Option A: What the Neighbors Think.


A light rail service yard in Washington state.

Metro is planning a light rail train down the center of Van Nuys Bl. extending from Pacoima to Van Nuys, stopping at Oxnard St. Less probable is a dedicated bus line.

Their final decision, as to what type of transport to build (bus or train) and where to service these will come in June 2018.

Four areas in Van Nuys are under consideration for eminent domain demolition and the building of a light rail maintenance yard.

These are called the “Option” areas and they are A, B, C, and D.

Options B, C, and D

B, C, and D all straddle the existing Metrolink heavy passenger rail tracks along Raymer St. near the former GM plant on the Van Nuys/Panorama City border.


OPTION A:

Option A

Only “Option A” is located in another area: this is a 33-acre spread of light industry comprising 186 businesses, 58 structures and as many as 1,000 workers who are located NE of Oxnard and Kester along Oxnard, Aetna, Bessemer and Calvert Streets.

This blog has reported extensively, since September 2017, on the “Option A” community: a unique, productive, and innovative group of entrepreneurs who make fine decorative hardware, custom shelving; record music, weld metals, clean carpets, fashion artistic stained glass, and restore vintage Mustangs, Vespas and large yachts.

Skilled craftsman at Pashupatina
Garrett Marks, CEO, Mustangs, Etc. (est. 1967)
Peter Scholz, owner Showcase Cabinets (est. 1987)
Simon Simonian, Progressive Art Stained Glass Studio
Kristian Storli, Owner: Bar Italia Vespa
Steve Muradyan of BPM Custom Marine

They employ local workers, many of whom walk to work. There are immigrants here, but there are also people who started companies 30, 40 and even 50 years ago who would be forced to move from their little supportive community and fight to rent new space competing against cash rich marijuana growers who are swallowing up space for their noxious, lethargy inducing, industrial scale weed.


I was curious what residents in the area think of “Option A” so I went online and visited Next Door.

My Next Door app page has 2,000 community members from Burbank Bl. north to Roscoe, from the 405 to Hazeline.

 

I posted a question asking if people opposed or supported “Option A.” Overwhelmingly, by a vote of 87% to 13 (94 total votes), they said they were against it.

 

Peter Scholz and employee at Showcase Cabinets

 

 Here are some of the comments:

“It seems like a giant repair yard would be an eye sore and would attract litter, homeless encampments and shady activities since it will have very little activity especially at night. I don’t see how that is worth uprooting all these businesses who contribute to our community and have been here for all of these years.”

“I prefer local businesses any day. Plus, with numerous new apartment buildings popping up all around the area, we have potential for more retail/cafes to move in to the buildings up for lease. However, if all of that space gets used up by ugly rail yards, then the Van Nuys economy will never thrive to its full potential. I’m sick of this city being treated as a dumping ground.”

“The downside of Option A is not only a large rail yard in main area of Van Nuys (which MTA promises would be modern and attractive) but as well, that it would take out approximately 200 small and thriving Van Nuys businesses that each employ, one, two, three, five or more employees, whereas the other two main options hold a minuscule number of businesses. Eminent domain [against] all these businesses in the heart of VN would hurt us in several ways, besides uprooting the businesses and the citizens who work there, there are limited number of commercial properties currently available close by, so many of the businesses could not relocate close by, would not be able to keep locale clientele. For many who live nearby, if new properties could be found, commutes would be added. And for all those businesses relocating outside our community, or for those that would simply be forced to fold, Van Nuys would lose a healthy business tax base. Again, the other two options provided by the city for the yard (if needed based on what the final decisions are) do not suffer from anywhere near the same extent of overall downside.”

“I own a house on Hatteras near the Option A area. And I also rent a building on Aetna which would be demolished. If this happens I will sell my house, which I just purchased two years ago and I will move out of Los Angeles. There is not a reason in the world to pick our district for demolition when so many jobs and lives are at stake. If Nury Martinez allows this she should be recalled.”

Clearly, people who live near the Option A zone are insightful and understand how important it is to preserve small business in Van Nuys. They know that an enormous, gaping hole would not revitalize Van Nuys, but further degrade it.

 

The community residents, as well as the businesses near Kester and Oxnard, are united in opposing the destruction of viable businesses and local jobs.

Option A: International Affairs, A Back Story.


