerately, sent me a 1952 photograph of his mother, standing in the courtyard of the complex.

It must have been a quite pleasant neighborhood to live in: schools, government offices, stores, and churches, within walking distance.

In 1952, the San Fernando Valley was on the precipice of speeding into the future full throttle.

And now, in 2015, we look back and wonder what went so very wrong.

Nobody wears skirts in Van Nuys anymore.

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Gilmore St. Between Kester and Tyrone


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I walked along Gilmore this morning, a varied street one block north of Victory, and found old bungalows, church gardens, crappy apartments and neatly tended ones; along with a shoe repair shop, new Chinese food and a Mid-Century pharmacy.

Gilmore is an old street. A sidewalk was paved in 1929, but the road goes back further than that.

It was part of old Van Nuys, near town, school and church.

In the obliterating 1950s-70s, many old houses were torn down and replaced with rentable apartments, way before the revived fashion for “Mission.” If Gilmore had been preserved as only homes, it might look like today like a neighborhood of Pasadena.

 


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Guns, gangs, crime.

One might understand a small shopkeeper viewing the aforementioned with fear or suspicion.

A Photographer?

Yes it is the photographer, with a camera slung around his neck, who gets the nasty stares and the unwanted questions.

At the colorful Kovacs Pharmacy, a pharmacist came out, confronted me and wanted to know why I was shooting photos.

She asked for my card. I had none. I told her I was a photographer.

She went back inside.

Does one need to have an answer for taking a photo? Would you ever dream of walking up to a stranger- talking on the phone- and asking who they were calling? Would you walk up to a driver stopped at a light and ask, “Why are you driving?”


 

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At 14417, next door to Kovacs, time stands still as faded light illuminates a garage set way back in the yard, the kind of house and garden that once dotted this street.

At Sylmar Avenue, the Van Nuys Elementary School is still handsome and historic, roofed in red tiles and painted in warm tan.

The infamous spray marker of the Barrio Van Nuys (BVN) marks a fence outside of a bungalow court across from the school.

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The Central Lutheran Church, whose white and red brick façade on Victory at Tyrone seems sad and neglected, has a surprisingly vigorous and lush group of edible gardens spreading over at least a half acre or more of land. Very well-tended and green, the vegetables and plants propagate magnificently in fertile soil alongside wooden stakes and raised beds. It looks like a future bumper crop. Its gentle greenery stands in stark contrast to next door car repair and vacant parking lots.

When people talk about the revival of Van Nuys, of making the community better, they might start by visiting a street like Gilmore. Narrow and walkable, tree-shaded and neighborly, it has a variety of both individuals and institutions who are already contributing positive change to this district. They are feeding the homeless, educating the children, planting organic gardens and making Van Nuys come to life in the most unexpected and surprising places.

12012 Chandler.


$(KGrHqN,!oMFBlWKBW,RBQqwCPDGC!~~60_57 BRL61-0294 BRL64-0116 Honeywell Service Center Building Back Honeywell Service Center Building Front

Scanning through some of the postcards loaned to me by Tommy Gelinas at Valley Relics, I came across this 1963 postcard of a new building at  the corner of Chandler and Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood.

12012 Chandler was the home of “the first Honeywell 400 computer service center in the US.”

The Honeywell 400 was a system the size of a room, so nobody who worked with one carried it into this building for servicing. It was an early 1960s workhorse for processing payroll and other functions of business and industry. According to Kraza, Honeywell was part of a second generation of computers that came of age when transistors replaced vacuum tubes.  ” Transistorized computers were more powerful, more reliable, less expensive, and cooler to operate than their vacuum-tubed predecessors.”

The black and white photographs above show the Honeywell 400 in operation. However, they are not from 12012 Chandler.

Man in Truck Killed By Train: 1957


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In the 1950s, movies were censored.

Violence was off-screen.

Death, dismemberment, bloody accidents, injuries: all of it was hidden.

But real life photographers back then rushed to the scene and photographed the daily gore that makes the daily news.

One such example is this photo from May 5, 1957, near Vineland and Vanowen, where the lifeless body of Louis Bell, killed by a train in his truck, is lifted onto a stretcher.

Today we watch computer generated “entertainment” scenes of virtual gore that
would have made 1950s audiences vomit.

But who shoots real news photos today?


 

image.Train vsauto accident at Vineland Avenue and Vanowen Street14 May 1957Louis Bell (dead).Caption slipreads: "PhotographerGlickmanDate1957-05-14AssignmentTrain vsTruck 1 killedVineland Ave. and VanowenNoHollywoodG300/301/214/215Ambulance attendants lift body of Louis Bell onto stretcher; in background is his demolished truck".

The Changing Valley (2005-2014)


When I began “Here in Van Nuys” in March 2005, I was not on a mission to document the soon-to-be-demolished parts of the San Fernando Valley.

But through time, some of the buildings I photographed and wrote of are now gone.

Below are some of these.


These buildings stood on the west side of the Van Nuys Airport along Balboa Blvd. They evoked, especially in fog, the WWII era. They were functional and plain and were bulldozed in 2013 to make way for new development.

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The intersection of Burbank and Van Nuys Boulevard presented an opportunity to create a new, cohesive, architecturally significant corner. Alas, CVS, Chipotle and Chase Bank were all designed in vastly different styles and the area, upgraded, looks newer but without distinction.

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A community organizer from Chicago ran for President in 2008 and attracted these followers.

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The LA River in Encino near the Woodley Avenue Bridge was a river of plastic in February 2010 before the sweeping plastic bag ban was put into effect.

Feb 2010 LA River Near Balboa

In May 2010, the “Russians” came to Studio City and transformed a Brady Bunch era commercial shop into a twin onion domed monstrosity.

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Future home of “The Federal Bar” in North Hollywood before. (Circa 2008)

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Many lovely homes from the 1920s and 30s were demolished along La Maida St. in North Hollywood to make way for pre-crash condos. (July 2006)

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October 2007 along Redford St. in Studio City: more condos across from CBS.

Oct 2007 Radford