The Janitors’ Light Rail.


Nury Martinez, 2012. (Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer)

“If you’re a housekeeper, janitor or dish washer, you need to get to work every day on time,” she said. “Buses don’t move as many people and as quickly as the light rail. That’s why we’re excited about the project that would serve people who are transit dependent.”[1]

“As a mom, I can tell you it’s terrifying to sometimes think of having to get on the Red Line. I won’t for that very reason,” she said. “I don’t have to see the data collection to know that if I feel unsafe to ride the train with my kid, that I’m just simply not going to use it.”[2]

-Councilwoman Nury Martinez

Why are these two quotes important?

What does it matter what Councilwoman Nury Martinez of LA’s City Council District #6, representing Arleta, Panorama City, Lake Balboa, and Van Nuys thinks about public transportation, light rail, who rides it and who needs it?

It matters, I think, because it shows a way of describing non-car travel as something used by people who are the lesser people of the City of Angels: maids, janitors, dishwashers and perhaps even criminals.

Can agents at William Morris, that actor who stars on that sitcom, Hancock Park attorneys, the conductor of the LA Philharmonic, and Dodger Clayton Kershaw also ride trains? I wish they all did!

Strange that a political culture that panders to PC should grossly stereotype transit riders.

The prospect that Van Nuys, long languishing, is under her jittery guidance, and limited vision, is not especially comforting.  A public official who denigrates public transportation is not doing the people’s business very well.

For in her remarks she shows a remarkably retrogressive and depressing view of public transportation as something which is sometimes terrifying, unsuitable for mothers with children, and only made for unskilled workers commuting to low paying jobs in the NE Valley.

There has been, for a long time, an idea that if you had enough money in Los Angeles you would surely travel by car. And today, we have the spectacle of 24/7 traffic produced by a culture conditioned to expect that every journey must begin and end in a car.

Even as plans for expansion of light rail go on all over Los Angeles, there is an equally strong pushback against it.

  • Uber and Lyft are making it possible to take short distance trips by dialing up a ride on your phone.
  • Amazon is delivering everything from chewing gum to sofas with fleets of trucks that are also clogging our streets.
  • Parents who rightly shudder at their children attending a low rated local school chauffeur their kids 25 miles away to “better schools.”
  • Housing is now a luxury commodity but every law that seeks to expand it runs into the “where will they park?” crowd who wants to stop new apartments, new granny flats, new retail stores and multi-family dwellings near trains.

And instead of public officials offering imaginative, innovative and futuristic ideas, we have a throwback to the car culture that is unsustainable.

Los Angeles! This is 2018! This is not 1975, 1965 or 1945!

Light rail and subways are not dangerous. They are not only for criminals. They are not only for the woman who scrubs your floor. Properly policed, intelligently managed, excellently maintained, they can be pleasant, quick and enjoyable.

They are the way we ALL will get around Los Angeles when gridlock by private vehicle renders this city dysfunctional.










The Once and Future Panorama City.

In Panorama City near Roscoe and Tobias, a once bustling shopping center, housing a Montgomery Ward and Electric Avenue, sits in desolation and decay.

Acres of asphalt, decorated with some tree islands, surround windowless buildings paint washed in blues, pinks, grays, and greens.

A bustling, prosperous, crowded shopping center closed down and emerged as a 21st Century ghost town. The stores died but the ghosts are alive.


Los Angeles is like that. A wagon train of commercial banality moves around the city, setting up camp every decade and replacing what came before it. Melrose and Westwood were hot in the 80s and now it’s Santa Monica. Downtown LA was dead for so long. Now it is ascendant, and should stay that way until about 2030. Culver City is competing against Century City. Pasadena is jogging to keep in place, and upstart Glendale is emulating Beverly Hills.

And Reseda, Panorama City, Van Nuys, and Northridge are on life support.

Up there at Roscoe and Tobias something so vast and so important, a place that hundreds worked in, and thousands shopped at is gone, and waiting for a new huckster and a new plan.

What follows is purely imaginary but may contain some grains of truth.

No doubt, when the powers that be ordain it, it will be “mixed use” and appear gentle and green and village like. There will be fountains and benches and lounges and 14 movie theaters and 2 Costcos interspersed between senior living, child friendly, family welcoming, diversity hiring, green-certified and wifi-enabled promises.

The LA Times and the Daily News will write about it. But nobody will read it. An uninformed citizenry is the best choice for a nation hoping to remain powerless or for a community uninterested, unprepared and unlearned in its own future.

There will be a groundbreaking event with Mayor Eric Garcetti, Councilwoman Nury Martinez, LA Philharmonic Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, the St. Genevieve Catholic Church Choir, the Kaiser Permanente/Westfield Mall Hospital Executive Board, along with LAFD red fire trucks, LAPD black and white police cars and actors Eric Estrada, Mario Lopez, Eva Longoria and Jennifer Lopez. KCAL will interrupt regular broadcasting to cover “breaking news” here.

Today’s event marks the revitalization of Panorama City!

This is a new day for Panorama City with walkable, urban living 20 miles north of the city center.

This will be the finest shopping center between Van Nuys and Pacoima!

When civilization comes to Los Angeles it has to be underwritten by banks, the Chinese Government and the Westfield Corporation.

I imagine it will be centered around walking. But no buses will stop here.

There will be 100 affordable income apartments renting for $2800 a month, and 4,000 market priced units starting at $800,000.

There will be an 8-story tall parking structure for 5,000 cars, and 10 bikes and high-security cameras surrounding it all.

In the 110-degree heat, black spandex clad people will drive here in their air-conditioned SUVs. They’ll eat organic ice cream,  climb artificial rock walls, work out at the new 24 Hour Fitness and emerge to drink ice coffee. They will eat Unami Burgers, drink Golden Road beer, and shop at Crate and Barrel. Every weekend, three new blockbuster films will screen here, and thousands of tattooed fatties in flip-flops will pay $16 a ticket to watch computer generated toys destroy the Earth.

President Donald Trump will send congratulatory messages to the community where nobody voted for him and promise “amazing and unbelievable things” for Panorama City. Forgotten was his promise to deport which would have brought the population of the area to less than 100 people.

Or maybe none of the above will happen, and the big frontier will go on a little longer, a reminder of what shopping center life was like in 1975.

DSCF0659 (1)


Nixon in Panorama City: November 29, 1956

0 0-1



Not long after VP Richard M. Nixon and his boss, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, won the 1956 election, Nixon and wife Pat toured Southern California.

Introduced by Congressman Edgar W. Hiestand (R), a staunch anti-Communist and a member of the John Birch Society, Nixon spoke to an enthusiastic shopping center crowd under a banner sign which read: “Panorama City Welcomes Dick”.

(Photos courtesy of the USC Digital Archives)

1949 and 1953: Two Aerial Views Over Panorama City and the GM Plant.




From the USC Digital Archives comes these stunning aerial photos over Panorama City and the large General Motors Plant. The top on is from 1949. And then one taken four years later on January 13, 1953 showing the rapid growth of the area.

Some 15,000 new homes were built in 1953, and some 30,000 new structures added. The vast agricultural landscape was transformed into a suburban, single-family section of Los Angeles, peopled by young families with children.

The map shows that the streets, 61 years later, are still the same. The vast GM Plant closed in 1992 and is now occupied by “The Plant” shopping mall. Panorama City still teems with new arrivals.