Perhaps the quintessential Option A story grows out of the life of Ivan Gomez (b. 1972) the owner of Pashupatina, a fine custom decorative metal shop on Aetna.

He was born in Mexico, by chance. His other four siblings (one sister and three brothers) were all born in the USA.

They were raised in Pacoima and later Friar St. in Van Nuys. Ivan experienced the turmoil and insecurity of being a little boy who had to register with the INS every few years.

He later went to school in Tarzana, and saw the other world of privileged children. Never bitter, always ambitious, he worked in Van Nuys at Bargain Books, devouring books on design and mechanical art. He graduated from Van Nuys High School where he met his current wife, a Lebanese immigrant, Natalie Magarian. He did not go to college, but worked at Tower Records, and Aah’s on Ventura Bl.; Taco Bell, and most importantly, at a cabinet shop in South Central where he learned about the manufacturing, design and installation of custom woodwork.

Ivan formed a band called Stikman (1989-92) and they often played in the dug out ruins of old factories near downtown Los Angeles. He went to raves, but remarkably, he remained clean of drugs. His strong character resisted violence, self-destruction and falling into the traps of depravity all around him.

He does not smoke or drink. He has a wife, two children, a thriving business, a home in Lake Balboa. And both sets of in-laws live nearby.

I thought it instructive and interesting to explore the city of Los Angeles in the first 20 years of Ivan’s life, to give some context for what it felt like to be a young immigrant absorbing all the culture, music, crime, drugs, police brutality that fell atop the intelligent, observant, fervent, creative mind of Ivan Gomez.

All statistical facts in this article are from original sources and are footnoted.


The Idyll

Photo by John Divola

In 1970, there were some 966,240 persons in 26 San Fernando Valley communities in Los Angeles. The population was young. And the average age was 29.

There were small percentages of racial minorities in every community in the Valley, except Pacoima where 33% were black. 4% of Sun Valley was minority, mostly Mexicans.

In Woodland Hills, the average rent was $172, the highest in the Valley. And the minority population was 1%, the same as in Tarzana.

Encino had the most expensive homes, averaging $50,000 in value.[1]

Many worked in the defense-aerospace industry, 348,000 jobs in Los Angeles County. Some of the San Fernando Valley employers: Lockheed in Burbank, Boeing Co.’s Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power in Woodland Hills, Hughes Missile Systems in Canoga Park. Bendix Aviation, Ramo-Woolridge Laboratories, Litton Industries, RCA, Atomics International and Bunker-Ramo. [2]

There had also been cutbacks in the defense industries, ironically due to the Vietnam War. Research and development, which was a large part of defense contracting work, took a back seat to output and manufacture of weapons. When the war was on, rockets and planes were needed, fast. Employment fell from 616,000 in the state in 1967 to 400,000 in 1972. 70% in Los Angeles still depended on aerospace to earn their living. [3]

Military attack aircraft, surface to air missiles, rockets, bombs, satellites, electronic controls for weapons systems, defense-related communications systems, The Stealth and the P-3 antisubmarine craft, were only some of the advanced weaponry produced here.

All these weapons of war, sent around the world, would ignite and fuel conflicts that one day would come back to the San Fernando Valley and upend the placidity, the normality, the blessed banality of pools, homes, burgers, convertibles and blond-haired boys and girls riding bikes around safe and clean neighborhoods.

ph: Mike Mandel, People in Cars, North Hollywood, 1970.
Photo by John Divola, San Fernando Valley, circa 1970.

If you were wealthy in 1972, and could spend more than $100,000 on a home, you might want to live in Brentwood.

 

A Confluence of Events

**ADVANCE FOR SUNDAY, JUNE 8–FILE** In this April 29, 1975 file photo, mobs of Vietnamese people scale the wall of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon, Vietnam, trying to get to the helicopter pickup zone, just before the end of the Vietnam War. (AP Photo/Neal Ulevich, file)

In the late 1970s, a confluence of international events; wars, revolutions, and genocides swirled around the globe. Under the umbrella of American anti-communism, military interventions produced results that eventually washed back up onto the shores of Southern California.

In Vietnam, in 1975, the fall of the Saigon government, the helicopter evacuation of the US Embassy, and the triumph of Ho Chi Minh brought a new influx of refugees to the US. At the same time, in neighboring Cambodia, Pol Pot captured Phnom Penh and instigated a deadly forced labor and collective farms movement causing the deaths of millions. Cambodians who could, got out.

