New Housing at Old Bank.


Last week, the LA Planning Commission approved 179 townhomes and 8 low-income apartments built partially out of the old North Hollywood Savings and Loan (later Chase) Bank at 4445 Lankershim Bl. at Riverside Dr. according a recent story in the Daily News.

The 1961 building will be readapted for residential use, and include over 5,000 SF of ground floor commercial space along with 263 car spots and 237 bike spaces. The architect is Winston Chang, principal of Next.

For years I have driven past this building as I traveled on the 134 or along Riverside Drive. 

Curious about its history, I dug up some old LA Times articles.

Roscoe W. Blanchard, Sr. (1882-1977) owner of the Blanchard Lumber Company, founded the North Hollywood Savings and Loan in 1923 when the San Fernando Valley was in its earliest boom days. 

Here is his 1977 obituary:

After WWII (1945), the boom in residential building made the bank prosperous, and in 1960, with over $40 million in assets, they announced a new $2 million dollar, six-story tall skyscraper with 73,810 SF of space. Earthquake resistant and fireproof, it was also the tallest structure in the San Fernando Valley. 

In a 1963 ad, the bank stated they would pay depositors 4.80% interest, a tidy amount for the time. In 1969, they promised 5% interest for new deposits.  Those were the days when a person could save money by opening a savings and loan account, and count on a guaranteed level of annual growth.

But the go-go 1960s ended with a decline in the Los Angeles realty boom. And the days of a secure savings and loan specializing in residential housing loans was numbered.

A Feb 9, 1969 LA Times article entitled, “Realty Boom is Fading as Prices Stay Stable” lamented high interest rates of 7-8%, and the inability of many families to afford the average $25,000-$35,000 SFV home, with more than 2/3 of SFV families earning less than $10,000 a year.

Overbuilding in 1965-66 had resulted in rental vacancies of 22% and almost 2,000 new homes unsold. One-third of the new, un-bought homes in Los Angeles were in the San Fernando Valley.

In 1969, both rents and residential prices fell as supplies increased, a widely accepted fact of economics which seems to have been forgotten by modern Angelenos who believe that building more housing is only for “greedy developers.” 

But back when the developers were allowed to develop, this was the result:

1970: In Woodland Hills, the average rent was $172, the highest in the Valley. 

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

Today we have this:

According to CoStar, the price of an average apartment in the Woodland Hills sub-market—which includes Warner Center—stood at $2,200 per month. 

In 2018, Redfin said the average Encino home was $980,000.

In 1979, Proposition 13 froze property tax rates at the original level a home was sold at, not currently assessed at. Lucky owners of homes bought in 1974 for $40,000, which became $300,000 properties in 1980 (or $3,000,000 in 2019) were still taxed at 1974’s $40,000 purchase price. 

The tax rebellion was partially a white reaction against the increase in illegal migration and resentment in paying taxes for darker complexioned students. Today, most people who can, drive their children out of “bad” school districts to “good” ones thus exacerbating our air pollution and traffic problems. 

People who once rode the bus now take Uber or Lyft, thus exacerbating our air pollution and traffic problems.

We don’t build enough housing. Our housing is in short supply because many of the occupants here don’t legally have a right to be here. But that is stating what should not be said.

Part of our hypocrisy is being liberal and being racist and wanting good education for our children. And none of these traits can co-exist in modern Los Angeles without being hypocritcal. This is not an indictment, just merely a statement of fact from speaking to white parents who live on my street in Van Nuys and drive their kids out of the area to attend school.

The great shortage of homes in Los Angeles began its 40-year ascent and has now culminated in the lovely sight of human beings, unable to afford shelter, sleeping under bridges and along sidewalks. 

Mental illness is blamed for some of this but I wonder how mentally healthy I would be after eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in an alley for a year.

That some of the fortunate inheritors of parental properties, and low property taxes, are also some of the biggest opponents of new residential construction, especially in wealthy sections of Los Angeles, is a cruel irony. 

In the 1980s, the Savings and Loan crisis, brought on by government policies that bankrupted local S&Ls, resulted in the consolidation of many small banks into the large regional ones such as Chase or Bank of America.

In 1976, North Hollywood Savings and Loan was incorporated and merged into San Diego’s Central Federal Savings and Loan Association. 

So in the next few years, a building that once housed a savings and loan which played an instrumental role in lending money to young families buying homes in the San Fernando Valley, will become itself a home for some 179 families, (and 8 units or 4% of the total units will be low income).

Los Angeles, here in Van Nuys, and here in North Hollywood, and all around the city, will move along and build expensively and sluggishly until its leaders accept that it must become denser, higher, and less car dependent. An enormous push for more affordable and multi-modal transport accessible housing is paramount for our survival as a viable metropolis. 

