A few years ago, informally, someone named our section of Van Nuys, “Kester Ridge” even though there is no elevation here, only a continuation of the same elevation that runs from Victory to Vanowen and from Kester west to Sepulveda.
But everyone believes and uses the imaginary name, invoking it to conjure up community coherence.
The area is generally well-kept, anchored by grander houses along Hamlin St. that were built in the late 1930s when 18 acres were carved out of walnut groves. Now many of these homes are being carved into concrete ranchettes with car repair in the garage, and backyards denuded of trees and replaced with driveways and black Hummers. But the bucolic air of the recent past still remains if you drive down Hamlin without looking right or left.
To the north are well-maintained, solid ranch houses along such streets as Kittridge, Haynes, Saloma, Lemona, Norwich, Noble and Burnet.
These are tree-lined streets and the people who live here try to keep their homes clean. The average price of a house is somewhere around $800,000, though they rarely go over a million or less than $600,000.
Most houses have security cameras and alarms, and almost every home has been burglarized, but people are vigilant.
The recent developments along Sepulveda, the tearing down of old prostitution motels like The Voyager, would seem to foretell something positive, but new, 200 unit apartments, five stories tall, with hundreds of new parking spaces and modern, looming architecture, has instead created unease and worry in this area.
Last night, at Valley Hospital, in the community room, representatives from Councilwoman Nury Martinez’s office and a gentleman who works for the City of Los Angeles government and advises on parking restrictions, spoke about potentially creating permitted parking on our single-family residential streets.
This action would, homeowners hoped, stop the proliferation of cars and other vehicles that are now crowding the curbs, especially on streets closer to apartment buildings.
But in order for the licensed, fee-based system of placards and registration to take place, 75% of all the residents in the area would have to agree that paid parking by permission only was their preference.
That blew the gasket and infuriated attendees. They now understood that 75% of apartment units on Victory, Sepulveda, Vanowen and Kester would have to join in the clean curb party and sign a petition saying they wanted to rent out annual permits to park along formerly free streets. That will never happen.
Apartment dwellers depend on nearby streets to store their cars at night and get to work in the morning. Just like everyone who stays in a house.
There is no way to reason with people in Los Angeles who want unclogged streets, nobody parking on their street, the ability to get downtown in 20 minutes, and enough parking for every trip to the gym, Costco, 99 Ranch Market and Trader Joes.
Explain to them that $4,000 a month rental houses and $3,000 a month apartments will require perhaps four or five adults to split the rent, each with their own car. The less rentable housing that exists, the less apartments that are built, the more these rents will increase.
Why are some people sleeping in tents? Or cars? Or RVs?
Every political and social problem evaded ends up costing us in other ways.
Along Victory Boulevard, west of Sepulveda, as along many other streets, I witness the morning rush hour of single occupancy drivers sitting still as they wait for the light to change at Sepulveda, right in the midst of “Midvale Estates” where there are only single-family houses. If apartments cause congestion, why is this picket-fenced bastion of Ozzie and Harriet clogged?
As for parking, there are very few people who still park their car inside their garage. The garage is now a storage unit for boxes, belongings, etc. The cars that are once sat inside are now on the driveway, and perhaps the curb.
A tiny, white house is rented. And the people who live there have four cars, and none of them are parked inside the home.
There is also conspicuous consumption in this city, a style of showing off cars that means that vehicles are put outside where everyone can see you are making it with your BMW and Mercedes even though you haven’t held a full-time job in three years.
That is repeated all over Los Angeles.
Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, yet many who live here cling to the vision that it should function like an efficient, low-density town in the Midwest.
The car should be everywhere, at our disposal every hour of the day, yet it should somehow disappear if it belongs to someone else.
When visionaries present a city of road diets, bike lanes, denser housing near transit lines, that’s when the panic starts.
And we go back to planning our lives around everything for the car. And idle in rage.