Densmore and Stagg, N. of Saticoy.


Drive west on Saticoy St., past the 405 and turn right/north, onto Densmore Avenue. 

You are still, according to Google Maps, in Van Nuys. (all apologies to Lake Balboa, which seems to have some fourteen boundariesaround its neighborhood.)

On Densmore, near Stagg, you’ll find, as I did, a neat, monotonous, hard-working district of small companies; mostly hidden behind bricks and barred windows.

Creative Age Productions at 7628 Densmore is there. They publish beauty magazines. Nailpro, Eyelash and Dayspa are some of their best-known publications. These titles are often competing with mirrors for customer attention.

They are neighbors with: Superior Shipping Supplies, New Rule Productions, Regency Fire Protection; and Kedem Properties, 7752 Densmore, which sounds like a Kosher wine but is actually a commercial property company. 

Black Sheep Enterprises, at 15745 Stagg, manufactures theatrical and stage drapery, a specialty one cannot buy off the shelves of Target.

The Katsu-Ya Group at 15819 Stagg owns nine sushi restaurants around the Southland. They are incongruously housed in a white and brown brick Mexican style building with arched designs.

Katsu-Ya Headquarters at 15819 Stagg St.

And the American Rubber and Supply Co. at 15849 Stagg St. has been in business since 1947 and is a supplier of industrial rubber products. Your car mat, your yoga mat, and your kitchen mat, next to the kitchen sink, might have all come from here.

New Rule FX at 7751 Densmore makes special effects props and supplies for movies, TV and theater. If you need piles of fake US currency, realistic cheeseburgers in rubber, or a room full of exploding balsa wood furniture , then this is the place to shop.  Their free-floating, fantastical, imaginative fantasies are constructed behind a dismal, prisonlike façade of white cinderblocks and steel bars.

Where Stagg St. bisects Densmore Ave is Mission Industrial Park, announced by a two-posted, two-fisted, old Western kind of sign with raised letters on a wide wooden board hung 20’ high over the street.  It welcomes you to a white-walled alley of various buildings presumably under one owner who felt compelled to establish an identity for her vastly unremarkable assemblage.

Mission Industrial Park.

We went all around here, on public sidewalks, a few days ago, to shoot some photos for a mens’ fashion brand called Magill Los Angeles.  

James and Carter were the models.

Along Densmore Av. Carter (L) and James.

James was 19 and had long blonde hair and said he was born in South Los Angeles but had moved with his father to North Dakota. He was now living in New York City and visiting Hollywood to strike up a modeling career. He had the dazed and confused 70s aura from juvenile and stoned Reseda. He works at McDonalds now but may well be famous in 2029.

Carter, actor, came from North Carolina and was well-read, articulate and sensitive to both words and pollen.

James

The day was sunny, the wind was blowing, the boys were happy and we went to eat tacos later at Tacos Hell Yeah which they said was their best ever meal in LA.

Tacos Hell Yeah
7607 White Oak Ave, Reseda, CA 91335

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Those industrial compounds, like the Stagg/Densmore District, are the hidden places in the San Fernando Valley that nobody knows about. 

Tidy, productive, industrious, they are the old lifeblood of Los Angeles, where your late Uncle Bernie, with the cigar in his mouth and the bad gallbladder, set up shop after the war and bought a three bedroom, rock-roofed ranch up on Zelzah Avenue with a delightful kidney-shaped pool.

He had little patience for tears, or men who didn’t know the difference between a wrench or a pliers, having served up ice cream at Montgomery Ward until he enlisted in ’42 and saw action at Guadalcanal. He was never bored, because he was always busy, and you vowed you would never become Uncle Bernie but you’ve done quite worse, haven’t you? He had work and a family, and a company, and a paid for house and you made fun of it, but now life laughs at you.

Aside from the work that goes on inside these shops, there is nothing to do in this area for someone in search of stimulation. Densmore and Stagg and parts around here are boring, without street life. Yet men and women in these enterprises are engaged in work, absorbed in inventions, and creating products that are, in many respects, quite interesting.