Because we don’t build enough housing, we cannot afford to live in areas we might want to, which leads to more segregation and more bitterness and more helplessness in a city where homelessness is never far off and being housed is conundrum of insanity and indebtedness.

That we need to build more was something Roscoe W. Blanchard, Sr. would have understood with his expertise and success in building materials and financing homes 100 years ago.

We are trapped between the reality of our city and our dreams of its potential. We know what it is. We see this place with our own eyes.

But we really don’t want to accept its degraded condition, or the responsibility for how grotesque, unequal, cruel, barbaric and sadistic it often is. To look at the ugliness in this city we would have to accept that ugliness in ourselves. And why we make illogical and self-destructive choices and choose prerogatives that hasten the decline of Los Angeles.



[1]Valley Population Near Million; Growth Slows

–LA Times, April 29, 1971

Vintage Car Washing: Los Angeles, CA.


The care, the compassion, the concern; the love, the affection, the authentic empathy for the automobile knows no bounds in Los Angeles. For here, the health and well-being of the car is of utmost concern to every red-blooded man, woman and child.

In our city, a neglected, dirty, abused, uncared for car is truly a moral crime, something that our citizens would not tolerate.

Since the car emigrated to Los Angeles, from France and Germany, early in the 20th Century, it has found a home here.  The sincere regard for all wandering vehicles has produced an outpouring of health care for all cars unrivaled by any civilized nation.  All races, creeds, religions, every poor and rich person, regards the vehicle as Their Supreme God.

And in every district of Los Angeles, outside of every school, restaurant, home, and hospital, the car is thought of first. Its needs are regarded before any triviality which might impede the happiness of the car.  Even when there are empty factories, abandoned malls, the car retains its parking lots. Even roads falling down, streets pockmarked by potholes, they are allowed to carry the car, because the supremacy of the auto goes before any other infrastructure needs.

When crazy buildings to house people are proposed by cowardly developers, the first question at community meetings is always the holiest and most sacred one:

“Where will they park?”  

No car ever goes without fuel, no car is ever without a parent looking after it, all precious water from our aqueducts is used to baptize and cleanse the car so that it can go on as the King of Los Angeles. Every drop of air we breathe, every sound we hear, every place we want to go, our car must come first.

Let the icebergs melt, let the polar bears and penguins die off, let 117 degrees become the new normal in Los Angeles, our car must continue to be our primary mode of life and liberty.

We know no other way. We will accept nothing less.

Following are some vintage car wash photos from the files of the LAPL:

 

Post WWII North Hollywood


The development of North Hollywood started in the early 1900s and was one of the earliest coherent towns in the San Fernando Valley.

Its commercial district, along Lankershim Blvd. was lively, prosperous, and safe.

After WWII, there was a brief flowering of progressive design along the commercial strip which sought to upgrade buildings and attract new customers.

In these photos, taken from the LAPL archives of the Valley Press, one can see a healthy and happy environment that, sadly, could not compete against large department stores and huge parking lots that were built, starting in the 1950s, near Victory and Laurel Canyon.

Ironically, the return of the Red Line subway to North Hollywood has spurred the renovation and rebirth of the Lankershim area into an arts district which is far more sustainable than an auto-oriented shopping mall.  Sears and the Valley Plaza are now the blighted ones who are on the verge of being redeveloped.

It takes a village to make a community, not just 3,000 parking spaces.

So here we look, with wonder and envy, at the North Hollywood that once existed.

Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967)


 

Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles (1967)

I previously wrote about this topic in 2014, but bring it up again as Los Angeles, and the State of California, are now in a furious debate about housing, cars, homelessness and how best to build.

All B&W photographs below are by Ed Ruscha. 


Ed Ruscha’s “Thirty-Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles” was published 51 years ago.

The artist, born in Nebraska in 1937, came to this city in 1956 to study at the Chouinard Art Institute. He also had an apprenticeship in typesetting.

Graduating in 1960, only 23 years old, he started working at an advertising agency doing graphic design. Influenced by the works of Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, Ruscha was featured in a 1962 survey called “New Painting of Common Objects.”

That year he published “Twentysix gasoline stations” and later “Every Building on the Sunset Strip.” (1966)

He was the first, or perhaps the most notable artist, to create a deadpan, earnest, unesthetic photography of built Los Angeles. He looked, without pretense, at the sprawling, cheap, roadside city of billboards, car washes, instant apartments and filling stations and wrapped up his black and white photographs into little, smart, best-sellers.

Ruscha was talented and knew how to sell things, always a winning combination in the city of angles. (intentional)

The 1960s was a dirty flood of bitter reckoning that hit America and threw cold water on its made-up, powdered face.

Assassinations, sexual relations, racial issues, drugs, protests, music, environmental desecration, Vietnam: the entire decade blew up a contented self-image.

