How To Karen A City

Queen Nury, in ecstasy                                                                                                                                    KCBS/LA

Bossy McBossypants, your moment is now. Remember July? You were against the ropes.  Your year of telling everyone what to do was at an ebb.  You were being shooed away like a covey of annoying birds. A scold of Karens, ignored.

Now we will be made to listen, won’t we?

The City Council is set to pass an ordinance this week requiring patrons to show proof of full vaccination at indoor areas including restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, convention centers, card rooms, museums, malls, play areas, spas and salons in the city beginning Nov. 4.

A passport in all but name, as a condition of enjoying the fruits of the city.

“No one is forcing anyone to get vaccinated,” Nury Martinez said. “But if you don’t, there are certain things you will not be able to do without showing proof of vaccination.”

“Venues can be issued a citation for not implementing the requirement, and may be fined $1,000 for a second violation, and even more for subsequent violations, according to the city’s ordinance.”

Say hello to the little commissars eagerly bursting forth, like the Lorax from the tree stump.

Perhaps this would be a good time to consider:

  1. Los Angeles County is 77% vaccinated. Among those aged 50+ the rate is 85%. Add another ten percent for people who have recovered from infection and we have achieved the herd immunity threshold, historically. But, as with all things Wuhan, the normal rules are suspended.
  2. If you are vaccinated, the un-vaxxed pose little threat to you. As in, a 0.004 percent chance of hospitalization.
  3. Children are not at risk, full stop.
  4. All the vaccines have a problematic safety record among younger vaxees. The danger of the jab, while statistically remote, exceeds the danger of the virus itself in, say, a healthy 25 year old.
  5. Natural immunity has proved stronger, and less leaky, than the vax. Requiring America’s most immune people be injected with an unproven drug for which one is obliged to sign a waiver exempting the manufacturer from a lengthy list of side effects including myocarditis, has no sound basis in science and places Los Angeles in direct conflict with the Nuremberg Code.

The question we might ask ourselves is: why now?  This is the finish line.  Caveat: yes, there are people refusing to vax, who, given their health profile would be wiser to do so and may pay with their lives. This is their right in a free society. Despite what we are told they have not overwhelmed the healthcare system. The Delta wave is receding after two months, the typical timeline for a viral wave in every locale on Earth. It is the nature of infection.  Each subsequent wave will be smaller. Wuhan will be endemic but manageable.  There will be never be zero cases.

Unless of course the vaccines prove useless against subsequent mutations, in which case why are they mandated at all?

Why the biomedical police state?

These hands…are trying to say something                                                                                                           AP

Some people just love, love, love the new dispensation, safety being but a pretense for the really fun part: standing atop the parapet wearing the epaulets of emergency powers.  Kathy Hochul, the placeholder Governor of New York, has given herself the authority to fire 100,000 un-vaxxed health workers and replace them with the National Guard. In the middle of a nursing shortage.

Why would 100,000 nurses, of all people, refuse the vaccine? It’s worth considering.

For now, the mandates are pandemic-based. This won’t last. Once the architecture is loaded on your phone, the passport will extend to other things entirely. So get ready for perpetual crisis theater. The clerisy has learned it can do whatever it desires when America Is In Crisis™.  Who would stop them? Not the Times or CNN.

If gun control can be rebranded as a public health issue, then so has ‘racism’ and ‘transphobia’, however the nanny state chooses to define those terms.   If the CDC can bar landlords from evicting non-payers of rent, then health and safety has no limiting principle.

A Chinese social credit system begins here, in exactly this newly claimed space. Anything our betters don’t care for will be loaded into it. Participation in society will be contingent on affirming things we may not believe.

If that sounds a bit hyperbolic please consider all the things in recent memory that were never, ever going to happen, except, well, maaaybe a decade from now, only to come true in under a year.  Tell it to all the people de-platformed from Twitter and YouTube. De-monetized. Banned from banking services.

No one’s “being forced”, remember, only being denied entry to as many things as possible in Los Angeles, America’s best governed city.

Which is why, as a fully vaxxed person, I will not partake of the mandate nor carry the passport, and won’t do so even when conveniently embedded on my phone. Convenience is the road to perdition.

Girls night out, MacLeod Ale Brewery, July. Remember July?

Last week I passed an opportunity to see James McAvoy in the National Theater adaptation of Cyrano.  That hurt. It means I’m not seeing going to see Tannhauser and Aida at the LA Opera. It means, if the council resolution passes, I will be quitting my membership at LA Fitness after 20 years.

