The Once and Future Panorama City.

In Panorama City near Roscoe and Tobias, a once bustling shopping center, housing a Montgomery Ward and Electric Avenue, sits in desolation and decay.

Acres of asphalt, decorated with some tree islands, surround windowless buildings paint washed in blues, pinks, grays, and greens.

A bustling, prosperous, crowded shopping center closed down and emerged as a 21st Century ghost town. The stores died but the ghosts are alive.


Los Angeles is like that. A wagon train of commercial banality moves around the city, setting up camp every decade and replacing what came before it. Melrose and Westwood were hot in the 80s and now it’s Santa Monica. Downtown LA was dead for so long. Now it is ascendant, and should stay that way until about 2030. Culver City is competing against Century City. Pasadena is jogging to keep in place, and upstart Glendale is emulating Beverly Hills.

And Reseda, Panorama City, Van Nuys, and Northridge are on life support.

Up there at Roscoe and Tobias something so vast and so important, a place that hundreds worked in, and thousands shopped at is gone, and waiting for a new huckster and a new plan.

What follows is purely imaginary but may contain some grains of truth.

No doubt, when the powers that be ordain it, it will be “mixed use” and appear gentle and green and village like. There will be fountains and benches and lounges and 14 movie theaters and 2 Costcos interspersed between senior living, child friendly, family welcoming, diversity hiring, green-certified and wifi-enabled promises.

The LA Times and the Daily News will write about it. But nobody will read it. An uninformed citizenry is the best choice for a nation hoping to remain powerless or for a community uninterested, unprepared and unlearned in its own future.

There will be a groundbreaking event with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilwoman Nury Martinez, LA Philharmonic Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the St. Genevieve Catholic Church Choir, the Kaiser Permanente/Westfield Mall Hospital Executive Board, along with LAFD red fire trucks, LAPD black and white police cars and actors Eric Estrada, Mario Lopez, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez. KCAL will interrupt regular broadcasting to cover “breaking news” here.

Today’s event marks the revitalization of Panorama City!

This is a new day for Panorama City with walkable, urban living 20 miles north of the city center.

This will be the finest shopping center between Van Nuys and Pacoima!

When civilization comes to Los Angeles it has to be underwritten by banks, the Chinese Government and the Westfield Corporation.

I imagine it will be centered around walking. But no buses will stop here.

There will be 100 affordable income apartments renting for $2800 a month, and 4,000 market priced units starting at $800,000.

There will be an 8-story tall parking structure for 5,000 cars, and 10 bikes and high-security cameras surrounding it all.

In the 110-degree heat, black spandex clad people will drive here in their air-conditioned SUVs. They’ll eat organic ice cream,  climb artificial rock walls, work out at the new 24 Hour Fitness and emerge to drink ice coffee. They will eat Unami Burgers, drink Golden Road beer, and shop at Crate and Barrel. Every weekend, three new blockbuster films will screen here, and thousands of tattooed fatties in flip-flops will pay $16 a ticket to watch computer generated toys destroy the Earth.

President Donald Trump will send congratulatory messages to the community where nobody voted for him and promise “amazing and unbelievable things” for Panorama City. Forgotten was his promise to deport which would have brought the population of the area to less than 100 people.

Or maybe none of the above will happen, and the big frontier will go on a little longer, a reminder of what shopping center life was like in 1975.

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8 thoughts on “The Once and Future Panorama City.

  1. Oh, how I love your photos. I think we’re brothers that were separated at birth. But you’re the talented one.

    I’m headed to Detroit in June for a conference. I think Detroit offers a sneak preview of many American cities. Not the ruin porn. There’s plenty of that all around the country, just in less obvious smaller patches. This dead suburban mall for example. No, what I mean is that Detroit got there first. The disinvestment, the failed municipal pensions, the unpaved roads, the depopulation. Detroit isn’t an anomaly. It’s a harbinger.

    That’s actually the good news. We know what the worst case scenario looks like. Detroit now offers the opportunity for people to start fresh on the cheap in a place where all the usual restrictions and constraints have melted away in a national shrug. The place is too far gone for anyone to care about. It’s ripe for reinvention. It’s the new frontier. Come sake your claim on a section of good bottom land. It’s free for the taking if you don’t mind roughing it for the first few years.


    1. Thank you Johnny.

      I’ve thought about Detroit or perhaps Indian Village where some gorgeous old house with six bedrooms might sell for $120,000.

      A day after I wrote the Panorama City piece, a developer did indeed announce plans for a Grove -like, mixed use project.


  2. You’re not too far from the truth. There is a developer who has bought the parcel. Yes, there is a shopping center and also residences planned. However, the residences will all be apartments, not condos. Keeping fingers crossed that it will actually happen, because it looks like it actually will be a decent place, if built. Hope you’re wrong about President Trump, that would be scary.


  3. Thank you for posting these photos. This is so sad to see as I remember well this shopping area back in the 1960s and 1970s. My mother liked to take us to Robinson’s, Orbach’s, and Montgomery Ward’s for back to school shopping. It was one of the nicest shopping centers in the valley back then. Is the Americana movie cinema still there? Saw many movies there during my youth. Think it had two theaters at that time.


  4. Sad. They should at least tear down all that eyesore that it is, dontcha think? Same thing in North Hollywood along Laurel Canyon and Victory Blvds. I remember there were big plans for that huge parcel of land at one time, but so much for that, right?! Just terrible! Could be a nice, big park (or something!).


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