In US allied South Korea, still developing its economy, an uneasy and tense truce lingered. Fearful of a new war, the government encouraged some citizens to emigrate to the US and send money back home. Millions left and settled predominately in Los Angeles.

Filipinos who had served in the US military during WWII were allowed to become US citizens, and many war brides came to America. Relatives of people already in this country were permitted to come here and gain citizenship.

Los Angeles also became home to the largest group of Thai people outside of Thailand.

The engine for all the changes in allowing new countries to migrate to the US came after 1965.

The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (also known as the Hart-Cellar Act) eliminated national origins quotas and gave priority to immigrants with skills. In addition, the law allowed the spouses, unmarried minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens to enter as non-quota immigrants.[4]

Previously the law had favored northern and western Europeans. The involvement of the US in Asian affairs prompted Congress to change laws. The US needed to look magnanimous in Far Eastern eyes so that our role in Vietnam might be justified.

In Taiwan and Hong Kong, the prospect of American retrenchment and Red China’s rise fueled new immigration to the US. The San Gabriel Valley, once a bastion of whites, became a sprawling Chinese community.[5] Asian-Americans would become the largest immigrant group by 2014.

In 1979, the Shah of Iran, an ally of the US, was overthrown and replaced by an Islamic fundamentalist government. Fifty-two American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days (November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981) after a group of Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

The Shah had been a large weapons purchaser and his regime was seen as a bulwark against Russian expansionism.

By miraculous coincidence, all the US hostages were freed on the very day of Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. An overjoyed nation overlooked what some might call collusion.

Persian immigration to Los Angeles spiked. Beverly Hills and Westwood became the heart of a new community of refugees from Tehran and vicinity. Christian Armenians, many of them living in Iran, also came to Los Angeles and settled in East Hollywood and later Glendale. The Soviet Union also eased up on restrictions and allowed many Armenians to leave the communist ruled nation.

Notable too was the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan in 1980. It lasted over nine years, from December 1979 to February 1989. Insurgent groups known as the mujahideen fought against the Soviet Army and the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan government. These groups, which later morphed into Al Queda, were backed by the United States and Pakistan, making it a Cold War proxy battle. Between 562,000[27] and 2,000,000 civilians were killed. [6]

In Lebanon, a power struggle between ruling Maronite Christians, Shia Muslims, as well as the influx of Palestinians, resulted in Civil War, lasting from 1975-90, killing 120,000. Wealthier Lebanese, many fluent in Arabic, French and English, fled the country.


The War Against Central America

John Hoagland, El Playon, El Salvador, a well-known location where bodies of the “disappeared” are often found, Sonsonate, 1980.

In Central America, civil war broke out in El Salvador (1980-92). The government, with the support of the US, fought against guerillas who sought to bring social justice reforms. 75,000 people died. And the US spent $6 billion to aid a repressive regime.[7] President Reagan made a stand against the expansion of communism in the Western Hemisphere by brutally ramping up the wars to contain it.

In neighboring Honduras, Contra Guerillas fought against socialist Nicaragua’s Sandinista Government. Reagan also supported the Contras. A secret plan, hatched up in the White House, used illegal weapons sales to Iran to finance anti-communist Nicaraguan guerillas.

In El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua, millions were killed, and the murder rate, even today, remains the highest in the world. By 2011, 564,000 Central Americans would live in Los Angeles.

 


Mexico: Our On Again, Off Again, Family.

 

Mexican workers await legal employment in the United States, 1954 (LAT)
Braceros working in US farm fields.

Mexico and the US have had a long love/hate relationship . The northern colossus relied on migrants to harvest crops, and allowed free, casually monitored movement of Mexicans who supplied low-cost labor to US industries.

A mercurial, schizophrenic, self-centered immigration policy alternated between friendly and hostile. The pawns were poor Mexicans on foot, seeking work, escaping poverty, exiles from two nations, never fully at home in either one.

In 1930, after the Depression hit the US, half a million Mexicans, including children born in the US, were deported.

Then in 1942, the Bracero Program was established to bring in Mexican agricultural workers to fill in for war workers sent overseas or into weapons manufacturing.

But in 1954, “Operation Wetback” launched by the INS, arrested 1 million Mexican immigrants at their workplaces and many were again sent back.

