Ogdenville, North Haverbrook…Van Nuys

Coming in 2033, or 2057. Or maybe not at all.

Lyle Lanley stopped by. He has a monorail to offer us.

It’s official. Two consortiums have been hired to submit plans to LA Metro for the decades-in-discussion Sepulveda Pass Project.  Numinous configurations have been proposed over the years but the finalists are:

Sepulveda at Weddington

1) A $6 billion monorail above ground from the Expo Line in West LA to the Van Nuys Amtrak station, splitting the 405, or:

The Bechtel version
The Bechtel Map

2) A $10 billion heavy rail line (think NYC) running underground from UCLA to Sherman Oaks, coming up for air just south of Valley Vista, then becoming an aerial over Sepulveda Blvd.

Stranded in traffic, we are to weep in envy as it zips over our heads.

Both plans terminate at the yet-to-break ground East Valley Metro line on Van Nuys Blvd. Both hang a hard right at Raymer Street and claim to reach the Bundy Expo Line station in 20 minutes.

All that infrastructure headed right for Mr. UpintheValley’s backyard.  Who knew?  I would feel like a rather cunning real estate buyer if I didn’t know how long this will take.

It would be the biggest public works project in California since…High-Speed Rail from Bakersfield to Modesto. The 405 in the Sepulveda Pass is the most congested stretch of freeway in the United States. In a reasonable and rational world we would have built this instead, built it 20 years ago, or at least during the four years we spent widening the roadway, but here we are.

The terminus

The Raymer Street angle fascinates me, having walked through this low rise industrial neighborhood for years: granite yards, supply houses and weed shops.  The Favela sprouting at the edges.  The two rail lines need to intersect somewhere and the Amtrak/Metrolink station would make it a 3-for-1.  But there is no getting around the fact the train would be going to a location which for now lacks housing.

To make it pencil out, the area will have to be rezoned mixed-use residential.  What am I saying? Nothing has to pencil out. We are in the uncanny valley of architectural renderings and near-futurism.  Wait till the Sherman Oaks and Bel Air Homeowners associations get into the mix.

As an opium dream its frigging awesome.

Karenocracy

Safety theater at Runyon Canyon.

We were already an unhealthy people in March 2020. Fat, sedentary, drug taking and prone to melancholy. In 18 months we have become significantly unhealthier on direct instructions from the government. Stay home. Wear a face diaper. Live in isolation. Here’s some money, order in.  Be alone. Pestilence is all about. You are the vector of pestilence. Hide your murder breath. Don’t gather in one place like the idiots of MAGA country. Are you unhappy? Here’s a pill. Live in your underwear. Keep a pair of door pants at the ready for delivery people.  Don’t go to school.  See your sad reflection in a Zoom grid. Stare at your face for hours every day while pretending to learn. Here’s another six months of checks. Hit the app. Have the little people bring you things. Give Silicon Valley control of your headspace. Stream everything. Pay people to talk to you to fight the sad.

93,331 overdose deaths in 2020.  Three more on the floor in Venice this weekend, plus the wonderful Michael K. Williams in New York.

Since the pestilence from the Wuhan Institute of Virology reached our city, Los Angeles has handed down edicts in the name of our collective safety like a factotum from a Terry Gilliam movie. Masks. Social distancing. Disinfecting surfaces. The utility of these measures in preventing infection are marginal.  Airborne coronaviruses find a way.  They burn through the population in a given area in a two-month conflagration then wither for want of new hosts. New variants come along later and we repeat the process. Sweden is the best real-time experiment we have lockdowns may not significantly alter the ultimate outcome.

What would have helped us? Hardening one’s immune system. Dropping to a healthy weight. Improved lung function. Cardio. Vitamin D.  Among people under 65, obesity is the greatest co-morbidity, 78% of hospitalizations.

Two words:  Runyon Canyon. Get on the trail. Clear your head. Enjoy the eye candy. Stand on the ridge top like a philosopher king and contemplate the city of your youth. Turn and face the Valley of your now. Be anti-fragile. De-mask yourself and smile at your passing brethren.  Give them your face so they may give you theirs and you both may carry each other home and know you are not alone.

