One Day, Soon.


 

One day, soon, there will be a revitalization of Van Nuys Boulevard.

Gone forever will be the hopeless days when people laughed to mock it, or ran away in revulsion.

All the central gathering places that should be occupied by civilized things, all the lots that hold parking, all the empty buildings along Van Nuys Boulevard, will be replaced with vibrant, happy, upbeat, successful businesses and residents.

It will take nothing more than $5 billion dollars to invest in new transit, new apartments, new multi-family housing, new police officers, a new police station, an army of street cleaners, and law enforcement people who will ticket illegally parked cars, handicap placard abusers, unregulated street sellers, unlicensed signs, and unpermitted businesses.

The narrowing of Victory Boulevard, the planting of 200 oak trees from Kester to Van Nuys Boulevard, will bring about a revitalization of the formerly crappy strip of low rent mini-malls, slum apartments and empty stores. The LAPD Victory Precinct at the corner of Van Nuys Boulevard and Victory, and its drop-in center there will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

150 new LAPD officers, out of a police force of some 10,000 will be specifially assigned to the area.

Some 50 new apartment buildings, from Sherman Way to Oxnard, with 10,000 new apartments, will be built and 20% of them will rent for under market value.

Security cameras will enforce the law to prevent speeding, red light running, assault, vandalism, burglaries of properties and hold-ups on the street.

There will be decorative streetlights, three new parks, new benches, and thousands of shade trees planted along the boulevard to protect against temperatures that get hotter every year.

Bike lanes, light rail, automobiles and pedestrians will share a new Van Nuys Boulevard divided between all types of transport, from foot to motor to public.

And the architecture will be inventive, modern, and integrate environmentally such necessities as solar energy and district wide free wi-fi.

In a nod to the old Van Nuys, the first orange grove planted in the Valley in 90 years will be manned by formerly homeless men and women who will guard the orchards as they would their own children. There will be 10 houses planted around the grove to ensure the safety and security of the new urban agriculturalists.

The low industrial buildings in the neighborhood around Kester and Oxnard, all 33 acres, were preserved in 2018, and later became an incubator for creatives who settled in the area and built narrow houses near the Orange Line, and worked and lived next to artisans, musicians, brewers, car restorers and craftspeople of every skill.

All of this is possible.

The people who will decide whether this is fantasy or reality are reading this post.


All photos courtesy of Architizer.

Architecture by Graham Baba.

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The Janitors’ Light Rail.


 

nury-martinez-dn
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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.dailynews.com/2018/06/03/heres-van-nuys-through-the-eyes-of-mr-van-nuys/

[2] http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-martinez-metro-sexual-harassment-20180124-story.html

Option A: Just Plain Places


This blog has written 13 other times on “Option A”, a Metro LA proposal by the public transportation agency to wipe out 33 acres of industry in Van Nuys, near the junction of Oxnard and Kester, and replace it with a light rail service yard. It would destroy 1,000 jobs, displace 186 businesses and flatten 58 buildings.

Though the scheme has been public knowledge since September 2017, property owners, workers, renters and the neighbors near here still stand on thin ice, awaiting official June 2018 word whether this whole district is sentenced to death, or if another site (B, C, or D), near the Metrolink tracks up on Raymer Street will be chosen instead.

A photo walk around here yesterday, along Oxnard, Aetna, Bessemer and Calvert, to document some buildings that may be gone in a few years, was also an opportunity to show that this area has great potential beyond its current light industrial use.

In gravel yards, on cracked and broken asphalt, under decaying wood, on treeless, depopulated and narrow roads, there are ingredients for a nice urban area of some new housing, some new cafes, some places where trees, lighting, discreet signage and pavement of cobblestones could bring an infusion of 24/7, urban, walkable, bikeable activity to the neighborhood.

It is already an incubator of creativity with makers of exquisite decorative hardware, superb custom cabinetry, music recording studios, Vespa and Mustang restorers, stained glass makers, welders, boat builders, and kitchen designers. These businesses, incidentally, are staffed by mostly local owners and workers, many of whom are but minutes away, or take the bus or even walk to work.  Rents are currently affordable, often 50 cents, $1 or $2 a square foot.