In 1986, President Reagan, now a lame duck, signed an amnesty bill into law for 3 million illegal immigrants. Half of these stayed in California. In Los Angeles, 33% were foreign born in 1990, compared to 11% in 1970.[8] By 1989, Los Angeles had the largest population of Mexicans outside of Mexico City.

How did this tidal wave of immigration happen in such a brief period of time in the 1980s? One explanation:

“Mexico, burdened by international debt, imposed economic austerity measures further hurting the poorest members of its society, which caused thousands to make the dangerous trek north for economic survival. Guides who could lead families across the border to a better life in “El Norte” were nicknamed “coyotes.” Signs along the northbound interstate freeway in San Diego County graphically warned motorists to avoid hitting families fleeing across the highway.

More than 2.3 million foreign-born Latino residents in the U.S. took advantage of this [amnesty] program, leading to naturalization and green-card status. However, most foreign-born laborers did not want to give up their Mexican citizenship, preferring to work in California on a temporary basis and then return home. The IRCA required people to make a choice. Most choose to stay in the U.S. and sent for their family to join them. Under Reagan’s leadership, Congress had tried to limit Latino immigration, but instead, they created incentives that would lead to its increase.”[9]

Last year, some in the Mexican-American community shrugged their shoulders at Trump’s invectives. It had always been that way.

 

 


Imagine this man, a make believe character, a true, fine, successful, once famous Angeleno:

Up on Mulholland Drive, east of Beverly Glen, sometime in 1980, there is an old, white songwriter, Len Shnauzerman, attended by his housekeeper Esmerelda, sipping wine on the deck of his estate, overlooking the Valley, purchased for $39,000 in 1949. He’s still collecting large monthly residuals for a few songs he wrote 35 years earlier (“Mippity-Dippity”,”The Cow Girl’s Serenade”, “Hoopy Doopy Waltz”, “Pretty Girls and Peanuts!”). He used to love LA, but it was now a cesspool. He is angry at those illegals, riding the bus to work, mopping floors, digging trenches, pouring concrete, those illegals collecting benefits in his country.

He may be fiction but there were plenty like him and perhaps there still are. Just because you worked hard, doesn’t mean you didn’t get lucky.


Plagues of the 1980s

The 1980s also became the high water mark of the Cocaine Era, much of it originating in Colombia and sent up through Central America. Crack-cocaine addiction destroyed poorer communities, and ended up with the arrest and incarceration of millions of black Americans.

The Angel of Death, AIDS, arrived just about 1980 mowing down the young, the brilliant, the innocent, the uninhibited.

The party was over.

Los Angeles would undergo challenges to its identity and survival never anticipated.

Suddenly the faces one passed on the freeway were strange, exotic, and menacing.

Cindy Brady was replaced by MS-13.


 Communism Ends

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, meant the end of the Soviet Union, and the death of the Communist Revolution. Soon, client states like Cuba could no longer count on Russian help.

The end of the Cold War affected the military-industrial complex in the US. There was a decline in spending at the Pentagon, and this was felt, most deeply, in California, where defense industries were a backbone of the state economy.

Skunk Works, Lockheed, Burbank, CA.

Beyond the Beach

 

Life Magazine, 1970.

To the average Angeleno, politics in the late 1970s was something that only mattered when it came to local issues: freeway traffic, water rates, school boards, fire protection, crime and safety.

The chosen ignorance of the larger world, the anti-intellectualism of the American Mind, would come back to haunt pleasure loving California, which did not make the connections between the military-industrial-political-money machine, and its role in eventually undermining the peace and security of domestic life in the Southland.

Many loved the Republicans who were tough on crime, tough on communism, tough on deviants, tough on high taxes. They carried the flag high, and promised a restoration of law and order and the banishment of all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Insulated from international traumas, residing in a bubble of postwar prosperity, enjoying a beer and a cigarette on the beach, the people frolicked in the surf on the edge of instability, oblivious to the coming tsunami of social upheaval in Los Angeles.

The low point of it all came in the early 1990s when riots, an earthquake, the Rodney King beating, and the OJ Simpson murder case, seemed to encapsulate a region unhinged. Random people were murdered. There were drive by shootings every day, gang warfare, and a feeling that Los Angeles was just a giant cesspool of dystopian failure.

5/19/92 LA Times

 


The 21st Century: A New City of Many Nations.

