Sepulveda Fantasy

It’s a futile fantasy exercise to go the website Architizer and see what they are building in other wealthy cities around the world where 100,000 homeless people do not sleep on the street and it is isn’t considered normal to have shopping baskets full of trash polluting parks alongside $2.5 million dollar homes.

Here is a new apartment in Nantes, France designed by Hamonic + Masson & Associates. I think it’s rather pleasing, sleek, uplifting and progressive. It must be nice to live in such a bright, spaciousness, well-thought out structure. 

Imagine this apartment house along Sepulveda Boulevard between the Orange Line and Victory in Van Nuys, presently a junky, one-story collection of car washes, Pep Boys Auto, Wendy’s, Fatburger, a mini-mall with a mattress store, a paint store, Jiffy Lube, etc. Can you picture the day The Barn is gone and there is nowhere to buy an Amish Shaker Dark Mahogany stained dresser with metal pulls for $953 that even your Aunt Irma in Cerritos would hide in her garage.

How we would mourn if Pep Buys Auto and its grease, graffiti and garage doors full of axles on hydraulic lifts were banished forever and replaced by something modern and residential befitting a city in the third decade of the 21st Century.

What would it look like if all that were replaced by a 15- story-tall apartment with curving balconies and pleasing design within walking distance of public transportation, and convenient access to Costco, LA Fitness, Target, CVS and a Chinese market?

A building like that one replacing all the decrepit garbagetecture that lines Sepulveda between the Orange Line and Victory……imagine that?

Chief Design Officer?

Los Angeles should consider creating a position in city government to promote projects like this. I’m thinking a “Chief Design Officer”, perhaps someone with architectural knowledge and connections, to fire up a redesign and redevelopment of Van Nuys.

I’m surprised they haven’t invented this title yet, since this is such an architecturally minded city. 

It reminds me of a coincidence……

I had lunch with a city government man, last summer in Van Nuys. It was July 11, 2018. He rode the bus out to Van Nuys, perhaps for novelty or amusement. I met him on Aetna near the Orange Line. He claimed an important title, one that might be able to bring good things to Van Nuys. I was eager to meet him and see what might get started here.

We were scheduled to walk around the area and really explore how to improve it. I imagined we might go for a few hours along the boulevard, or the Orange Line, and see what kind of housing, lofts, beer gardens, cafes, tech companies could be built here. But the man was interested, obsessed mostly, in watching the semi-finals of the World Cup when England played Croatia.

We walked into the dismal State Office Building in Van Nuys, an awful mid-1980s strip windowed government place, and he was transfixed with it. But he still was eager to get somewhere, anywhere, and watch that game.

Every place we walked past he peered into the windows to see if they had a large screen TV, but alas, none did.

I suggested the Robin Hood tavern so we took an Uber there and sat amidst the packed crowds and watched the World Cup.

He had worked as an architecture critic at the LA Times and was coming to our district to see it for the first time, but first he had to watch that soccer match at The Robin Hood. We spent two hours in The Robin Hood, drinking beer and eating BLTs.

We parted and he promised to follow up and have “my intern” call you. But nobody ever did.

That was over six months ago.

The other night he was attending The Golden Mike awards ceremony where KPCC’s Larry Mantle took a lifetime achievement award. So I read on Twitter.

I’m going to write Mayor Garcetti and Councilwoman Nury Martinez and suggest they create a new government position for someone qualified who can get Van Nuys some top designs and bring up the depressing level of listlessness that infects our forgotten section of Los Angeles.  Needed is a person without pretense who doesn’t just kiss the ass of the fashionable, the powerful, the media stars who blow words and wishes over the suffering people of this city.

Maybe should even be the Chief Design Officer since I actually have a track record of preservation, clean-up, and heightening community awareness in Van Nuys and vicinity.  “Option A” which would have obliterated industrial, small shop Van Nuys with a 33-acre Metro light rail repair yard was defeated after this blog united community members to fight for the preservation of local, productive, creative, skilled industries near Kester and Oxnard.

But back to the CDO position…….

I don’t think they would hire me.

Frances Anderton has never heard of me. And I didn’t graduate from Berkeley and I don’t live in Silver Lake. And I have never given a graduation speech to the students at SCI-Arc.

I’m pretty sure those are the qualifications one needs to get hired for being a $200,000-$300,000 (?) a year Chief Design Officer.

4 thoughts on “Sepulveda Fantasy

  1. That Pep Boys photo was just depressing, in so many ways. And while the uninformed might get the impression that you wish them “banned”…….no…..we need Pep Boys. But perhaps better-sited , and not designing their bays to open directly onto Sepulveda, for example. Sometimes it’s just little things.

    Bus benches……as I see that pic was taken right at the Sepulveda intersection with the Orange Line, I assume the benches are used……but no cover of any sort? Who’s gonna want to sit at that bench in the rain……or when it’s 104 on a July afternoon? They treat bus riders as cattle, and that’s what you get as customers. Not just MTA or RTD, or whatever they call themselves now (I guess I am showing my age…LOL). Lived in Irvine – wealthy and oh-so-smart and relentlessly planned – from late 90s – early 10s. Some bus stops have benches, and some are covered, but a whole lot more are nothing but a steel pole growing out of the sidewalk with a small metal sign attached. So much for the “commitment to public transit” and Going Green and Gaia-love and all the other useless platitudes.

    As to Ms Anderton…..she “studied architecture”……Degreed? Registered? What architect doesn’t have a burning desire to actually design and build something, even if it’s just a tool shed? Appears instead her attention was quickly grabbed by the bright and shiny object of L.A. Media, and so now she runs around metaphorically fellating starchitects of the month. I guess not a bad gig. “Make you famous!”, for sure. Attend fun events and sit on interesting panels and all that. Despite what she claims in her KCRW promos, I don’t think she spends much time peering over the Hollywood Hills.


    1. The bus benches without covering. My pet peeve. I see people, not only on Sepulveda, but all over who must wait for the bus in burning sun, next to garbage, sometimes with homeless sleeping on the bench. It’s a disgrace.


  2. I want to know how Christopher Hawthorne, the Mayor’s rep, went to Van Nuys and didn’t venture north of Victory into the Mayor’s officially sanctioned ‘Great Street’, or west or east of VN Blvd into the yet-to-be-designed Funk Zones?
    How were Christopher Hawthorne’s architectural instincts tickled by the frontier-like quality of uber-walkable downtown VN?
    In what ways did he forsee developers drawing significance from banality?
    What buildings should be repurposed and how?
    What would he do with Deardens, and its vast parking lot?
    The Social Security building?
    La Tapultecha?
    The old Bank of America building?
    All mid-century showcases.
    Would he landmark Firestone tires?
    What examples could Christopher Hawthorne point to of other neighborhoods which have ‘transitioned’, badly or well, and what could we glean from that?
    How did Christopher Hawthorne feel about swap meet stalls on the sidewalk and layers of garish signage overlaying historic storefronts? What design advice did he offer?
    How did he feel about plating companies and auto body shops holding prime property ideal for redevelopment?
    If the CDO of Los Angeles finds the one shiny object in VN to be the State Office Building maybe there should be a new position called Taste Ambassador Ad Litum.
    It’s a great acronym, like SciARC.
    Futbol, squirrel.


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