“Walkville” Opens in North Hollywood

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One of the most exciting developments in San Fernando Valley urban planning is nearing completion in North Hollywood near the Red Line Terminus. Walkville is a 5,000 unit housing development which is entirely green. Landscaped bike and walking trails wend their way alongside apartment buildings where children, seniors and families live.  The goal is to encourage walking, which explains the wonderful name:  evocative of health, fresh air and friendliness.

Locally-produced and sustainable materials, from Burbank, Sylmar and Pasadena were given priority during sustainable housing construction; roofs are commonly equipped with solar and photovoltaic panels, and make Walkville one of the largest home solar energy districts in Southern California. To encourage carbon reduction, a program supports tree conversation and planting. As far as water is concerned, a system for rainwater infiltration into the ground covers 80% of the residential area. A new ecological sewage system has been invented too, that reuses organic household waste and generates energy.  The LADWP offers Walkville residents a 35% discount on their water and electric rates.

Councilman Tony Cardenas, builder Eli Broad, architect Frank Gehry as well as architecture supporters Brad Pitt, Robert Redford (who grew up in Van Nuys and feels a strong connection to the town), Nancy Reagan, Michael Eisner, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Anniston (who grew up in Sherman Oaks), Comedian Jay Leno (“If it’s made in Burbank I’m for it!”) and Maria Shriver all contributed both financial and public support to the $250 million dollar undertaking.

A five-acre orange grove, the first such agricultural planting in the San Fernando Valley since 1939, will produce over 500,000 oranges a year. Herbs, walnuts, organic milk and free-range chickens may be introduced to produce locally grown foods for consumption and sale. 1300 Valley Oak trees, native to Southern California, will shade the development. Small stores, selling everything from coffee to groceries to housewares, are planned on the Vineland Avenue side. The best news is that 70% of the people who have moved to Walkville have given up their cars. They will ride the Red Line train to Hollywood, downtown LA and Pasadena and take the Orange Line bus to Woodland Hills.

The article you have just read is a satire. None of it is true, at least for the City of Angels.

Minus the celebrities, it actually and accurately describes a real town, called Vauban,  in Southern Germany.

Here is the way things really are in LA, a city where the NIMBY needs of Brentwood and Beverly Hills outweigh the greater good for all.

Van Nuys: Walking History.

This past Saturday, May 7th, Richard Hilton led a group of people, on an English-speaking tour, around historic Van Nuys center.

Radiating from the intersection of Sylvan and Van Nuys Boulevard, within three blocks, is an outstanding collection of architecture and history.

These include: the Art Deco tower of the Valley Municipal Building (1933); the glass and marble, Reagan era, Superior Court (1985); the spindly Mid-Century modern Van Nuys Library (1964); the LAPD Van Nuys Division (1965) with its decorative concrete façade and curtain wall windows; the post-war First Methodist Church (1957); the magnificent Engine Co. #39 Fire Station (1939) with its carved moderne columns and still functioning fire company; the Depression era Van Nuys Post Office (1936); and the old Spanish styled Van Nuys Library (1927) which has now been lavishly and intricately renovated for use as a law office.

Van Nuys has all the building blocks of a civilized small town, accessible by walking, near to public transit.

Since 1945, it’s obliteration by a vast unintentional conspiracy of outside forces has rendered some of it almost uninhabitable.

Illegal immigration, the destruction of historic homes (700 were bulldozed for the civic center mall in the 1960s), the widening of streets which encourage speeding and violent driving; asphalt, junk food, utility pole and billboard-blighted boulevards—these are only some of the items on a long, long list of reasons why people drive through this historic place and hope to never come back to it.

Fortunately, there are now some small and barely funded voices of enthusiasm for Van Nuys, such as Mr. Hilton’s, who hope that people can see what excellence exists in this area’s history, buildings and civic idealism.

Luigi, a tailor, whose shop on Sylvan Street is celebrating its 50th year, said Van Nuys was a sunny, beautiful, prosperous place when he came here in 1960. The GM plant and other machine, electronic, and defense industry companies once provided a solid living for middle class families.

Richard Hilton’s Guided Walking Tour of Historic Van Nuys: May 8th.

We are meeting under the “Bridge/Archway” of the Marvin Braude Center, 6262 Van Nuys Boulevard, which faces Van Nuys Boulevard.  The Archway connects the two Braude Buildings.

North Hollywood Walking Tour

North Hollywood "Amelia Earhart" Regional Library (1929)
North Hollywood "Amelia Earhart" Regional Library (1929)
St. David's Lutheran Church (1954)
Richard Hilton (third from left) leads tour.
Bank Building (1915)
Urban archaeology: Terrazzo Floor from former
First Baptist Church (1964)
Masonic Lodge (1950)
Masonic Lodge (1950)

Photos by Andy Hurvitz

Richard Hilton, a Board Member at the Museum of the San Fernando Valley, led a walking tour around North Hollywood yesterday.

Any time someone mentions one of these historic expeditions on foot to me, I start to nod off. I expect it to be dry and fact filled.

But this tour was amazing. We saw the exteriors and interiors of churches, a post office, an old bank, an Art Deco fire station, a Masonic temple, and explored a rich tapestry of architecture and social history.

Dr. Gerald Fecht added his pithy and erudite observations as well, further enriching us.