The Plaintive Call.


 

A few weeks ago, around 7:30 at night, I received a phone call from an upset stranger.

“Paul Dunbar” said he was a neighbor. A woman had given him my number. And told him Andrew, at “Here in Van Nuys”, might be helpful.

Mr. Dunbar explained that he lived with his wife and two children in a home he has owned for the past 16 years. His 1950s ranch has three bedrooms, and a large den facing a backyard pool. It is a classic old Valley house. But it is now under assault.


DSCF0880
Dunbar Family Pool.
DSCF0870
Just Beyond the Fence Behind the Dunbars.
DSCF0868
A backyard paradise which will have an audience in the next few months.
DSCF0866
A single famly house now developed as a multi-family rental property.
A few months earlier, the house behind the Dunbar’s was sold and purchased by an LLC. That entity was now constructing two houses, intended for rental use, on an 8,099 sf lot, zoned R1 (single family).

The back house, entirely new, will rise up two stories and contain a two-car garage below, and living spaces upstairs. The renters will enjoy an outdoor balcony whose view will be the Dunbar pool below and the back of the Dunbar House where all activities, indoor and outdoor, will be under the scrutiny of strangers.

A backhoe had dug up all the vegetation, and had deforested the backyard. A naked slat wood fence was all that stood between the neighboring houses. Rising up, like Godzilla over Tokyo, was a new 22.5-foot high house with many windows.

The egregious backyard neighbor’s two houses will be rented out. The renters (whomever they are) will live, and look down, across the entire width and breadth of the formerly private property. At night, the Dunbar Family drama will be a stage show for prying eyes.

Exhaustively, and in detail, Paul Dunbar kept records of the various letters, emails and phone calls he made to many city agencies and offices: Councilwoman Nury Martinez, District 6; Assembly member Adrin Nazarian; LA’s Department of Building and Safety; City Inspectors,the City Attorney’s Office. Senior Lead Officer Erika Kirk, LAPD, even intervened, with no results.

The upshot of the situation is that a speculator can buy a home on a single-family lot and put two houses on one lot with a “variance”.

All the neighbors in the area are aghast. They know anybody can now come in and demolish. And then construct two new, rentable houses on old, one-family 8,000 SF lots. A bad precedent has been set.

IMG_0667
Construction for the new multi-family development on a single-family lot.
The New Homes of the LLC Family.
The New Homes of the LLC Family.
“What is the point of investing your life savings and a large portion of your monthly paycheck into a single family neighborhood? The city decides they will change it with no explanation/warning. And NO representation to voice your feedback, unless you spend more money and time for an attorney to fight what is already a done deal?” Mr. Dunbar asked.

A few hours later in the afternoon, the first story of the new guesthouse rises over the Dunbar fence.
The first story of the eventual two-story house rises above the Dunbar fence.
DSCF0888
Privacy Under Assault.


 

Van Nuys, in the aftermath of the recession, has regained most of its pre-2007 property values. But the average house in our neighborhood might be worth $550,000. If a home sells for $500,000 and needs $150,000 worth of work to remodel it, there is little incentive to flip it if the ceiling is only $700,000.

Therefore, the only way to make property profitable in Van Nuys is to carve up the pieces and put some income producing business on it.

Some speculators are trying the LLC route. Others are engaged in various nefarious scams.

There are now businesses that are buying up houses around the area and using single-family houses as sober living halfway houses. The owners bill insurance companies thousands of dollars for each resident, and then cram six or seven un-related adults into a house. The operators can earn $20,000 or $30,000 a month paid for by health insurance, subsidized by Obama Care.

My cousin, who sometimes works in these “sobriety” houses, says they are a profitable business and he knows of people who bought up multiple $1,500,000 houses in Beverlywood and set them up as post-addiction estates. Van Nuys, with lower cost housing, is in the sights of unscrupulous people bilking medical insurance to finance these arrangements.

Other properties that are zoned for single-family houses are now being redeveloped as denser housing to encourage more intensive use of large parcels of land. Allegedly creating a more walkable city, the new “small-lot” zoning will pour additional cars onto the street day and night.

The LLC situation means that individuals are not the new homeowners. Companies owning many houses will buy up distressed properties and rent them out, and they will also find ways around the zoning laws to carve up lots and cram in homes.

Poor Van Nuys.

Even when properties are rehabilitated they are simultaneously degraded.

Who is in charge of zoning? And who is in charge of handing out permits? Why and how is it allowed that an LLC can throw up two houses on one lot in the midst of our single-family home neighborhood?

Why are we always fighting new forces intent on destroying Van Nuys?