A nation, which thought itself a beacon of light onto the world, was forced to reconsider its own grotesque violence and misunderstand it.

Confronting Los Angeles, Ruscha presented a homely city with a picture book full of raw honesty.

State Board of Equalization 14601 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA.

May Co. 6150 Laurel Cyn NH

Inside “Thirty Four Parking Lots in Los Angeles” are some aerial shots of ordinary Van Nuys, North Hollywood and LA in 1967, with those enormous oceans of parking lots floating boat-like buildings.

Up in an airplane, looking down, Ruscha captured lines and boxes transposed upon the land, asphalt which looked, on its surface, much like the curtain-walled office buildings of that era.

Goodyear Tires 6630 Laurel Cyn NH

Good Year Tires at 6610 Laurel Canyon in North Hollywood occupies only a dot atop a long “I” shaped land-mass of parking.

Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium is buried deep within the hot skins of asphalt, a vaginal shaped structure where men played ball.

7101 Sepulveda, Van Nuys, CA.

And 7101 Sepulveda, a now abandoned office tower near Sherman Way, has trailers and motels on its perimeter, as well as plenty of free parking. Today, this area often hosts large encampments of homeless people, so the peripatetic ways of Van Nuys have historical precedent it seems.

Eileen Feather Salon 14425 Sherman Way, Van Nuys, CA.

14425 Sherman Way was called the “Eileen Feather Salon” and has but one long building fronting Sherman Way with parking in back.

Today, that corner is a cacophony of grossness and visual pollution including donuts and Denny’s. Signs are everywhere. And the weary eye becomes nostalgic for the simple joy of a lone building and its parking lot set down on arid land in the once less populated San Fernando Valley.

 


 

7128 Van Nuys Bl. 8/5/14

We are now engaged in a great civic debate about housing, and public transportation, and some voices hope (mine included) that denser buildings along bus and train lines will help alleviate high rents and homelessness.

Yet we never quite escape the trap set by the automobile: where to drive it, where to park it, how to best accommodate its needs.

Every single debate about new buildings always begins and ends with parking. Tens of thousands sleep on the street, families cannot afford rents or mortgages, developers are hamstrung providing parking for everyone and their guests, and Los Angeles dies a little each day from auto related illnesses.

Every time we think we are biking or busing more, something sinister comes onto the scene, and we now have 100,000 Ubers and Lyfts clogging the roads, and making our lives more hellish even as we praise their conveniences.

We plan a light rail down Van Nuys Boulevard and the auto dealers like Keyes stop it at Oxnard. They still run things. They destroy the city, and they are congratulated and worshipped for it. Thousands of their new cars are stored at outdoor transit adjacent parking lots built by Metro with taxpayer funds. Ironic.

Every time we imagine we are free of the car, we are forced back into it to chauffeur little white kids to school in better neighborhoods, to commute to $10 an hour jobs, to spend three hours every day in our vehicle so we might live in a house that consumes 50% of our income. Madness.

Ed Ruscha’s simple aerial photographs of parking lots are still a fact-based statement of what this city is. And how we are all swallowed into it.

Goodyear Tires 6630 Laurel Cyn NH

Trade For Print-a new short story


trade-for-print-photo-1

 

“Trade For Print” is a new short story I wrote concerning an unscrupulous photographer who lures a postal worker into fraud by offering young love for sale.

The piece, entirely fictional, of course, takes place in North Hollywood and moves around on local boulevards and avenues: Chandler, Colfax, Bakman, Lemp and Lankershim.  And includes such storied places as The Federal Bar, SGI Buddhist Center and the North Hollywood Post Office.

 

 

Crest Apartments


 

 

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One of the best buildings in Los Angeles has opened in one of the least likely locations.

Crest Apartments, 13604 Sherman Way, is a $20 million dollar, 45,000 s.f.,  64-unit apartment for the Skid Row Housing Trust. It is east of Woodman Av.

It provides special needs support for the chronically homeless as well as veterans. Social services and a federally supported health clinic are part of the complex.

Architect Michal Maltzan designed a five story tall, tautly elegant building. Rising subtly from its garish surroundings of motels, billboards, discarded furniture, speeding cars and urban decay, Crest Apartments is a crisp, all-white façade with no signage and no ornamentation.

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Mr. Malzan has experience designing many lauded buildings, including another homeless project near downtown, New Carver Apartments, which has received many awards.

There is irony in the fact that an exquisite, understated and artful building will now house a marginalized group of people.

The Crest Project is but a drop in the bucket of solutions to the appalling and obscene homelessness afflicting our city.

In a better nation, morality, money, architecture and the public good would join hands to build a more humane and aesthetic city. But reality favors bluster, bravado and bragging.

Some of the ugliest housing in Van Nuys and greater Los Angeles is still going up for those who feign affluence and success.

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