So where will my discretionary spending go? To Hermosa. To Santa Monica. To Culver. To Playa. To any city that will have my consumer dollars, the only means I have at present to assert my foundational liberties.

How will that help Los Angeles?  It won’t. Those cities will prosper from our foolishness in the same way they have for decades. It’s worth noting the one element they have in common: populations under 100,000.  Elected officials have to answer the phone in Hermosa, unlike here. Freedom doesn’t begin in Utah, it can be found just across the city limits.

It’s why Amazon Studios are in Culver and Disney and Yahoo are in Burbank and Skechers is based in Manhattan Beach. Why Mattel and Rocketdyne are in El Segundo. Why 99 Cents Only is based in Commerce and Avery-Dennison is in Glendale. The satellite communities of L.A. aren’t run by ignorant grasping hacks.

Meanwhile, in another America, getting further and further away from us by the day:

America’s primal yawp sounds like Metallica.   It doesn’t wear a mask, nor require a passport and is rather altogether joyful. This is us, in sixty seconds. This has been us all along.  Yes, even in Los Angeles.

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

Autumn in Los Angeles

Suppose we were to have a civil war in L.A.  Suppose the breakaway provinces north of Mulholland Drive declared a sovereign city.  Suppose the armies assembled in the Sepulveda Basin for the first pitched battle, Blackwater vs. the Valley Militia. Suppose after sustaining heavy losses to sniper fire Mayor Garcetti called in a napalm strike from the air to give his Hessians cover to retreat.

My question is: would the result look different than what the homeless army has done to the Basin this summer?

If I want to camp in a state park, I have to purchase a space and obey a long list of prudential diktats.  Squatting in dry brush with a gas grill and a crack pipe would be at the top of the NO list.

The line between civilization and a state of nature is drawn with butane.
And unlimited EBT cards.
And the right to shit on the pavement forever.
And loot store shelves.
And break windows.
And step off a bus from Ohio with a heroin habit, a bedroll, and an incontestable claim to residency.
All this is de facto legal now.
In fact, it’s a billion-dollar-a-year business.
Want to guess the budget for the Valley Audubon Society?

Enough gloom. Let’s take a peek on the other side of the dam.  Something seems to be happening on the spillway.  Some kind of roller skating party. A clandestine meetup of photographers and models and dance troupes. That’s not allowed!  No one is supposed to be there.

Breaking the rules, all of them. Until the park police chase them away, it’s all spinning girls and illicit smiles and the possibility of the city reclaimed from those who stole it from us.

Superman in a Collection Bin

He was a bottom feeder, a man without talent.   He plied the tourists on Hollywood boulevard for tips. When I crossed paths with him five years ago, his costume was visibly grungy, like he’d slept in it for days. He hassled me for money for taking his picture.  I hadn’t been.  He just happened to walk through the frame as I photographed a mural.   He was missing teeth.  He looked exactly like what he was, a meth-head impersonating his former self impersonating a comic book hero, badly.

Earlier in his two decades on the boulevard, Christopher Dennis looked the part.  He had the length of bone, the jawline, an aquiline nose topped off with dyed black hair to evoke a reasonable facsimile of the DC comics version of the Man of Steel. Padding filled out the suit. By the end, he looked like Superman down to his last 50 T-cells.

During the descent, he managed to wrangle appearances on Late With Jimmy Kimmel and the Morgan Spurlock documentary Confessions of a Superhero.

He claimed to have lost his costume and his front teeth in a mugging. Crowdfunding appeals raised money for him to get his cape back and fund a web series about his life, neither of which materialized.  He told different stories to different people to explain his circumstances. Sometimes he would be slumped in the street, in a fugue state, babbling to himself, drawing in his notebook.  His decline was covered with uncritical sympathy by local media, heavy on the passive voice, always with appeals for assistance, as though his schtick was worthy of the character he was feeding off. His life became a meta-hustle of the public for the means to return to hustling the tourists for drug money.

Naturally, he ended up in Van Nuys, on Nury Martinez’s Skid Row North™.

Last week his body was discovered in a Goodwill collection bin.  He had climbed inside seeking to pilfer donated clothes.    This is his last known photograph, from the website People Helping People LA.

