The board members, at least eight of them, gathered last night at the Marvin Braude Center in Van Nuys, as they do every month.
I sat in the audience wearing my J Crew crew neck sweater, corduroy trousers and Nike shoes. I had washed my face and brushed my teeth. Groomed, I felt oddly out of place.
There were about 30 people attending. They were dressed in what passes for public attire. They wore enormous stained sweatpants, big potato sack dresses, oversized t-shirts, and shorts. The suited men wore jackets and trousers woven from fibers last seen on government workers in 1986 Chernobyl: radioactive and polyestered, cheap, throwaway, bent, deformed and ugly.
The sartorial costumes emulated the discourse.
The mood was ugly. Fingers were pointed, insults traded, accusations leveled.
People were angry, people were upset, people were owed money.
On the left side of the board, a pint sized new treasurer. She is attempting to balance books which have not been attended to in a year. She inherited reports that are an unholy mess of hidden and unscrupulous monies. And she tried to speak. She told of her own hours spent making sense of it. She spoke of trips to the storage facility to retrieve documents, trips denounced by other board members as unlawful since she was alone.
Public comment included an elderly woman, double-chinned and triple-infuriated, who pointed her fat fingers at one of the board members who had treated her unfairly. The situation had something to do with the LAPD. Her male companion yelled out and was told to raise his hand.
And a young representative from former Councilman Tony Cardenas came to say good-bye. His big assed boss, who left Van Nuys as he found it, dirty, decrepit and disrespected, was on his way to Congress. That’s where the gifts are bigger and the salaries larger. The rep was told by one board member (in so many words) that Mr. Cardenas sucked and that he treated Van Nuys like garbage.
Another board member, black and female, had spoken at the dais and told of the unholy alliances, secret wars, and other mischief going on in the Van Nuys Community Council. Like a prophet from the Bible, she spoke of the wrath of government and consequences to be paid for misdeeds.
And when the treasurer spoke again, politely, contritely, apologetically and sincerely , she was jumped on by other board members who told her that she was neglecting her duties, duties she has only held for a month or two. This included forgetting to a pay a vendor who drove 100 miles from Hemet to collect $300 dollars.
On the right side of the board, one older gentleman was welcomed back, to resume his duties which he has done before. And will, presumably, do all over again, because his first venture was so transforming for Van Nuys.
Another public commenter spoke angrily, decrying the board for not putting printed copies of that night’s agenda out on the table . A few minutes later, he spoke again and called the VNCC President a failure.
There were many residents gathered for a presentation by a developer who is turning the Pinecrest School property at Hazeltine and Sherman Way into a massively ugly residential housing project. 180 three-story high townhouse units will be wall-to-wall stacked, assembled and packed into place. There will be no parks, no public gathering place; just many units with garages underneath, shoved into buildable lots. It was another example of Los Angeles as its worst: exploitative, cheap, insensitive, lacking community input.
The hapless construction presenter was set upon by angry neighbors who objected to their quiet residential area besieged by yet more grossness, that seemingly never ending housing product that disfigures modern Los Angeles from the Pacific to Palm Springs.
Back to the board which again decried the lack of funding for Christmas gifts for tots, which is only about a month away. There will be no Christmas in Van Nuys, or as it is called “The Holiday Season”.
Liquor was big on the agenda last night, as it is one of the growth industries in Van Nuys, along with bail bonds, pot clinics and more bail bonds.
One lady, who runs a liquor store on Victory, said her store is under new management. She didn’t say what it was called, or where it was located, but she seemed legitimate and fully in possession of her facilities.
Finally, another cheaply dressed balding attorney,who represents CVS and had formerly represented BP Oil and Exxon (yes, seriously, why would you tell anyone that?) came in front of the board to tell of an exciting new addition to commercial Van Nuys: the addition of a liquor store to the CVS on the corner of Sherman Way and Sepulveda.
The CVS liquor licensing excited one board member who said she had worked for ARCO for fifteen years. She had managed gas stations and knew a thing or two about the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the LA Sheriff, and the LAPD. She knew how CVS should train its employees in liquor selling. She said if anyone was found to sell alcohol without proper ID, then that employee, manager, or even the store could lose their license and/or their job.
She spoke with authority.
But her authority derived from nothing, since she possesses, as a Van Nuys Community Council member, no power to penalize violators.
The CVS representative said half a million had been spent on the upgrading and appearance of the Sherman Way store. She said CVS placed a priority on their stores’ appearance. I thought of the urine-soaked, trash-heaped, paint-peeled CVS on the corner of Laurel Canyon and Ventura in swank Studio City, and had a laugh.
At least Van Nuys has nicer CVS stores than Studio City.