Through all the tribulations of violence, economic hardship, racial injustice, environmental degradation, social dislocations, skyrocketing housing, education and health care costs, the Californian pushed ahead to forge new horizons in virtual reality, public transportation, immigration policies, social justice, police reform, housing codes, environmental, gender and age protections.

And the remaking of Los Angeles, painful yet exhilarating, a city that would once again embrace so many different people, living in so many unique ways, that future also came to pass, a hopeful passage into the future; creative, imaginative, innovative, multi-dimensional, internationally engaged.

All this brings me back to Van Nuys and Ivan Gomez.

More on his life, and the meaning of Los Angeles and here in Van Nuys, to come……

Pashupatina: Ivan and Daniel Gomez in their shop which they completely renovated with their own hands and money in 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Valley Population Near Million; Growth Slows

–LA Times, April 29, 1971

 

[2] AEROSPACE LAYOFFS: THE HUMAN TOLL

Gottschalk, Earl C, Jr

Los Angeles Times May 2, 1971;

[3] http://articles.latimes.com/1999/dec/18/local/me-45171

[4] http://immigrationtounitedstates.org/673-korean-immigrants.html

[5] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/29/us/asians-now-largest-immigrant-group-in-southern-california.html

[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet–Afghan_War

[7] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/theta-pavis/decades-of-us-interventio_b_5610684.html

[8] http://articles.latimes.com/1993-11-14/news/mn-56940_1_illegal-immigrants

[9] http://picturethis.museumca.org/timeline/reagan-years-1980s/mexican-american-culture/info

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Option A: Silence of the Nury.


Rail Service Yard at Night. What Kester and Oxnard may look like for the next 100 years.

Option A is a Metro Los Angeles plan to construct a rail maintenance yard on 33 acres of industrial land currently occupied by 186 businesses employing as many as 1,500 people. The location radiates from the NE corner of Kester and Oxnard and will demolish every single building from Kester to Cedros along Oxnard, Aetna, Bessemer and the south side of Calvert.

Family run businesses, enterprises utilizing high tech computers to fashion exquisite cabinetry, decorative metals, and music recording studios, will be gone. Destroyed as well: low cost rentals for vintage Vespa restoration, boat yards, exotic mushroom growers, glassmakers, sauna builders, and Ford Mustang restoration.

The Option A area is walkable, diverse, affordable, and near downtown Van Nuys. If it is obliterated it will become a vast zone of emptiness, high security cameras, fences, walls, and rob Van Nuys of its last industrial area which serves as a creative incubator for artists, builders and skilled craftsmen.

Metro: In attempting to increase density, variety, diversity and walkability why would you destroy the very thing you wish to create?

Metro has three other option sites which are B, C, and D. The September 28, 2017 Daily News article explains.

Options B and C are on either side of Van Nuys Boulevard at the Metrolink Train Crossing.

Option D is at 7600 Tyrone Ave, 55 acres of land owned by the Department of Water and Power. It said it will NOT relinquish the land.

B, C, and D do not involve the displacement, destruction and eviction of 186 companies.

Options B, C and D
Option A: Destruction of 186 companies and 58 buildings and 1500 jobs.

Silence of the Nury

Despite the suffering and anxiety of so many men and women in Van Nuys, Councilwoman Nury Martinez has been completely silent on this issue since the official announcement of the Option A scheme was announced in mid-September.

Some in her office have conducted meetings with the worried owners in the Option A area. But she has not publically stood with the afflicted businesses. She has not voiced her support for them and she has not taken a stand opposing the vast hole of a train yard just steps from her office in Van Nuys.

Her Facebook page shows many photos of her attending events in the past few weeks.

  • She recognized a project to fund breast cancer research.
  • She welcomed a Panorama City project to mentor young people in work.
  • She supported National Food Day to promote nutrition.
  • She joined cops and politicians to oppose domestic violence.
  • She celebrated the retirement of a 30-year LAPD veteran.
  • Latino Heritage Month got a photo with her.
  • Dodger Manager Tommy LaSorda got a 90th Birthday photo with her.
  • The International Day of the Girl got a photo with her.
  • LA Family Housing got a photo with her.
  • Girls Empowerment got a photo with her.


“My Nury, my Nury, why have you forsaken me?”