What a headf**k  it is to discover this week L.A. is doing all it can -still!- to restrain the public from walking there. Is it closed? Not exactly. The parking lot is closed. Most of the street parking on Mulholland has been taken away.  The main gates are closed. There are two doors, one at the top, the other on Vista, that are left unlocked. So it’s not like you literally can’t enter but the City sure makes you feel its disapproval.

What free people would stand for this? Where did this deference to grasping bureaucrats come from?

Everyone from Fauci to power-tripping LA County Health Director and fake MD Barbara Ferrer should have been pushing vigorous immune health from the beginning. How much would that have cost? Bupkis. For lack of profit it is a solution that dare not speak its name.  What would be the downside risk? There isn’t any. One can still become sick, of course, but the ability of the virus to overwhelm you is greatly diminished.  You can still push vaccines. But first, build the foundation.  Much can be accomplished in 18 months through incremental persistent changes in diet and exercise.

Here’s a data point for you all. Since Wuhan began, I have had over 2000 people in my car in various states of masking: correctly, incorrectly, hanging below the nose, under the chin, discarded altogether, talking, coughing, burping and laughing.  I lower my mask to sip water. I chew gum. I talk to people. The odds I have not come into contact with aerosolized Wuhan particles, that my lungs have not been breached, are remote. Negligible I would argue.

I have not had so much as a sore throat. I am neither superhuman, nor exceptionally lucky.  What I am is healthy (also vaxed, as of May). I spent much of the past year working outside, hiking and biking and on occasion, running.  This was a choice any of us can make. I’ve been the overweight guy, prone to melancholy. That didn’t work for me.

Our solution is not a pill. Nor is it the defenestration of the CEO of Sweetgreen for daring to say the hospitalization rate of Wuhan was driven by the “underlying problem” of obesity, then abase himself in a forced apology. Nor is it wishing Joe Rogan an early death for stating on his podcast he overcame the Delta variant in three days using Ivermectin and monoclonal antibodies.

Coronaviruses are endemic. They are with us now and will be for the rest of the lives. We have flu strains floating around dating back to 1918. The real questions before us are not viral ones. They are matters of social control.

How much liberty are we going to yield to those who would prefer us fat, sedentary and compliant? America was not designed to be a bio-medical security state, but we are building one now.

What are we going to do about it? You will be put to the question, like it or not. It will find you, even when you are out riding your bike.

Fiefdoms

Midnight Mission, 1964
Charles and Brenda Van Enger, living out of van, 1984
Rally in support of AB 2579, a $10 million homeless initiative. First of many. 1984
Los Angeles in flames, 2021. Five years after Prop. HHH

If we build it, they will come. If we fund it, they will stay. If we tell them there shall be no rules about flammables, there will be five encampment fires a day.

We are four decades into abatement schemes and the more money we throw at the favela, the greater the number of tents we have, the larger the encampments.  We have multi-story structures now, cobbled out of scrap wood and plastic, kitted out with big screen TVs and slash pools, generators and barbecue grills. We spend a billion dollars a year now in LA County, not including police and fire, to service the unhoused.  Let’s call it what it is: a business, an industry, farming people like a crop.

Ugly metaphor? Perhaps. Inaccurate?  You tell me.

Here is the Raymer Street pedestrian bridge, an ADA compliant right-0f-way for students atttending Fulton Middle School.  This is what 11-year-olds have to walk through twice a day. At either end people smoke crack openly, within grabbing distance of passerby.  This state of nature has been in place, uninterrupted, for over a year.

Would you let you kid walk here? Probably not. This is known as adverse possession. A public conveyance now belongs to the favela,  managed by Homeless, Inc., the key participants whom feed off the giant tit known as the City of Los Angeles, then go home to sleep in the neat orderly satellite cities like Glendale, where no one is allowed to camp or park overnight.

Don’t look now, but change might be brewing in Los Angeles. In July the City Council quietly altered Municipal Code 41.18 as follows:

“The ordinance prohibits sitting, sleeping, and keeping belongings within ten feet of a driveway or loading dock, within two feet of a fire hydrant, or in a way that obstruct sidewalks or right-of-ways. It also gives council members the ability to flag encampments near sensitive sites in their districts—daycares, schools, parks, libraries, freeway underpasses and on ramps—without establishing a blanket ban on camping in those places. Enforcement in those locations can’t take place until the City Council has reviewed the location and voted to approve action being taken.”

