At first we thought this might be an old DWP or Post Office building, as it so embodied the civic architecture of the 1930’s. Turns out to be an electrical parts and supply business, and the building has been in the commercial realm from the founding. A different world of form and function from the utilitarian 1980’s post-modern eyesore across the street now housing, what else, another pot shop. Not that we’re judging.
In the beginning, shortly after WWII, someone built a nice neighborhood of single family homes in North Hollywood on what was once a fruit orchard. Three bedrooms, two baths. Valley-sized lots. A breezeway between the garage and the kitchen, for those warm evenings in the years before air conditioning, and room for a pool, if one could swing it. A shopping center nearby. Schools. Movie theater. Bowling alley. The basic allotment of material pleasures. For 15 years or so people lived the Indoor-Outdoor Patio and Pool Life of the Valley and it was good. Quiet, too. Then one day a plume of dust rose in the south. As time passed, the plume drew closer, and it was preceded by men bearing clipboards and governmental edicts and checks drawn against the state treasury, sign right here, no sense fighting progress, it’s a fair offer. One by one the houses to the south began to disappear as the Great Berm drew closer, until one day there it was, ten lanes of concrete, at rooftop level, skirting the property line. The men with clipboards didn’t knock at this house, though, and the Berm continued on, toward newer subdivisions to the north and west, but not before dropping a graceful swooping tentacle of asphalt down to the street, right where the next-door neighbor’s rose bushes used to be.
In a reasonable world, this should be a crack house by now, bars on every window, a pickup truck parked in the front yard, pitbulls chained to trees. Instead, as the sprawl continued north up into the Santa Clarita and Conejo valleys, the house slowly withdrew behind trumpet vines, shrubbery and artisanal fencing. The neighborhood didn’t exactly go to hell. In fact, houses on this block sell at a post-bubble price of half a million. In most of America you can live like Tony and Carmela Soprano for half a million. In North Hollywood, you get EZ freeway access.
On my way home from Runyon Canyon today, I happened upon this remarkable bit of retail whimsy on Vineland. There’s ten thousand storefronts like this in the Valley; dated, a little rundown, probably with old wiring and ventilation, most nearly invisible behind metal bars and garish window signage. Look what they did here with just a few gallons of paint, stucco, repurposed building materials and creativity.
Though it may reside on a blighted strip of North Hollywood, one could not fairly tag the Lankershim Theater, now the Iglesia Nuevo Vivir, formerly an outpost of the Pussycat porno theater chain, as ‘blight’, despite its benighted exterior. The Bette Davis–>Roger Corman–>Mitchell Brothers–>Pentecostal Church cycle is a familiar one for American cinemas.