Ivan Gomez, Pashupatina

Ivan Gomez, son of Mexican immigrants, grew up poor with his four siblings on Friar Street, dodged gangs, bullets, drugs and went on to self-mentor in the art of making fine metals, eventually opening a highly respected and technologically advanced company, Pashupatina, inside a restored building on Aetna St. He merits no photo op with Nury Martinez.

Peter Scholz, Showcase Cabinets

Peter Scholz, cabinet maker, lifelong resident of Van Nuys, owner of Showcase Cabinets, in business since 1987, employing skilled craftsmen who also live in Van Nuys, he has no photo op.

Scott Walton, Uncle Studios

Scott Walton of Uncle Studios, established 1976, legendary recording studio on Kester and Aetna, he may be obliterated, and he has no public support from Ms. Martinez.

Kristian Storli, Bar Italia Vespa.

Kristian Storli, who restores vintage Vespas and has been evicted from two places on Calvert and Bessemer, and only finally found a home last year on Aetna, only to learn his shop may be wiped off the map. He has no photo op with Ms. Martinez.

Steve Muradyan of BPM Custom Marine

Steve Muradyan of BPM Custom Marine, who supports a wife, two children and two aged parents, rents a facility on Calvert St. (down the street from  MacLeod Ale) and he may lose his 6,000 SF space. Where will he go? There are no affordable, local industrial sites for 50-100 foot long racing boats. Does his plight matter to Ms. Martinez?

Skilled worker at Pashupatina

There are 1500 others who are obscure but working hard, trying to earn a living, doing the right thing here in Van Nuys.

Why is Nury silent on the plight of her most productive and contributing constituents? Why is she sticking her finger up in the wind to see which direction Metro Los Angeles blows rather than fighting for the community she purportedly represents?

Silence is not what people in jeopardy, at risk in losing everything they have worked for, expect from their elected leader.

Pashupatina: Ivan and Daniel Gomez in their shop which they completely renovated with their own hands and money in 2015.
At work at Pashupatina. Programming and designing intricate metals for decorative hardware.
Mustangs, Etc. Est. 1976
Pashupatina.

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Option A: High Level Cabinet Meeting


Peter Scholz

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the United States, but aspects of it can seem almost small town. A sprawl built of people who came from somewhere else, infamous for its superficiality and temporality, it sometimes, surprisingly, produces individuals, deeply rooted in its soil, who live and work here their whole lives, sometimes in an area a few blocks wide.

Such is the case with Peter Scholz.

He was born in Van Nuys, 53 years ago. He lived at 5812 Lemona Ave in Van Nuys, CA. in a German-American family along with Michaela, his younger sister.

His parents, Heinz and Herlinda, had met in Vaduz, Liechtenstein in 1954. They married, and in 1959, emigrated to Los Angeles, where they found work, as driver and maid, in the Sidman Family estate in Beverly Hills. They stayed there only briefly.

Liechtenstein

Motivated by ambition and hard work, Heinz left his chauffeur job to work as a baker. Meanwhile, they had two kids, Peter and later Michaela.

In 1968, Dad opened Scholz Cabinets on Aetna St. in Van Nuys, a location where he did business for the next 20 or so years.

Peter worked part-time with his father, graduated from Notre Dame High School and then enrolled in Pierce College “because that’s where the best looking girls were.” He attended two years and graduated in 1984.

He continued to work part-time with his dad, closely learning the craft of custom cabinet wood making. He was, in effect, going to school overseas, by learning the German way of doing things here in Van Nuys: precisely, exactly, and diligently with strict attention to quality and integrity.

Yet Peter had other ideas and passions in his head. He was excited by art, by creative people, by wealth and Hollywood, and by that whole rich world, over the hill, where sculptures, luxurious homes, paintings and grandiosity were on display.

Remarkably, he didn’t try and become an actor. He didn’t intern at William Morris. He didn’t affect affectation. He still built cabinets. He used his skills in making them to enter a rarified world.

It was the late 1980s, an era of big shoulders, fat cigars, overpowering perfumes (Giorgio, Poison, Opium), Joan Collins, The Brat Pack, Wall Street, Greed is Good, and the explosion of personalities in the art world.

He wanted, somehow, to take the modest and self-effacing excellence he embodied and make custom cabinets and custom showcase podiums for architects, designers and clients in Beverly Hills, Hancock Park, Brentwood, Pasadena, Malibu and Westwood. He was introduced to notables who became clients, such as Eli Broad, real estate mogul, art collector and philanthropist; and Robert Graham (1938-2008), sculptor, born in Mexico, married to actress Angelica Huston.