A concern among homeless advocates is that the ordinance will be utilized differently by council members in various districts, creating “mini fiefdoms,” as Elizabeth Mitchell of the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights put it.

Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the ordinance, says it gives he and his counterparts the freedom to “take action as deemed appropriate” when a problematic encampment has been identified in a sensitive area.

Yay, fiefdoms!  Mr. UpintheValley approves.

There are two interpretations of 41.18:  it’s either A) Kabuki theater, unenforceable by design.  What is the criteria for “obstruction”?  If its statutory, why should each eviction require a vote?  I see opportunity for the Council to masquerade as responding to public outrage while pretending their hands are tied by others.

Or B)  Leverage. 41.18 has usable teeth and each council member will now have the ability to establish how much chaos will be tolerated in his/her district, and act accordingly.   Nury Martinez, in theory, could turn Van Nuys into the Glendale of LA by enforcing anti-camping laws within her district. Mike Bonin can continue to hand over the beaches and parks to temporary™ housing solutions and answer to his voters.  Performance discrepancies between districts will no longer be off-loaded to “systemic complexities” of the issue.

Self-responsibility is not a burden I see the council taking on willingly.   So I suspect the answer was going to be A. Or would have until recently.

https://twitter.com/recallbonin2021/

Now there is a wrinkle.  A big one. The recall elections in District 4 and 11.  Don’t know about Nithya Raman, but Bonin might be toast. I work his district every weekend and hear the loud talk of people determined to speak freely  and to cast ballots in anger.

There are lots of angry homeowners in the Valley as well, but we are too busy subdividing amongst ourselves over Trump or BLM or personal grievances to organize. Besides, who would listen to us?  Venice eats up all the good press.

Tellingly, the last non-machine candidate elected to the City Council was also from Venice, Ruth Galanter in 1987.  Since then, the uniparty has gone approximately 120-0 in local races. With dominance comes disregard. The recalls might alter that calculus.

About thirty years ago a revolution took place in urban policing, beginning in New York.  Precinct captains were required to stand in full dress before their peers and answer for the crime stats in the neighborhoods under their watch.  No longer could one shrug: don’t blame me. It’s Snake Plissken country out there. 

It’s time for each Councilmember to be made the sheriff of his district.

The ADU Revolution in action

The most impactful structural changes come in under the radar.   Has anything done more to increase housing supply within the zoning footprint of LA without distorting residential neighborhoods than the ADU law? It has added to the tax base, put additional equity onto homeowners balance sheets and didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.

If successful, the Recalls + 41.18 might, might, set in motion an era of accountability. What a delicious irony it would be if the first blow against the machine occurred as an expression of tribal solidarity by upscale white liberals.

*Historical photos courtesy of LA Herald-Examiner Collection

A Visit to the Redwood Masada

The only thing better than owning a fabulous home in the countryside, to paraphrase Wise Johnny, is being friends with someone with a fabulous house in the country. Or in my case, friends of friends, or friend of Johnny, who generously wrangled an invitation for us to live as 1%-ers for a week, in the mountains above Santa Cruz.

If one wanted to obtain a sense of being in the world but not of it, a Berchtesgaden between Silicon Valley and the Pacific was the place do it, taking morning coffee on a veranda overlooking treetops stair-stepping to the ocean, fog dissipating under your gaze.

The Fall of Kabul and the Great ReMaskening were very far from our concerns this week. It’s an easy state of consciousness to ease into here. A feature, not a bug, of hot tubbing under the stars.

Heading north is always a little bittersweet, balancing the kindness of how I am treated by wealthier friends while knowing I can no longer afford to live in the stomping grounds of my youth, the accessibility I once took for granted.

My parents took to nature in 1973, bearing not oodles of cash, but tomes. Walden. Summerhill. The Foxfire Manual. The Whole Earth Catalog. Rural California, even the most desirable precincts, was abundant and cheap. $18000 for 80 acres of rolling meadowlands and timber, with views. Split three ways. Settled over a handshake and a joint.  They were unemployed and living on food stamps, I kid not.  A swimming pool was not part of the equation. Nor was electricity, or a running motor vehicle.