MacLeod Ale, maker of fine British style beers, since 2014, is on the north side of Calvert and is not threatened with demolition but its existence and success is a testament to the potential for innovation in this area.

Ironically, the very wonderful addition of a landscaped bike path and the Metro Orange Line bus in 2005 is now threatening the area because of future conversion to a light rail system. Yet the “Option A” district is thriving, even if it is shabby in places, because it is a work zone of skilled, employed, productive people.

Politicians who often talk ad nauseum about “diversity”  should come here with mouths closed and observe men and women: Mexican, Armenian, Norwegian, German, Persian, Guatemalan, Salvadoran, Irish, Scottish, Israeli-Americans, all the hyphenations of ethnicity and gender, who don’t care about where anyone came from, but only about where they are going in life.

This is Los Angeles. This is diversity. This is economic prosperity. This is within walking distance of “downtown Van Nuys.”

Yet short-sighted officials, bureaucratic ignoramuses with grandiose titles, flush with public money, would consider wiping out the very type of neighborhood whose qualities are needed, wanted and venerated.

Option A must not happen. This is what it looks like now.

Imagine what it could look like with the right, guiding hands of investment, preservation, planning and protection.

 

 

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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: “Where Will We Go?”


A new mural, painted by Guy Ellis, on the side of Showcase Cabinets at 14823 Aetna St. Owner Peter Scholz (L) and Artist Guy Ellis.

The proposed Metro Los Angeles scheme (“Option A”) desires, through eminent domain, to flatten 186 small businesses employing some 1,500 workers just steps from downtown Van Nuys.

The 33-acre area extends from Oxnard St on the south to Calvert St on the north, Kester St. on the west and Cedros on the east. In this area, rows of shops straddling the Orange Line will be extinguished by 2020.

Light rail is coming, the trains need a place to freshen up, and here is their proposed outdoor spa.

The engine of public relations is roaring. Mayor Garcetti needs to remake LA for the 2028 Olympics. He has gotten the city into full throttle prepping for it.

It is comforting to think that property owners will be reimbursed for their buildings, that businesses “can relocate”, that the city will take care of those who pay taxes, make local products, and employ hundreds.

But most of these lawful, industrious, innovative companies only rent space. Yes, they are only renters, and they face the dim, depressing, scary prospect of becoming economic refugees, chased out by their own local government. Some of these men and women have fled Iran, Armenia, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico, places where war, violence, corruption, drugs and religious persecution destroyed lives and families.

Others were born in Van Nuys, those blue-eyed, blonde kids who went to Notre Dame High School and grew up proud Angelenos, driving around the San Fernando Valley, eating burgers, going to the beach, dreaming of making a good living doing something independently with their hands.

They all expressed shame, disappointment, anger, and betrayal against Councilwoman Nury Martinez and the Metro Los Angeles board for an action of insurmountable cruelty: pulling the rug out from profitable enterprises and turning bright prospects into dark.

Scott Walton, 55, whose family purchased the business Uncle Studios in 1979, said, “I think I’d sell my house and leave L.A. if this happens. I would give up on this city in a blind second.” His mother is ill and his sister has cancer. His studio now faces a possible death sentence.

What follows below are profiles of three men, who come from very different industries, but are all under the same threat.


Bullied at the Boatyard: Steve Muradyan

Steve Muradyan

At BPM Custom Marine on Calvert St., Steve Muradyan, 46, services and stores high performance boats at a rented facility. Here are dozens of racing craft costing from $500,000-$1 million, owned by wealthy people in Marina Del Rey and Malibu. The boats winter in Van Nuys, where they are expertly detailed, inside and out.