Why are people in power deaf to their constituency?

Julius Blue, Whites Only, Van Nuys, 1948.


7 18 1948.jpg

According to WWII Army Enlistment Records, on March 9, 1942, Julius Blue, a 21-year-old Negro citizen from Walker County, Alabama enlisted at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The United States had been attacked by Japan three months earlier, and this nation was now involved in a struggle against the formidable and murderous Axis powers: Germany, Japan and Italy.

Unknown to most of the world, Germany was also engaged in the world’s most advanced genocide against unarmed Jewish citizens of every nation in Europe.

America fought not only to win, but to free enslaved peoples.

When the war was over, Julius Blue, now married, made his way to Los Angeles and settled at 1655 E. 40th Place in South LA.

By 1948, Los Angeles was booming. Jobs, factories, housing: the state was on fire.

And up in Van Nuys, near the corner of Roscoe and Sepulveda, 392 single-family homes were under construction at “Allied Gardens.” Terms were very favorable for veterans. A $10,400 home with a $66.80 mortgage could be had for $400 down.

Only 6 Left.jpg

Large Tract Given Name.jpg

So one fine day in 1948, Julius Blue, his wife and her parents made their way up to Allied Gardens to look at the new homes.

When they got to the development, instead of being shown plans, the promoters handed the Blue Family a mimeographed document. It contained this description:

“No person whose blood is not entirely that of the Caucasian Race (and for the purposed of this paragraph no Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Hindu or any persons of the Ethiopian, Indian or Mongolian races shall be deemed to be Caucasian) shall at any time live upon any of the lots in said Tract 15010”

Boltenbacher and Kelton, the builders, were allowed, at that time, to restrict purchasing of their homes to only whites. They were unapologetic about their open prejudices and discriminatory policies.

In that same year, 1948, the US Supreme Court ruled against race restrictive covenants.

If Mr. Blue had been able to buy a house at Roscoe and Sepulveda, he might have tried to apply for work at the brand new General Motors plant five minutes away at Van Nuys Boulevard north of Raymer.

But that plant also discriminated against black people. There were thousands of jobs, but only a handful of black workers, mostly janitors, employed in that factory.

3 11 48 GM Bias.jpg

These are some tales of old Los Angeles told by the LA Sentinel, a black-owned paper whose news coverage reported (and continues to report) stories often ignored by the LA Times and other white-owned media.

While it is amusing in our present time, and poetically just, to imagine that the multi-ethnic San Fernando Valley was once, by law and custom, reserved only for white buyers, it is still shocking to contemplate the blatant sadism, inhumanity and unfairness of that old time racism.

Julius Blue was not the only black man who had difficulty buying a home in Los Angeles. The August 12, 1948 LA Sentinel also had this headline:

HATEFUL SIGN PLASTERED ON “KING” COLE’S $85,000 PALACE

Nat “King” Cole and his wife were planning on moving into Hancock Park but they were bitterly opposed by neighbors who feared that the dark-skinned entertainer and popular singer’s presence would reduce property values.

In 1948, Nat “King” Cole: wealthy, talented, successful, world-famous; fought to buy his own house in Los Angeles.

Think about it.

LA Sentinel.jpg 8 12 48

As a footnote, in 1987, Julius Blue, 65, was seriously wounded in a drive-by shooting in South Los Angeles.

I don’t know whether he survived.

But his story is the story of so many black men. How they managed to stay alive and keep their chins up high is truly astonishing and inspiring. And deeply distressing.

We Americans are the inheritors of an illogic and unreason that herds men and women into racial categories.

We Americans must uphold individual, not group, character as the only standard of moral judgment.

If we again buy into con-man ideas about group wide evil, we are going back in time to somewhere dark and ignorant, not pushing ahead into enlightenment and reason.

Dec 3 1987

Stamping Out Deviancy: 1966


 

“The community was stunned last week when Capt. Eugene Linton, commander of the Van Nuys Police Division, said homosexuals, prostitution and wife swapping parties were real problems in the area”- LA Times/ October 13, 1966

In the mid 1960s, the Sherman Oaks/Van Nuys area was stunned, and shocked, to learn that vice was rampant.

To deal with sexual deviancy, the Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce, led by President Dr. Fred Adelson, proposed “citizen patrols” to inspect bars and nightclubs that might be contributing to societal breakdown.

Lest the general public think that there was a complete reversion to Sodom and Gomorrah, Adelson assured that morality and progress was well entrenched with many fine shopping and medical centers, high-rise buildings and “14 well-attended churches” attesting to the general goodness of ethics in the community.

