Housing, it seems, is everything these days, the foremost topic on the minds of Angelenos.
Those who can afford it fear those who cannot.
Fearsome, it seems, is our ragtag army of many thousands of un-housed vagrants who have established anti-communities out of shopping carts and tents, and made bedrooms, bathrooms and living rooms out of bus benches, trains, bridge underpasses and alongside our freeways. Covered in dirt and tortured by circumstance, pulling three bikes with two legs, they remind our fortunate ones that life often goes bad even for the good.
SB50, the state proposed override of single family zoning, struck terror into the hearts of many in Los Angeles who feared that the single family home, housing twelve unrelated people, might soon be replaced by twelve unrelated people in four houses on one lot.
“Leave it to Beaver”, “Dennis the Menace”, “Hazel” and the rest of the 1950s and 60s back lots of Columbia and Warner Brothers are how many, now aging, but still ruling this city, think of Los Angeles, and how it should look.
When Dennis the Menance came home he didn’t enter into a lobby with an elevator. When Dr. Bellows drove up Major Nelson’s street, it was clean, tidy and sunny.
HGTV is now remodeling the real life home in Studio City that was used as the location for Mike and Carol Brady and their bunch, recreating in reality a 1970s home, inside and out, following an architectural blueprint from the set pieces of an inane, 50-year-old television show that seemed saccharine the night it premiered in 1969.
It is heartwarmingly creepy to see the now white-haired kids throw a football in an astroturf backyard, retirees feigning juvenile excitement as a synthetic reality show impersonates their old sit-com and pumps new advertising blood out of Geritolized veins.
But life is not a syndicated sitcom. What’s on TV is not what’s beyond our windshield.
We live in Los Angeles, and die a bit here, day by day. The city is getting worse in every imaginable way: housing, health, transportation, taxes and education.
On the roads, in real life, in 2019, cars are now parked and packed alongside every obscure street because it takes four working, driving adults to afford one $3,200 a month apartment.
Building more apartments doesn’t mean more cars, it simply means less apartments. And less apartments means more rent, so Los Angeles keeps eating itself up in contradictions of cowardice and myopia.
As I travel around Los Angeles and see all the enormous parking lots and one-story buildings alongside eight lane wide roads, I wonder why we are so unable to build enough houses to house everyone.
California is not nearly as crowded as Japan, yet that country ingeniously designs small dwellings that artistically and creatively provide homes for every type of person.
On the website Architizer, I found the work of a firm called Atelier TEKUTO.
Homes shown on Architizer by Atelier Tekuto are really tiny, but they are built solid, with each dwelling quite individual in style and form, an irony in a country where every black haired man coming from work is dressed in a white shirt and dark suit.
But Japan somehow pulls together the artistic and the structural to provide enviable and well-designed homes in well-protected, spotless communities. Violence is rare, except yesterday, but nobody goes out at night fearing random mass shootings, it is safe to say.
We can’t, or should not, want to remake the depravity of our dirty, violent LA into clean, peaceful, obedient Japan, with its fast trains and scrubbed sidewalks, but we might borrow some of their ideas. After all, we conquered them in 1945, can’t we take home some intellectual souvenirs?
Imagine if Van Nuys took the courageous and innovative step to redo the large, unused parking lots behind all the abandoned shops on Van Nuys Boulevard with a mix of little houses like these and perhaps some larger structures several stories high?
What we have now is this:
Don’t we have a Christopher Hawthorne now, Chief Design Officer, working under Mayor Gar[BAGE]cetti? Former architecture critic at the LA Times, he may know one or two architects from his old job. Perhaps Mr. Hawthorne can take action?
What have we got to lose?
We are so far down in quality of life that we must engage our energies to pursue a remade Los Angeles.
A city that does not harm us but lifts us up.
As Japan shows, you can have enlightened ideas without living alongside mounds of trash and outdoor vagrancy.
There is no logical connection between toleration of outdoor garbage dumps and political tolerance in general. In fact the worse our surroundings get, the more people will turn right and maybe even hard right.