Her Grace, Duchess Carol

It is the particular folly of Los Angeles to allow itself to be ruled by people who do not live here.

Carol Sobel was counsel in Jones vs. Los Angeles which ushered in the Era of City Wide Street Camping.  Her co-counsel was Ben Wizner of San Francisco, subsequently more famous as Edward Snowden’s lawyer.

The consequential local policy decision of this century was undertaken without a vote of the City Council or public referendum.

Surrendering a winnable case is as much an action as an appeal.  Los Angeles folded in Jones not because it had a bad hand to play, but a strong one. With victory comes the responsibility to act, and who wants that?  Better a log rollers paradise of service provider patronage and self-serving explanations for why people camp on the street and it’s never incentives.

Rocky Delgadillo, Carmen Trutanich, Mike Feuer, and their deputies need to explain themselves.

Since the Jones agreement, Duchess Carol has enriched herself mightily by way of nuisance lawsuits against the city: for confiscating the “possessions” of homeless people, for detaining activists disrupting city-sponsored walking tours of Skid Row, for police sweeps and drug searches.

The cases don’t go to trial. Carol files a claim and the City Attorney cuts her a settlement check.  She has pocketed millions in the past decade while establishing a de facto veto over action undertaken by the city to clean up encampments.

All while living on the swanky side 0f Santa Monica, off Montana, in Larry David-ville.

We must do as she dictates or “open the keys to the reserve fund”, to quote Councilman Mike Bonin.

My question for the people in City Hall underwriting the Duchesses peerage is:  where do you live?  Are you residents of the City of Los Angeles?  Or do you like so many others who profit from our present chaos, slip away at the end of the day to a tidier jurisdiction?  Who in this arrangement is representing my interests?

Mike Bonin doesn’t live in the Valley, but the schoolchildren are told to paint murals of him here.   His visage presides over the hole in the chain link fence next to the Pacoima Wash, welcoming the crackheads to their shanties.

Mr. UpintheValley is feeling a bit woke this week.

Free State of Jones

The Tenderloin, San Francisco, last week.

The Valley, yesterday.

You’re looking at two cities moving in opposing directions in dealing with derelicts.

I include the top photo in the name of thoroughness. It’s misleading.  There are few people pitching tents on the street in San Francisco.  Very few.  This I can report after a thorough walking tour of the problem areas of the City.  I didn’t see encampments. Nor blue tarp pallet houses, surrounded by whirlpools of plastic garbage.    No wagon trains of ramshackle vehicles converted to housing lining the streets.   There is nothing like Skid Row, not even under the freeway.

I’m not going to sugarcoat it: the City has a stumbling army of drug addicts in the Tenderloin/Mid-Market Street area, a smaller battalion in the inner Mission, and this is a highly visible problem, at times loud and threatening. But it is localized.   Walk five blocks and you’re well out of it. I lived in and around SF for a decade, and the Tenderloin has always been like this.

Spending a few days up north was a shock to the system. San Francisco in my memory was the gold standard of street craziness and civic permissiveness.  Compared to the shitstorm Los Angeles has inflicted on itself in the past decade it might as well be Canada.

There are structural reasons why things are the way they are and at the top of the list is the Jones agreement between Los Angeles and the ACLU permitting sidewalk camping in the wake of a 9th Circuit Court ruling in 2007.

We give them free phones.
We give them EBT cards.
We provide gold-plated healthcare, unavailable to rate-paying citizens.
We allow the 911 system to be used as a taxi service.
We allow shoplifting under $950.
We have issued a hall pass for all infractions from jaywalking to defecation.

But the granddaddy of broken windows, the original sin, is camping on the street. Offer up Los Angeles at a cost basis of zero, pay them to stay, place no limit to their number, then watch the Law of Incentives go to work.

William Bratton, then Chief of Police, wanted to appeal the Jones decision and had law and precedence in his favor. The Ninth Circuit held that addiction/alcoholism was an involuntary status, like cancer, and could not be criminalized. Sleeping on the street was involuntary conduct, protected by the eighth amendment. To say either of these floodgate opening premises would be viewed differently by a higher court would be an understatement. The City of LA was happy to take the opening the lower court offered to do what it wanted in the first place: pretend its hands were tied and create a sanctuary. Bratton was replaced with Charlie Beck, a careerist eager to parrot fashionable schemes.

The original injunction was limited in scope to Skid Row, and only to times when shelter beds were unavailable. In practice, it was applied citywide without discretion.  Now it’s a billion dollar business, protected by a militia of interested parties. Since the passing of Props. H, and HHH, Los Angeles has hired over 1,000 additional employees at every level of homeless services.

Just try pulling the plug on those jobs and service grants. Why would you? The quarter-cent sales tax is with us now and the money will find a pocket to land in, and that pocket will go home to South Pasadena, where they have “No camping” signs at the city limits.