How high-rise buildings, medial centers, shopping malls and churches might reduce the amount of wife swapping and homosexuality in Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys is one of the enduring mysteries, that 50 years later cannot be answered. Perhaps florescent lighting, elevators and sealed windows cooled Mid-Century sexual desire, even when high heels, desk drawer bourbon, short skirts and high finance stoked the fires.

Whatever became of the good-minded crackdown was drowned out by the long-haired, psychedelic party that swept the Golden State around the time Jeannie popped out of her bottle.

But in recalling the tenor of 1966, we are reminded again that the reassuring voice of business, law enforcement and religious leadership has never faltered. And as Ted Cruz reminds us… will continue to inspire us even in the 21st Century.

 

 

 

Drunk Driver Arrested: September 23, 1963


Foolish Robert Norris, 25, of 4809 Sepulveda Blvd, Van Nuys, was celebrating his last day on probation and decided to celebrate. He got drunk and went for a drive. After he was pulled over, near Balboa and Vanowen, he told the police, “You’ll have to shoot me to take me back.” Then he ran away but was subdued by four cops and taken into custody.

This is a glimpse into the good old days of Van Nuys when criminals were thin and white and had Anglo-Saxon names.

Photos: Jeff Robbins
Courtesy LAPL/Valley Times

00120524

00120525

00120526

00120527

00120528

Liquor Store Robbery Suspects in Custody: October 31, 1963


Photos courtesy of LAPL. Credit: Jeff Robbins

A few weeks before Artist Josef Silhavy presented his distinguished oil portrait of Thomas Jefferson to the President and Executive Vice President of the Jefferson Savings Bank in Van Nuys, the Red Valentine Liquor Store at 6735 Sepulveda Blvd. was held up and robbed of $25 on Halloween Night 1963.

Raymond Carpenter
Raymond Carpenter
Ronald Lee Ellmers
Ronald Lee Ellmers

Goateed and white-shirted Raymond Carpenter was arrested, along with his accomplice Ronald Lee Ellmers. Both men were AWOL from Fort Ord, a US Army post on Monterey Bay, CA, which closed in 1994.

The Red Valentine Liquor Store was also the scene of a shooting on June 11, 1951.

To our modern eyes, accustomed to seeing oversized vaca negras in black, XXL shirts emerge from every televised car chase, these criminals of a half-century ago are lithe, fit and neatly groomed.

If they were young, alive and looked like that today, they might be sitting at Starbucks working on their blog. Or perhaps mixing mash at MacLeod Ale.

Opening of the Financial Center Building (14545 Victory), 1963


00129222
00108813
In the 1960s, Van Nuys was booming, respectable and the site of progressive, modern banking.

00108814

In this October 7, 1963 photo, from the Valley Times Collection at the LAPL, actors and local business and financial leaders gather to snip a ribbon at the new headquarters of the Financial Center Building. The building still stands, just west of Van Nuys Boulevard.
00108815

“Dressed in a custom-made Lincoln-style outfit, Martin Pollard, left, chairman of the board of Lincoln Bank, 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys, snips the ribbon with the symbolic rail-splitting ax to open the new headquarters in the Financial Center Building. Assisting Pollard in the opening ceremonies were Arthur D. Aston, president of the Van Nuys Chamber of Commerce; Ed Begley, actor; La Rayne Richards, Miss Van Nuys; Miles Rhyne, president of the bank, and Horace Heidt, honorary mayor of Van Nuys. Following a two-day grand-opening Thursday and Friday, the bank has returned to regular schedule of hours, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays.”

Not only was there a Lincoln Bank in the new Financial Center Building, but also a Jefferson Savings. In the photo below, men in suits and women in high heels smile at a bright future of home loans.

00129223

“First visitor to Jefferson Savings’ new headquarters in the six-story Financial Center Building is Mrs. Jones Hawley of Encino, left. She is given a warm welcome by president William Ravenscroft, left center, executive vice president and manager Larry Kirwan, and Miss Los Angeles (Jackie Jansen). Miss L. A. served as official hostess during Jefferson Savings’ open house celebration. New building is at 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys.”

Four days before President Kennedy was assassinated, an oil portrait of Thomas Jefferson was presented to Jefferson Savings.

November 18, 1963 reads, “Famed artist Josef Silhavy (left) talks about his finished oil painting of Thomas Jefferson to president William Ravenscroft (right), and executive vice president and manager Larry Kirwan, Jefferson Savings and Loan Association. Painting hangs in Jefferson Savings’ new headquarters in Financial Center Building, 14545 Victory Blvd., Van Nuys.”

00129224