One need not have been rich to own a glorious sliver of coastal California then, just two nickels to rub together and the moxie to leave Wisconsin.

Preserving generational advantage has defined the 1973 People ever since.  Slow growth legislation. No growth. CEQA.  Nimby, thy name is Boomer.

Rural property is now very expensive and the province of people blessed with liquid grace. Tech people principally, happy to re-create Palo Alto in the woods, a weekend retreat/Zoom castle with luxury amenities to wait out the pandemic or Antifa/BLM riots, or simply make a top drawer income without the friction of proximity to others. If everything really goes to hell, there is plenty of room to lay in provisions for a siege, and who can blame wealthy Gen-Xers who paid serious money to obtain this?

It’s also –sssh- rather White up here.  Living in L.A. for twenty years one forgets just how demographically different the host region of the people really running the show in California is from the rest of the state.

Driving home, basking in the afterglow of generosity extended to me by a blameless couple I never met, my dark literary nature reasserted itself: how beautiful America is, yet how despairing, how far from the requirements of a functioning country. Enforceable borders. A sound currency. A common language. Foundational protections of speech, assembly, redress. Means of production over consumer goods. An elite that believes in America’s creedal ethos and founding documents. Incorruptible or at least high-functioning institutions. A willingness to reproduce among the native-born.

All of these things are in question at present.  I’m not sure how we can come back from the declination we have set in motion. In the meantime we backslide into a tribalism that is nominally about identity but will be enforced ruthlessly by wealth. Prediction: white areas, including the most remote and undesirable, will become unaffordable in the coming chaos. Rare is the person who practices the inclusivity he preaches.

Would John Steinbeck recognize California today? Much of the Salinas Valley would be unchanged, food producing, poor people bent over at the waist in the sun. Different people now, half of them from other countries, with the new element of vineyards, which he would appreciate.  Americans being  paid by the government to stay idle at home while replacements were bussed across the border would confound him. As would the wealth effect around Monterey Bay. Few of his characters, including the prosperous ones, could live today where he placed them in his books. Los Gatos, where he had his summer house, would be a foreign land. The vast de-personing apparatus erected by graduates of Stanford might put him in a revolutionary frame of mind.

He might retreat to the reassurance of the redwoods and take solace in the knowledge the forest will outlast our foolishness.  The trees are playing the long game, while we enjoy the shade.

The Pushcart Permanent Assurance

So I arrived for my appointment at Firestone in downtown Van Nuys yesterday for a pair of replacement tires, and was told:  “We’re running a little behind. We can get to it in two hours.”  Of nine service bays, only two were operational.  They were short on manpower, a downstream consequence of America paying people to stay home and not work on the 493rd day of 15 Days to Slow The Spread.

I adjourned to MacLeod to enjoy a pint while I waited. On Erwin St. I encountered this remarkable example of bespoke mobile architecture.  Clean, uncluttered, and minimalist. A privacy compartment of salvaged doors rolling on a stolen Home Depot cart, topped by a bunkbed. If Marie Kondo took to the streets she might come up with something like this.

A sheet flapped in the breeze like a sail, sheltering the shirtless, tattooed man sleeping inside.  It made me think of sailors stacked in bunks and the domestic rituals of prison space.  A glorious workaround to the territorial disputes among People of the Favela.  In the event of flammables, one merely needs to roll around the corner.

Across the street a new five-story, 45 unit building is about to open its apartments to the rental market.  After the five low-income units are filled, the number of people sleeping on the sidewalk of Erwin St. will not change. Behold the Vertical Valley, in a single frame.

For we are living in an era of lawless improvisation.

Chava Sanchez/LAist

After 17 months of paying the poor and the working class to remain idle, the occupant of the White House has decreed through the office of the CDC paying rent is now optional.  Biden has about as much Constitutional predicate for this as I do to shit on the sidewalk, but who in my beloved Los Angeles is gonna stop me?

In case there was confusion the Supreme Court issued a friendly reminder, called a ruling, stating he has no authority to do this. Biden is doing it anyway. Who’s gonna stop him, the NY Times? The Republicans? Heh.

