Not quite Googie, but something


A remnant of mid-century retail architecture still doing business with the old signage in place. Time and tide have exacted their toll,  but fifty years on it seduces the eye, even amidst a cluttered and blighted commute along Saticoy. A living relic, somewhere between googie and the world evoked in Tom Wolfe’s Kandy-Kolored Tangerine Flake Streamline Baby.

Dept. of WTF


Los Angeles is ‘broke’. Meaning, despite an annual revenue stream well into the billions, it has managed to spend well beyond these billions and is, like the state of California, perpetually in deficit.  One asks for a bike path to be built, or a particularly blighted median or embankment to be landscaped, and one is told these are extravagances. There is no money for anything beyond essential services.  Downscaling expectations, one asks for nuisance crimes to be enforced, for tagging to be removed in a timely manner and the request goes unanswered.  The pothole on your block deepens with each rainstorm, till the day you go to Home Depot, buy bags of asphault patch and fill it in yourself.

And yet….somehow there is always money for a) salaries and pensions found nowhere in the private sector; b) luxury junkets to various locales by public officials; c) an endless slush fund for shakedown settlements to city employees suing the city; and d) vanity projects.    For example, the Woodman Avenue Multi-Beneficial Stormwater Capture Pilot Project.  And what might this be?

For several blocks,  cisterns will be embedded beneath the median to absorb the rain run-off,  letting it percolate back into the water table beneath the valley floor, rather than sluice past, all the way to Long Beach.  Duly captured, this .0001% of the valley’s rainwater would then be available, theoretically, for pumping to some unbuilt reservoir, at some unnamed future date our water needs require. And when was the last time we pumped water out of the valley floor?  1913.  A century ago.  The Sierra snowmelt and William Mulholland’s great swindle have served the Valley in good stead ever since.

As a bonus, there will be benches and trees placed atop the median, in case one might have an idle hour with a book and wish to spend it stranded between six lanes of commuter and two lanes of residential traffic, or engage in shouted conversation with a neighbor.  Hence, the ‘multi’ in beneficial.

Total price tag: $3.39 million.

No member of the public asked for this. Nobody.  How did this particular Potemkin village come to be?   In the usual fashion: one government agency (DWP) petitioned another (State Water Board) for the money, and they passed the costs along to the rest of us. In 2009.  The depths of the recession. In what would prove to be five straight years of double-digit unemployment. A period so fiscally dire, Sacramento imposed the largest sales/gas/car tax package in state history,  $1100 per family, employed or not.  Simply had to, you understand. Services cut to the bone.  Bond rating in danger.  Anything less would be irresponsible.

Now you know where your money went.