Jean Michel Basquiat (1960-88)
Eli and Edyth Broad at home with Robert Rauschenberg

Still only in his early 20s, he started Showcase Cabinets, a name reflecting that his creations, his products, were showcases (custom pedestals and bases) to display art, objects, sculptures.

In 1984, at age 20, he married ( eventually divorcing after 20 years), had two kids, Niko and Jessica, and he has two granddaughters as well.

Annie, his girlfriend of eight years, also works in the shop. They live with their son Erik, 14, in a 1950s modern house near Valley College which they gutted and remodeled. It has white walls, a backyard pool, orange front door, and solar shades. The house is filled with a cacophony of eccentric and colorful artwork, sculpture, bright colored chairs and, most imaginatively, a graffiti painted bathroom that seems inspired by the interior of a NYC subway car, circa 1985.

He seems to have started everything, work, marriage, fatherhood, at an early age. In 2009, he also bought the building where he now headquarters Showcase Cabinets, Inc. He and Annie travel, often to her home country, Bulgaria, where they use her family house as a base point to explore Europe, including Greece, Italy and Germany and everything two hours or less from that point.

Annie and Peter

He employees some 10 people in his bright, 4,200 SF, well-run shop. Last year, they invested in a $30,000 Striebig Compact Vertical Panel Saw, made in Switzerland, which is accurate to 1/100 of a millimeter or 0.0003937008 of an inch.

His business, which is very healthy, is all word-of-mouth. In an era of social media, of pretending to be successful by posting doctored images and endorsing products, Peter earns his money in the real world of tangible, material substances made out of trees. There is no need for Photoshop when you rub your hands over a smoothly buffed, 30 foot long, walnut bookcase.

His location, 20 minutes from Beverly Hills, and within easy distance of the 405 and the 101, is ideal for clients, designers and architects who often want to drop by the shop to choose finishes, to see the craftsmen at work, to witness what they are paying top dollar for. And Peter welcomes them. He has everything to show and nothing to hide.

His raw materials come predominately from Valencia Lumber in Lake Balboa and Phillips Plywood in Pacoima. He also sends work to GL Veneer, Inc. in Huntington Park. Showcase gets the orders and this is passed up and down the economic food chain.

He deals with stress through kickboxing, the gym, and yoga.

He has some very nice bottles of Japanese whiskies lining an office shelf, in a room built of concrete block, anodized steel walls, and a one-way detective style mirror to keep an eye on the shop floor.

The wall facing his long desk is decorated with large format photographs of drug busts, tattooed gangsters, guns and illicit substances which his son-in-law, a cop, shot from an Iphone.

There is an air of bad boy badness in Peter Scholz but it seems to be more artistic expression than real life activity. But one would not care to incite him. He acts formidable…. and it doesn’t look like an act. If he were an actor, he could play a felon or a cop convincingly. He exudes menace and kindness equally.

Because he is happy in his life and work he projects his good fortune onto Los Angeles. “There is no better place to live,” he said, without irony.


Option A: Metro Plans to Demolish 33 Acres of Industry for One Big Rail Yard.

 

Ed Kirakosian, Peter Scholz, Ivan Gomez, Daniel Gomez.

Hanging over all this is the “Option A” scheme by Metro Los Angeles which might condemn Peter’s shop and 185 other small businesses, covering 33 acres, in an area north of Oxnard to Calvert, from Kester east to Cedros. This is ostensibly for a future light rail maintenance yard.

Opposition to the scheme immediately sprung up and Peter produced big yellow banners against Option A now hung all over the area.

Boldly, by instinct, in his customary manner, Peter marshaled his creative connections to hire artist Guy Ellis (#dcypher_dtrcbs) who painted a long mural on the exterior wall of Showcase. It is in the style of 1930s social realist protest. It is powerful and jarring, screaming, in deathly ashen gray, and living bright yellow, a cry against the potential destruction of the area.

If Option A is withdrawn, and the area is permitted to continue existing, Peter has plans to keep the mural up on his building, and even more plans to revitalize the district with the help of his neighbors, friends, investors, architects and innovative developers.

Showcase Cabinets, Inc. and the life and work of Peter Scholz, is yet another reason to drop the idea that wiping out a section of Van Nuys, and scattering her most creative and productive class, is progress at its finest.

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