Rent will not be “cancelled”. It will be paid by the federal government printing money like a khat gobbling Zimbabwean warlord and giving it to those landlords willing to accept 80 cents on the dollar after extensive paperwork.  We are doing this while jobs go unfilled everywhere.  Like at Firestone, where after two hours no one could be found to crank a wrench for $60 labor cost per tire.

This morning I went to trusty Ivan, Peruvian immigrant, who got it done in an hour for a little over half the price. He has a lease on a stall and he’s got rent to pay.

Speaking of lawless improvisation:

Austin May Not be Far Enough

Verbatim:
ASIAN WOMAN: That was seriously the most impactful hour of television I’ve ever seen. The thing that bothers me is I don’t know if a white man wrote it. I don’t think it would be appropriate for a white man to write about a black character or two women that way. If I knew that that was the case I couldn’t really accept what I was seeing.
WHITE MAN: It bothers me this whole journey we’ve been taking this past year and there’s still people who don’t get it.
ASIAN WOMAN: Like what’s wrong you? At this point I’m in contempt for white people who don’t want to do the work to complete this journey.
WHITE MAN: Well I’ve learned in bystander intervention training you have to take people to the next step, you can’t take them all the way to the goal at once. You have to link arms with them to get where they need to go. You have to show them.
ASIAN WOMAN: That makes me uncomfortable because it feels like people are allowed to get away with stuff they shouldn’t be allowed to. People should already know things. We’re enabling them by helping them. There just should be societal discipline. There should be an ejection button you can push and make people stop.

People speak freely in Uber. They speak of love and longing, of desire for comfort food and pajamas. Of the merits of a Soho House membership. But also of ejection buttons and struggle sessions.

This conversation might explain why Austin is not cheap anymore. But also why Austin will clearly not be be far enough to escape the Maoist brigades.  They have lessons to teach us. They will take us to the goal. We have a journey to complete.

To Ensure Domestic Tranquility

Here’s an anecdote from the 1980s.  My family drove to San Francisco to visit friends.  We parked across the street from said friends house, and while exchanging greetings on the front steps, we hear the sound of breaking glass.  We turn to see a perpetrator execute a smash-and-grab of my mothers purse from the back seat of our car which, being a country bumpkin from Mendocino County, she left in plain view.  Police were alerted, and a description given: “oh yeah we know exactly who he is. He’s been working this neighborhood for a month.”

Two weeks later my parents get a call from SFPD. They have him in custody. Could you return to San Francisco to identify him? It’s very important we have an eyewitness. We need to put him away.  We can pay your mileage costs.

My parents demur. It’s a long drive.  Besides, it was only $20.  (Plus the window, of course, which they never fixed).  Also, he was (sotto voce) black,  putting them in rather a tight spot politically.

So no burdensome police lineup for my feckless parents ensconced in their  rural splendor with Third Reich demographics, $400/year property tax and robbery rate of .001%. From their hippie shire they eagerly voted for the lefty-ist candidates on the ballot, every time, and still do (except for Prop. 13 repeal).

But it was to be another decade of smash and grab for urban people, liberals included, until they voted for the restoration of order. For broken windows policing. For Three Strikes laws. For Anti-Gang injunctions. For prosecution of petty theft.  Leading the charge: middle-class black folk.

It was such a resounding success in achieving its policy goals Broken Windows was unassailable for twenty years. You could not run against it. Not in New York, not in L.A or anywhere between.  In the early 1990s you couldn’t sell a house South of the 10. Now they go in multiple offers.

For how much longer?

As self-parody it would be difficult to improve upon this. Kate Chatfield works in the SF District Attorney’s office under Chesa Boudin. Before Chesa was installed by George Soros, friend of the looter, Kate made a living suing police departments. Now on the other side of the table, she declines to prosecute “crime” and likens victims to the KKK.

They used to get it, even in SF. An ignored $20 purse snatch becomes a series of snatches and doesn’t stay a $20 problem for long. What happens to a city when ten people enter a store and each steal $950 worth of goods, in plain view of security, who are told to stand down for fear of lawsuits/bad press and who could be punched with impunity by the thieves since simple assault is no longer prosecuted? How long can stores remain open?

If you think this is only a question of property crime and hoping we can just eat the cost somehow in higher prices and ride it out, consider the above two minute cinema verite futurism.

