A few weeks ago, I was walking down my wide and lovely street, first built up in 1936 out of walnut groves. The houses are set far back from the street and the palms line the road, left and right. A friend called it “The Beverly Hills of Van Nuys,” which sounds about right because some 50% of the people here are unemployed and live off the books of good luck and inherited property. Just like Beverly Hills.
A few of the homes, more than a few, are now tarted up with vehicles, piled up on dirt, while other houses have paved over their front lawns to create loading docks with steel garages, yet others are now bedecked with pillars, columns, vinyl classicism, and Neo-Grande Glendalia. There is a rental house with an illegal 10’ high cyclone fence in front, painted 75% on the outside because the owner didn’t want to spend money to paint it all. Those are the better examples of upgrades.
I thought, rightly, that nobody is in control here. There is no government, no zoning, no regulation to prevent the desecration and disfigurement of older, 1940s ranch homes in Van Nuys. If someone wants to open a psychic business and put up a sign, or if they want to turn a half acres of trees and grass into a parking lot, that is their privilege.
Beyond our street, in the pages of this blog, through photographs and words, I have chronicled much of the small illegalities that plague Van Nuys, from homeless encampments, to squatters who pull shopping baskets full of trash together to make wagon trains of garbage. I have reported, hundreds of times, dumped mattresses, beds, couches; and got the city to repair potholes and clean up un-swept shopping malls.
This article concerns building codes, not codes of behavior, so no mention will be made of sex workers and johns, burglars, taggers, dumpers, or the family of three who parked in front last week to eat their two large pizzas and thought it polite to dump the greasy boxes along the curb until we came out and called them to shame them.
And our neighborhood presently, is in the third year of fighting the removal of hundreds of inoperable, flammable, polluting vehicles from a backyard, just after we finished the fight to evict a drug addict from a home he didn’t own, a few years after we slugged it out to prevent an adult treatment facility from operating out of a ranch house, and a decade and a half after I first took photos of the still rancid and slummy mini-mall on the NE corner of Victory and Kester owned by a Belair millionaire.
In between there were empty homes owned by absent landlords who just let their places sit and fester while paying on hundreds of dollars a year in taxes. Those homes were now sold and are occupied by struggling families paying $5,000 a month mortgages.
And who on my block can forget the four year old fight to cut down a 100’ tall dead eucalyptus that threatened to fall and kill anyone nearby, or to tumble down on electrical lines, or collapse on houses and kill their occupants? It was finally cut down, ¾ of the way, for free by LADWP, who were convinced, with my neighbor holding her infant son and young daughter on her arms, that please, please, do something so our families are not living next to this deadly thing!
This is the continuing tale of how it is to keep and apply the civilized norms of suburbia to our neighborhood whose natural inclinations are less than reputable.
The pigs run the show here, their sty is our hood.
So last week, I came out of my house and found that I had been written up by the LADBS, which runs a “pro-active” division of inspectors who walk around an area and cite those violations that threaten to pull down an area into a swamp of impoverished, unmaintained and unsightly dwellings.
My violation is now online, part of the official record of my property and in the public record.
Some of the trim on my house is peeling and needs to be repainted.
The LADBS pro-active brigade is actually writing up official notices about cracked paint and letting homeowners know that big brother is watching.
I spoke to the inspector’s office, downtown, and was informed, nicely, that it is a courtesy notice, not a more serious building safety violation.
But still, c’mon, please tell me that the only time the government comes to visit, the only moment in twenty years I remember of pro-activism, all they can do is write me up for alligatoring house paint.
I’m on it though.
That plan of mine to get a new dental implant will have to wait another year.