Along Stagg St.

Magill: Target/N. Van Nuys
(Not near the Densmore/Stagg/ Mission Industrial District)
James on the Raymer St. Bridge, Van Nuys, CA.

Riots of Color


Urbanize LA is a website showing new development around our city. I get updates from them and see what architecture is going up and what it looks like.

In residential multi-family buildings, modernism is triumphant.

Today, every building is uniquely ahistorical, without any reference to past classical styles, which, in a way is good. Los Angeles, especially in the San Fernando Valley, suffered from 20 years of Neo-Mediterranean buildings, a style that still afflicts much of residential, single-family Beverly Hills.

But the modern styles going up are nervous, jittery, full of multi-colored sections of various colors, so that many buildings do not exude calm or confidence but insecurity. Sections of four, five, or eight story apartments are broken up into light/dark/red/green/white/blue/wood/yellow/purple….. sometimes on one building.

I’m not sure how to psychoanalyse the stylistic quirks of mediocre apartment architecture. I think some of it is due to trying to sell buildings to neighborhoods which are hostile to them. By dividing up larger buildings into many colors, the effect is to reduce the apparent total size.

An apartment building with 40 windows on a wall 160 ft. long in one color appears large. 40 windows in 8/20-foot long sections with 8 different colors seems smaller.

Compare these two examples below. The new Expo Line is 7-stories, while the older one is 5-stories.

Sycamore apartments, northwest corner of North Sycamore Avenue and Beverly Boulevard

An Ugly Example at a Prominent Corner

One of the ugliest of the newer buildings is the retail/apartment built on the SE corner of Wilshire/Labrea which is not only multi-colored but cheap looking as well. LA Curbed called it “possibly LA’s most hated” in 2013. “The building’s facade is a jumble of balconies and discordant frontal planes with the northern and eastern faces designed differently, united by a central tower that seems to lack any elegance or even much design,” wrote Julie Grist of Larchmont Buzz. “It’s a shame the design team couldn’t at least try to borrow some of the sleek lines from other streamline or deco architecture still standing along Wilshire Boulevard.”

Tragically, it occupies an important corner of Los Angeles but has an H&M quality where a fine building belongs.

LA architects and builders built one color apartments from roughly the 1920s through the 1960s with no degradation to the aesthetic fabric of the city. How was that possible?

Southwest corner of Pico Boulevard and Union Avenue

Sycamore apartments, northwest corner of North Sycamore Avenue and Beverly Boulevard

Apartments_on_Grand_Avenue_Bunker_Hill

Guardian_Arms_Apartments_Hollywood

Brynmoor_Apartments

Whitsett Av. Studio City, 1964.

New_apartments_West_Adams

Gaylord_Apartment_house_front_view, 1924

Stories From Our Landscape.


Deborah Geffner
Deborah Geffner

 

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This writer and three others will have their short stories read aloud at the Annenberg  Community Beach House on Tuesday, August 16, 2016 at 6:30pm.

My story, “The Bright Shop”, concerns a  European refugee who designs a new life in 1960s Los Angeles only to see it crumble on the edge of the Pacific Ocean. Actor Deborah Geffner will perform it.

Tickets are free but require reservations.

 

Juvenile Gang Style, Van Nuys, 1951.


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Members of a juvenile gang (“Jack’s Gang”) wait outside of the Valley Municipal Building, August 14, 1951. They were charged with possession of numerous weapons.

Gang members in the early 1950s were quite different from our modern gangsters.

Thin, lanky, well-groomed, they wore argyle socks, dress trousers with cuffs, or, like one young man, dark jeans with graphic t-shirt (“Hollywood and Vine”). Another sports a Hawaiian shirt and rolled up denim jeans.

Their parents seem perversely proud and non-plussed by their boys, as if the young men were just going through another male rite of passage.

Photos: USC Digital Archives

Ray Chu.


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He is the nephew of the founder of Nautica. Ray is studying theater at NYU and has a keen eye for clothes and vintage style. He cites old movies, Cary Grant and AMC’s “Mad Men” as inspiration.