No other municipality in the Southland does this, not even Santa Monica anymore.

We have two populations sharing the same real estate: one based in civic responsibility and bound by the obligations of paying bills, living at the mercy of City Hall…the other feral, Free State of Jones.

When The Valley Was Resistance

Court-ordered school busing lasted two years in Los Angeles, 1978-80.  Like all busing schemes, it ended, for practical purposes, the moment the first white kid was ordered to get on a bus to a black neighborhood.    

As the repository of white students in Los Angeles, the Valley was at ground zero of resistance.  Sen. Alan Robbins (D-Van Nuys) wrote Proposition 1, a state constitutional amendment prohibiting court-ordered desegregation based on residential patterns.  It passed in 1979 with 70% of the vote,  a greater showing than even Prop. 13.

That was a different Van Nuys, California.

In fairness to the parents, this macrame of red lines, each representing a bus caravan of kids driven over the hill and back, starting in kindergarten, was LA Unified’s fever dream for achieving racial integration.

Today the argument is academic. There are few white kids left to bus in LA. They live in Santa Clarita now. Or Portland. If they’re here, they’re in private schools.

1978 California was bland food and free-range kids and no seat belts and no China and no Google and cheap neglected starter homes and tacky retail to the horizon.

1978 California also had a broad middle class culturally homogenous enough to forge a consensus against the edict of a judge from Laguna Beach.

*Historical photos courtesy of Los Angeles Herald-Examiner Collection

Answered Prayers

“‘Our nightmare has ended. It’s the answer to our prayers.’ This was the reaction of a Sherman Oaks mother of seven children when the Valley Times told her Thursday that state engineers have recommended that a guardrail be built along the Ventura Freeway where it faces her home. Mrs. Jack Rush, 4721 Greenbush Ave., had appealed for the guardrail since two cars, a load of lumber, a giant truck tire and a conglomeration of hubcaps and other auto accessories had come flying into her yard and the yards of her neighbors.”  

Seven kids. No guard rails.  Hubcaps flying into the yard. Hello, 1961. This is sounding so very early Paul Simon.

Please send us freeways, we once said.   We threw parties for them.  Actually, we still do, only we ask for more lanes and want them to end just short of where we live.

Men in rumpled suits once drew lines on maps with an enthusiasm born of consensus over what constituted Progress.

Jobs over here? Check…
People moving…where? Hand me my ruler.
We’ll put a tunnel under Griffith Park (not a bad idea actually) re-surface in North Hollywood, and then a straight run to Chatsworth.   Done!

The Whitnall Freeway (the middle line above) was never realized, owing to community resistance in the eastern half of the Valley, by then nearly built out.

People were beginning to discover elevated freeways were a tad noisy.  They had a way of shattering the very orderly calm families left the city to obtain.  Yet they serve the same necessity the left anterior descending artery does in the human body. No city functions without them.

This has been the sticking point in California for fifty years:  Older neighborhoods don’t want to concede an inch to ease the commute to the exurbs, despite relying on commuter labor. Exurbs want as much distance from the city as possible while drawing a paycheck from same.  Nobody wants to ride a train.

So, we build trains, hoping people will change their minds capitulate when things get bad enough. Young people love living in the snazzy new developments over the train stops and taking Uber to work.    Wealthy neighborhoods get high sound walls and a veto on new development and petition against sprawl, the working-class no sound abatement at all and encampments in the shrubbery.  As soon as they can swing it, they move further out, toward Bakersfield.

Everyone has a prayer to be answered, but few wish to marry their fortunes to those of a stranger. Each of us feels his righteousness to be well-earned. Which may be for the best. If you believe Saint Theresa of Avila, more tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.

*historic photos courtesy of Valley Times Collection

Panorama Loves Dick!

Richard Nixon, veep-ing at the Panorama Mall, 1956…

…and returning to fertile ground for his gubernatorial run, October 29, 1962, one week before The Fall.

California was a two party state then. The Valley was the swing vote.

You know who really loved Nixon? This guy.  There’s an amusing moment in season five of Mad Men (set in 1966), where Bert Cooper consoles him, rubbing his shoulders: “I’m telling you, Nixon’s waiting in the weeds…” Roger Sterling had only two years to wait for the restoration to complete.  The wilderness would prove to be merely intermission in a character-as-fate drama which would unfold all the way to 1974.

“Mrs. Peggy Goldwater Holt, right foreground, receives a bouquet of roses from Cherie Adams at the first meeting of Goldwater Girls at Phil Ahn’s Moongate Restaurant in Panorama City. Several hundred Goldwater Girls, between 15 and 18 years of age attended.”

Hot Republican teenagers, that was a different Valley.  Practically a whole other country.

Historical photos courtesy of the Valley Times Collection