South On Van Nuys Bl. Near Sylvan St. 9/27/1952

Among the many changes Van Nuys has undergone in the last 60 years, two stand out in this old photograph.

Diagonal curb parking and the Pacific Electric Rail helped ground the street and divide it into manageable, smaller, more walkable and more friendly parts.

In 1954, the street was widened, and the streetcar eliminated. North Hollywood’s Valley Plaza (1951) helped hasten the decline of the small business shopping street, and thus, the decline of Van Nuys Boulevard as a clean, pleasant, prosperous destination.

LAPL: 1958 plans for Valley Administrative Center in Van Nuys

The late 1950s saw the demolition of many blocks of old Van Nuys to make way for the civic center, a misguided urban renewal project that put the LAPD hundreds of feet behind Van Nuys Boulevard and created a dead zone behind the Valley Municipal Center. A new library in this moonscape replaced the older, more elegant one on Sylvan which still stands today.

And cobra necked anti-crime streetlights disfigure Van Nuys Boulevard and give it an air of a malingering, dated, 1960s speedway.

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