Small House in Japan (Why Not Van Nuys?)

The architectural blog Dezeen has a cornucopia of outstanding designs from around the world.

They have many projects from Japan, including small homes, which the Japanese have constructed all around the densely populated country.

The Gap House, by MUU Store Design Studio, (shown above) only covers a total area of 200 square feet, yet it embodies an inventive, imaginative and practical way to live, with its light-filled interior and clean, modern layout.

It is sandwiched between two other buildings, yet it does not feel claustrophobic. The house is located in a residential area near Sagami Bay in Kanagawa Prefecture,Japan.

Alleys are where these small homes are constructed. In Japan, most alleys are  fastidiously neat. Nobody desecrates their environment in Japan.


Here in Van Nuys our alleys tell our stories of how we value ourselves, our city and our nation:

Van Nuys

Van Nuys

Around Van Nuys there are numerous places where this type of housing could be erected, and the benefits of building this type are many.

They are more affordable, they could provide walkable, new, community oriented housing near Van Nuys Boulevard, and they would help in the revitalization of our community.

Right now, Van Nuys is zoned to deny imaginative solutions to our housing crisis. We need to free up zoning to allow, encourage and incentivize developers, architects, investors and small-home builders to build more with less restrictions.

The alternative is the bleak, expensive, dirty, dilapidated slum of current day downtown and vicinity Van Nuys. It is appalling but it must not be our future. We must step up and change it for the better.

14547 Gilmore St. Van Nuys, CA 91405

Repavement and Regret


For those whose intimate, internal bodily movements and outer mobility are regulated by motor vehicle, this was a weekend of challenge and frustration.

Without official warning, or public service announcement, Victory Boulevard, all eight lanes of it, were repaved between Kester and Sepulveda. It was possibly the first time it had been improved since all the pepper trees were ripped out in 1955 for its first widening.

In the historical traditions of Van Nuys, the new Victory Boulevard project will come without any amenities: no bike lanes, no center median of trees, no decorative lighting, no plantings and no safe crosswalks.

In our neighborhood, just north of Victory, between Kester and Sepulveda, the repaving anger was palpable, the pain deep, the suffering great.

For there is a large colony of culinarily disabled people on our street.

Large house payments prevent ownership of non-essentials, like coffee makers, so many of our neighbors, on weekends, get out of bed, slip into their SUVs in their pajamas, and drive three minutes to McDonalds, on Kester and Victory, to get scalding, industrial, assembly line coffee in Styrofoam and bring it back home. For them, the inability to drive to the drive-in was cruel.

At LA Fitness, on Sepulveda near Erwin, a new mall is under construction on the north side, and there are also orange pylons blocking the parking lot entrance, which affects members at the gym by consuming valuable parking spaces.

Yesterday, I saw an angry, old, black-haired woman driving around the parking lot of the gym in her prune purple,’71 Chevy Nova, unable to find a spot. Her mouth was spitting out a torrent of obscenities, her hands were like death grips around the neck of the steering wheel, she braked and accelerated in fits and jerks. She simply could not find a place for her car.

Minutes earlier, a convoy of young moms met up for dance class and took up six handicapped parking spaces at the gym but the  Angry Old Woman in the Nova knew nothing.

A normal weekend on Victory Boulevard is full of nocturnal sirens, from ambulances, police and fire. Usually at least one person is shot by gun or run over by car, or a speeding, intoxicated driver flips over and is either gravely injured or killed. Bank robbers, who usually arrive by car, found no work these past two days at Chase or Wells Fargo on Sepulveda at Victory.

All the workaday business of the boulevard terminated.

This past weekend was eerily quiet. The lack of danger, the absence of tragedy, upset many who live along the eight-lane speedway. There was only a thick scrim of dust, on Saturday, to remind people that Victory exists to pollute and desecrate.

When Victory Boulevard does not move with motorists, the people are alarmed, and demand a return to normality, which the repaved roadway promises to bring back tomorrow.

July 30, 1959: “The World’s Most Beautiful Japanese Actress, Nobu McCarthy.”

From the archives of the LA Public Library:

July 30, 1959

“Screen star Nobu McCarthy, called the world’s most beautiful Japanese actress, will appear Saturday night at the Hold Motor Co. salesroom at 5230 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, at a gala festival honoring the Toyopet Crown Custom Sedan, compact luxury imported family automobile. Miss McCarthy has just finished making a film, ‘Five Gates to Hell,’ which will be released through 20th Century-Fox in September.”

N. Windsor Ave. in Hancock Park.


Last week, I walked down N. Windsor Ave., a street just south of Paramount Studios, a few blocks east of Larchmont, in Hancock Park.

Windsor Ave. is full of artful, old, well-maintained housing, in a variety of styles and forms. There are 1920s and 30s Spanish, Bungalow, Art Deco, Colonial and blessedly few  Canoga Park-like stucco uglies with iron fences and cinderblock walls. But the main layout is a small building, one or two stories high, with parking in the back.

The mixture of single and multi-family provides an eclecticism and rhythm to the tree-lined, quiet street.

This was an area that probably provided housing for people of modest incomes who worked in the studios. They lived within walking distance of work, and they spent a modest part of their income on rent. Some had cars, some did not, but they could shop, work and live without driving.

An area like N. Windsor Ave. simply could not spring up organically today. Zoning laws would separate multi-family from single-family and there would be onerous parking requirements. A building with six attached units would probably require 12 parking spaces.

I looked with envy on this street and wondered why it could not be emulated in my reviving neighborhood in Van Nuys?

Then I imagined the bitching on Next Door if a developer proposed six attached units next to a single-family neighborhood. “Where the hell are they going to park?” “Who’s going to live there?” “This place is turning into a ghetto!” “Those developers are so greedy!” “I don’t want no weirdo looking down on my backyard from his bedroom!”

Los Angeles used to be so much simpler back in the 1920s.

Vine St. From Hollywood to Melrose.

Today I went down to Hollywood for a meeting at Paramount Studios.

I parked at the Orange Line lot, near Sepulveda and Erwin (2/3 of which is now leased by Keyes to store unsold new cars), bought a $7 Metro pass, and took the bus, which connected to the Red Line subway at North Hollywood. I rode three stops and disembarked at Hollywood and Vine.

Compared to other times on the train, there was definitely a boosted security presence. Some cops were checking passes at North Hollywood and four LAPD cops boarded a train at Highland and rode it for a few stops.

The pathologies of LA are now deeply embedded in the transit system. Many homeless were riding the train with their belongings, and at Vine I heard jostling and two men arguing with “fuck you” screamed loudly. Other times I’ve ridden the train and with smoking, eating, feet on seats, loud music, and absolutely nobody doing anything about it.

But considering how much might go wrong, the ride was all right, and I walked, for a few miles, along Vine and arrived on time for my 11am appointment at Paramount where everyone smiles and says thank you.



In black and white, editing out the poverty, Vine Street presents itself as a neat and tidy noir place. There is Stein and Vine Drums, the DWP Service Building, erected 1924; Bogie’s Liquors, the Army/Navy & Earthquake Supplies, and Camerford Avenue, a street I never heard of until today.

Back in Hollywood, there are hucksters and con artists all around Vine near the W Hotel.

One guy came up to me with a hunk of cash in his hand and said, “You got a $20 for a ten and five and some ones?”

I said, “Let me see what you got.”

But he refused to unfurl all the cash. Then he said, “C’mon man. I just interviewed for a job at Starbucks and I got to get to Oceanside and I’m short six bucks!”

I said, “I’m sorry,” and walked off.