Mr. Muradyan, a short, broad-shouldered, sunburned man with burning rage, threw up his hands at the illogic of his situation. He takes care of his wife, two children, and aging parents. He pays 98 cents a square foot in 5,000 SF and he cannot fathom where he might go next. A wide driveway accommodates the 50 and 70-foot long boats. And he can work late into the night drilling and towing, without disturbing others.

He once ran an auto repair shop on Oxnard. Later he had a towing service. Then he started his boat business in 2003. He had raced boats as a young man, and this was part of his experience and his passion. Why not?

He deals with all the daily stress of insurance, taxes, payroll, equipment breakdowns, deadlines, customer demands, finding parts, servicing the big craft. He worries about his business, his family, his income. And now this impending doom, dropped from the skies by Metro. He prays it will not happen to him. He cannot fathom losing it all, again.


Art and Soul in Stained Glass: Simon Simonian 

Over at Progressive Art Stained Glass Studio, 70-year-old architect and craftsman Simon Simonian rents a small unit on Aetna where he designs and molds exquisite stained glass for expensive homes, churches, synagogues and historic buildings.

He knows all the local businesses, and often he sends customers to the cabinetmakers and metal honers steps away. There is true collaboration between the artisans here.

A kind, creative man with a penetrating gaze, Mr. Simonian, with his wife and young son, came from Tehran in 1978 to study in Southern California and escape the impending revolution in Iran. He speaks Farsi, English and Armenian.

He is an Armenian Christian and his family was prosperous and made wine. His father had escaped the turmoil in Armenia when the Communists took over after WWII, which was also preceded by the massacre by Turkey of 1.5 million. His people have suffered killing, expulsion, persecution, and the loss of dignity in every decade of the 20th Century.

The Simonian Winery was doing well in Iran in 1979. And then the Islamists came to power and burned it down. By that time Simon and his wife and son were in Southern California. He begged his father to come but the old man stayed in Tehran and died five years later.

Tenacity, survival, and intelligence are in his genes.

“I love what I do. I have loyal customers. The location is excellent. I know all my neighbors here. I want to stay rooted. I don’t want to have to start all over again. Where can I find space like this? Where will I go?” he asks with the weary experience of a man who has had to find another way to proceed.


The Man from Uncle: Scott Walton

55-year-old Scott Walton looks every bit the rocker who runs the recording studio. He is longhaired and lanky. With a touch of agitation and glee, he slips in and out of the dark, windowless rehearsal spaces of Uncle Studios, where he has worked since 1979.

His father, with foresight, loaned $50,000 to his two sons, Mark, 20, and Scott, 17 to buy a recording studio. Here the boys hosted thousands of aspiring musicians including Devo, The Eurythmics, Weird Al Yankovic, Weather Report, Yes, Black Light Syndrome, No Effects, The Dickies, Stray Cats, and Nancy Sinatra.

When Scott first started he didn’t play any music. He learned keyboard, classical piano and he also sings. He went on the road, for a time, in the 1980s, playing keyboard for Weird Al Yankovic. He also plays in Billy Sherwood’s (“Yes”) current band.

Despite the proximity to fame, talent, money and legend, Uncle Studios is still a rental space where young and old, rich and poor, pay by the hour to record and play music. Something in the old wood and stucco buildings possesses a warm, acoustic richness. Music sounds soulful, real and alive here, unencumbered by the digital plasticity of modern recordings.

But Scott Walton is also a renter. He does not own the building bearing his business name. If his structure is obliterated, he will lose the very foundation of his life, his income, and his daily purpose. He will become an American Refugee in the city of his birth.


This is only a sampling of the suffering that will commence if Metro-Martinez allows it. The Marijuana onslaught is also looming.

On the horizon, Los Angeles is becoming dangerously inhospitable to any small business that is not cannabis. Growers are paying three times the asking rental price to set up indoor pot farms for their noxious and numbing substance. There may come a time when the only industry left in this city is marijuana.

The new refugees are small craftsmen running legitimate enterprises. Some may not believe it. But I heard it and saw it on Aetna, Bessemer, and Calvert Streets.

The pain is real, the fear is omnipresent and the situation is dire.

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