Three hundred pounds, this guy. Multiple eyewitness. License plate. DNA.  Coverage on local news. No arrest.

Wait, what? Back up.

Police never caught him. She was the third woman this criminal mastermind assaulted is as many days, all from his vehicle.  A week later, his mother turned him in. How much shoe leather did they put in on this?  I’m afraid to know the answer.

Maybe Kate Chatfield is telling on herself with the Birth of a Nation reference.  That’s where this going, isn’t it? The logic of Critical Race Theory leads inevitably to the erosion of a rules based order, and a concomitant demand we make our skin color our uniform, all of us. Vigilante justice, the mirror image of looting, will be unavoidable.

But it won’t be white people, at least not in L.A.  Their wealth discriminates, so they don’t have to. Those who aren’t wealthy enough for safety have decamped for the exurbs, or the red states, or are planning to do so. Or they are single and childless and renting and will simply pull up stakes when the cost/benefit calculus turns unfavorable.

No, the vigilantes will be the people who can’t back up.  Who are rooted to mortgages, to brick and mortar employment, kinship networks and parental obligation. People who won’t go back to the old country.   People who have ceded as much ground as they are going to and not an inch farther.

Latinos. Armenians. The people at Nolo’s Barbershop, where I get my haircuts.  Men who shook their heads at the obsequious news coverage of the George Floyd trial and clucked and spoke freely and didn’t care who heard.

I’m an urban guy. I can abide a certain degree of day to day friction, but I don’t want to live in a Los Angeles without handcuffs, and I definitely don’t wish to stay in the version of Los Angeles that comes after.

In A City of Constant Yang

Yang in ecstasy, Los Angeles, 2019                                                                                 Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

SO I PICKED UP two ladies in West Hollywood at bar close last night.  They paid me for service. Oh baby, they paid.

The first woman was going to Sherman Oaks. She had a friend going to Brentwood.  Could I add her to my route? Her last two Uber drivers had stood her up.

Sure. Just add the address.  She did, and -oof- the fare jumped to $110. Ms. Brentwood kvetched as we climbed Laurel Canyon. How difficult it now was to get an Uber now, especially out of LAX since she was only traveling a short distance. Drivers were holding out for rides to Disneyland or Palm Springs.  This was unfair.  Ms. Sherman Oaks noted the number of office mates who had repatriated to their places of origin during the pandemic but still on the payroll at LA salaries while Zooming in from Maine or Idaho.  This made no sense.

Actually it made perfect sense, in Ayn Randian terms.

There is a shortage of Uber drivers now as there is a shortage of service workers everywhere. This is the natural consequence of the government paying people to remain jobless.   Uber is a real-time spot market for service on demand: how much will you pay to get home now, as opposed to an hour from now?  Riders groan in dismay, but they’re playing against the house, which sits on years of metadata. Uber knows what you will pay.

So I earned $85 for 34 minutes of driving, plus an additional $12 in incentives above the fare as an inducement to keep me on the road.  What Uber doesn’t know, and no one does, is how deeply or how far in the future riders are willing to be gouged. Thus, incentives, a hedge against uncertainty.

Technically L.A. fully reopened June 15, no mask, no social distance, full capacity. Practically speaking its “Help Wanted” signs and signing bonuses everywhere.

Establishments that are able to reconstitute their staff are making a killing. A third of my weekend trips involve just seven Westside businesses:
The Lincoln
Brennans
Roosterfish
Venice Whaler
Townhouse
The Victorian
Bungalow
There are frequently one hour lines.  For bars.

One might ask: how long can this go on? I thought when word leaked on chat boards this spring of all the fat, once-a-decade money being made behind the wheel, drivers would return.  My contemplative brethren have failed to heed the call. Then the Biden administration extended full PUA and UI benefits through September.  The California eviction moratorium was extended to October, with taxpayers picking up 80% of the back rent and landlords required to eat the remaining 20%.

Protections for some tenants could last into March 2022 while they apply for financial aid from the state.

