The New Fire Station


Long fought, both for and against, a new No. 39 fire station is nearing completion at 14615 Oxnard at Vesper, west of Van Nuys Boulevard.

It replaces a smaller, historic one on Sylvan Street across from the Valley Municipal Building. The older one is from the 1930s, and was a fine looking structure in the Art Deco design of that era. Perhaps a new brewery can move in there when the fire fighting folks vacate.

The new one, picks again from the era of the 1930s, but also borrows from nearby: to an obscure but beautifully designed 1938 structure on Aetna and Vesper, a crisp, elegant, dignified building that once belonged to the DWP.

The new $20 million dollar fire station, an 18,533-square-foot facility, was vigorously objected to, in lawsuits and protests, by residents who live south of the project. They feared noise from the fire engines, and a degradation of housing values.

Just a few years before, this area of Van Nuys emigrated in name to Sherman Oaks, and home prices shot upwards. 

Lost in the din of rebellion was the very low-rent characteristics of the area along Oxnard St. which is a gathering place for homeless people, undocumented day workers and also abuts the over lit and monstrously illuminated car dealerships on Van Nuys Boulevard.  If housing values were not endangered by these facts on the ground, the homeowners believed the proposed fire station would surely be even more detrimental. 

So now, along the south side of Oxnard Street, a new, very tall cinderblock noise wall (future outdoor urinal?) shields homes from the upcoming engine company sirens.  A pedestrian crossing, along with new sidewalks and road improvements upgrades the area.

Modern fire equipment trucks require bigger storage areas, and the old fire station on Sylvan only allowed trucks to back into the station. The new one has garages that the trucks can drive forward into which will add both speed and safety to the operation of mobile equipment.

The only egregiously aesthetic missteps in the new fire station are the cheap looking, burgundy, double-hung windows that look like they were ordered from a Chinese supplier on Amazon Prime. They are squat and graceless and ruin the rhythm and vertical linearity of the design. 

Architecturally, the station takes its place in the old tradition of civic grandeur when buildings such as libraries, police stations, and schools were dignified and placed squarely on the street.

One thought on “The New Fire Station

  1. The outrage over fire stations, apartment buildings, and upscaled single family homes isn’t about the buildings themselves. It’s about the tension between haves and have nots. When a disproportionate amount of a family’s personal wealth is tied up in real estate (particularly when the other aspects of household security are wobbly) people are going to freak out at even the tiniest threats. And the folks who don’t own property are permanently locked out – and pissed off about it.

    We’re not capable of correcting these imbalances in a rational measured way. But history shows that things do self correct on their own. It’s not pretty… But I anticipate a time twenty odd years from now when our institutions are reformed after a period of unpleasantness.

    Like

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