A Stark Place.


The center of Van Nuys is the Civic Center. The raison d’etre of this pedestrian mall: nobody comes here unless they are forced to.

Here is where you come to file small claims, to appear before a judge, to file plans for a room addition, to borrow a book, to speak to your Councilwoman, to talk to a cop, to ask for an extension of probation.

You can also push your shopping cart full of belongings here, plop on a bench, open a bottle of vodka and drink yourself silly without interference. There are guards, guns, and security cameras, but they are aimed at the general public, not intoxicated people covered in four weeks of dirt.

There is one glorious structure, built in 1933, the Valley Municipal Building. And then there is everything around it, including the “new” library (1964), the “new” LAPD (1965), the Marvin Braude Center (1994), the Van Nuys Courthouse East (1965), the Van Nuys Courthouse West (1990), the James C Corman Federal Building (1973) and the double decker County Parking Facility at 6170 Sylmar Ave. an $850,000 symphony of concrete opened in 1968. Also vast and comprehensive: the LAPD Motor Transport Facility at 6170 Tyrone Ave. where cop cars are prettied up behind fences.

If you want to register a new business you can come to the Los Angeles County Registrar at 14340 Sylvan St. and make your way past half a dozen aggressive hucksters passing out business cards in which they offer, for a fee, to transact your business for you.

If Van Nuys were a 1962 film by Michaelangelo Antonioni, its stark, barren, nuclear winter surroundings would make for an immensely powerful setting showing the alienation of man from urban environment.

There is so much concrete here, the place is awash in it. It is sculptured, sliced, stacked, plated, affixed, drilled, and molded into so many walls, sidewalks, plazas, and decorative designs. Never before and not since 1964-70, has concrete been so worshipped, so valued, so esteemed, not just for freeways but for art itself.

Come here if you can, just to see the concrete.

The empty post office.

2 thoughts on “A Stark Place.

  1. Wow. I haven’t been in that plaza area for like 45 years, but I remember walking to Van Nuys Elementary back in the 60’s and the library was new-ish and my friends and I would hang out there ‘cause we were insatiable readers and I remember all the wood inside, and the wooden index card boxes and such! That was before the high-rise buildings were built and I only remember the police station and the library and the nice new plaza (walking areas). There were NO bums, NO homeless people back then at all!! Hard to believe, isn’t it?! LOL!! 😒 I can hardly believe it myself! Then you experience Van Nuys now…. SO SAD! It’s a SIN (IMO) how the local government has let the whole area go down the shitter like it has!!! 😡 Unbelievable!!! All these bastards should be fired immediately!! What the hell happened to Van Nuys?? My gosh, my grandparents and great grandparents came here on the wagon trains from Oklahoma in the early 1900’s and were some of the first folks to settle in Van Nuys! They bought a house so cheaply back then on what was then called Bessemer Gulch! Later Bessemer Street. They lived there and had my mom, who then ended up 5 houses down from my grandparents, and later had me. I lived there until 1982, then moved to my first apartment on Woodman Ave. between Victory and Vanowen. I lived there until the 1990’s, then moved away from the area. I remember there was a picture of me, my mom, and my grandma on the front page of the Greensheet (heh-heh—-going back, right?!) along with an article and interview of us about being three generations in Van Nuys! I mean, I’m a TRUE Van Nuys dude! I went to Van Nuys Elementary, Van Nuys Jr. High, graduated from Van Nuys High, then went to Valley College for two years, for God sakes!! Lived and worked in Van Nuys until the 1990’s. So I’ll tell ya, I’m definitely an authority of sorts on what was there then, as it evolved through the years. So that’s why I love this little site, talking about the old days, listening to the stories about how it was, etc., as I can relate to that like most can’t. Strange. Regardless of how it is now, I have a billion cool memories of how great this place once was! I guess that’s why it makes me so sad to see it sink like it has. I will always have a warm spot for good ol’ VN! I love getting an email letting me know when a new story pops here so I can again go down memory lane with you guys! Please don’t ever stop writing about it! I’d be pretty hurt to not have this anymore! It’s all I have left to connect with the era since everyone older than me in my family is now dead. But as long as I have my memories, and I don’t forget, Van Nuys will always be my special place, as I was completely brought up there!

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