Okay, March then.  Maybe. But why would it end there?  People (some, not all) can double-dip with impunity, taking the dole and shorting the rent. Woe betide the politician who says yes to the first televised eviction in Los Angeles.*

And there’s more. Buried in the “infrastructure” reconciliation bill now before Congress is a $7200 refundable child tax credit: the old, reviled AFDC/cash welfare resurrected by another name. That’s per kid, permanently, on top of EBT, Section 8, Medicaid and free phones. Add it up. No one collecting $50K in baseline support is going to apply for shift work at Costco and its not because she is busy writing a novel.

How far we have moved the Overton window in 15 months. In 2019 the Universal Basic Income proposed by Andrew Yang was a $1000/month supplemental floor, which would scale downward with earnings, intended to augment, not replace work. I thought it a potential boondoggle, but it would pass for sober and responsible now.  Easily Americas most likable politician, Yang got a respectful hearing, but his proposal didn’t achieve liftoff . That was so 2019, when we paid lip service to moral hazard and inflationary pressure.  Now we pay $100 for Uber rides and $100 for a sheet of plywood.

If one were to conjure a black swan event which would fundamentally weaponize America’s most self-destructive proclivities: safetyism, media hysteria, profligate spending, veneration of bureaucrats, corporate oligarchy; if would be hard to improve on the Wuhan virus.

If you’re wondering when the bill will come due for all the deficit trillions, it’s already here.

Here’s a sweet coda: despite her frustrations with Uber Ms. Sherman Oaks left me a $22 tip. On top of the $110. Some people are innately gracious.

For now.

 

* Actually, enormous respect and quiet appreciation would flow to such a person. The rending of garments on social media would be considerable.

People By the Freeway Cook With Gas

Thin orange line behind Orion Street

Biking home from the gym yesterday, great plumes of black smoke near the 405 announced another homeless fire, or the launch of encampment fire season, as we now know it in the Valley.

Technically this isn’t true, the season got off to a running start on Friday with a one acre burn in the Sepulveda Basin that was doused by helicopter.

But the Basin is always burning. At any hour of the day, butane is igniting. Meth pipes are roasting like s’mores. Cigarettes and blunts are sucked down to the nubby entrails and tossed to the winds. Ramen noodles boil over campstoves.  Disputes and debts are settled flammably.  It’s only a question of how much brush gets involved.

In this case the unhoused have squeezed into the narrow no mans land between the sound abatement wall of the 405 and the back fences of the people who live on Orion Street.   They don’t get away with that in Midvale Estates, but in the sweaty flatlands of working class Latino North Hills with its own portion of unpermitted backyard structures people are less inclined to go to the authorities.

When the only thing separating the feral from the domesticated is a kindling line of sun-scorched lacquered wood the tragedy of the commons is waiting. The flames licked their way across the fictional divide of public and private space to what LAFD delicately referred to in the incident report as “outbuildings”, destroying several before being extinguished. All credit to the Fire Dept. for saving the houses proper.

Not half a mile from here sits the former Panorama Motel, recently purchased by the City for conversion to interim housing for people sleeping within 500 feet of a freeway.  It is one of ten motel purchases under Project Homekey.  Cost: $105 million. Total served: 536. At $195,895 per head, it is more expensive than the $130K/unit Tiny Home Villages, but a bargain next to the perpetually-in-the-near-future $700K homeless condos downtown.

My question is this: in the fall, after the Panorama Motel is retrofitted transitional housing, will there be more people living by the 405, or less? Will I no longer see people clustered on the off-ramp?  If the number remains unchanged or worse, wouldn’t that be a refutation of the “housing first” policy?  This will be our acid test.

Maybe it will work. I hope it does.

Four years after passing Props. H and HHH, the homeless population has increased by a third.  The fires however, are daily. That’s a new wrinkle.

For dollar value may I suggest the very un-flammable quonset hut? It was good enough for Gomer Pyle…

Jacaranda Season

Gothic Street

Urbanization encroaches, but the Valley retains an unextinguished surplus of beauty, lying in wait, ignored, ready to poke its head up to say hello when you are busy grousing about the world.

Turn the corner and there she is, primeval and glorious. At moments like this a life ensconced in 1950s architecture has a cranky kind of charm, considering the alternatives.

The vertical Valley is coming north and west one building at a time, leapfrogging blocks, out of scale with its surroundings. Godzilla stalking NoHo.  Kong on Sepulveda. It’s the tribute 2021 pays to 1950 to keep what we have.