If you’re not sensing much sympathy for a dead man, I’ll tell you a story.  I picked up a stand-up comic at the Orange Line station not long ago,  on his way home from a gig in NoHo.  I’ll call him Doug. He’d been working out new material, he said. After much trial and error, he found a way to make it click. He killed his set, and now he was treating himself to an Uber ride home.  Not that Doug had been paid anything for his work on stage. Normally he would walk the two miles up Van Nuys Blvd. to his garage apartment off Saticoy. But tonight, on such a high, to navigate Nury’s Living Room for the walking dead, that would be asking too much of himself.  It would call into question his entire life in LA.

Doug was avoiding Christopher Dennis, whose superpower was self-indulgence.  I turned the app off and gave him a ride the rest of the way home for free.  It was the least I could do.

Los Angeles runs on guys like Doug, who keep the cocktails flowing and the cash register ringing to pay the headliner.  It takes balls of steel to get onstage and do original material. You can’t hide behind a cape. Even modestly successful road comics end their careers unmourned and little remembered.

That’s Sandy Baron second from left in a still from Broadway Danny Rose, Woody Allen’s sweetest work and a tribute to those on the fringes of show business.   Sandy started in the Borscht Belt, and would have faded from pop culture right about here, in a cameo role at the Carnegie Deli, and probably died broke, were it not for this:

His turn as Jack Klompus was so successful Seinfeld brought the character back in five episodes, and Sandy got to spend his final years in notoriety, with some extra money in his pocket.   He passed in 2001 in a nursing home in, where else, Van Nuys.

Postcards from YIMBYville


The upper picture was taken in April.  The second one I took at the open house last week.  That’s framing to Zillow in two months.  This ain’t your grandmas accessory dwelling unit.  Granny flats will be granny-free in three years. Sooner, perhaps. For this kind of rent money, people will let her sleep on the living room couch.

In its own halting way, Van Nuys is going Sherman Oaks. Sherman Oaks is going West Hollywood, which is going Tokyo.

In a related development, one of my neighbors put new siding on his house.

And the City of Los Angeles chipped up some perfectly good wheelchair ramps and filled them back in again.  Because the money has been appropriated progress.

Ask the city for basic beautification and neighborhood street lighting and you will be told there is no money at all. The City is broke. Broke!  The field deputies rattle their chains of poverty the way my mother used to wail over her $100/month land payment.  But when it comes to Keynesian ditch-filling stimulus, the bucket of Monopoly money is bottomless.

The Twilight of Tolerance?

(Photo credit MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Behold the good people of K-town,  marching down Wilshire, in protest….
Against climate change? No.
Trump? No.
Kim Jong-Un?
A homeless shelter on Vermont.

This is the point of frustration we have reached in Los Angeles.

Faced with the abnormal being made permanent, the city is in rebellion.

There’s just one catch. With one city councilperson per 300,000 residents, rebellions can be safely ignored.    The Koreatown shelter, mightily resisted in May, is quietly being moved downmarket to working-class linguistically divided Macarthur Park.

What are the odds Latinx Armenian Filipino Thai Middle Eastern White Hipster Van Nuys is going to escape a similar fate?

Lets put it this way, we are unable to get the palm weeds pulled in front of the Valley Government Center.    The weeds don’t pay anybody. They don’t have a lobby. But in The Nuys they own the sidewalk.   One can obtain Bitcoin at an ATM on Oxnard Blvd, then cross the street into a state of nature. Such are the contradictions we enjoy now.

Every time you see one of these guys understand there are people who do not live in your neighborhood making money off them.    Your blight is another person’s meal ticket, shuffling about in rags.  He has a power structure behind him. You do not.

Service providers with a stake in the outcome infiltrate public meetings with shills holding signs and nary a peep of contradiction do we hear from the Times.  The lobbying by interested parties and the coverage of same by local media has become a feedback loop of assumed agreement.

Among the unexamined assumptions are these:
Is there a right to hop a bus to LA, squat on the sidewalk and declare residency?
Are such people entitled to free housing and health care?
Can Angelenos demand sobriety and labor in return for public assistance?
Housing is cheap and abundant across the U.S. Why is LA the solution?

Mr. UpintheValley votes No, No, Yes and Good Question to the above.  My neighbors would as well. Which is why we do not hear the Issue of Issues debated in the city government.  We get warnings instead.  They will educate us about our misconceptions.

Who among us practices the inclusivity he preaches? Very few.  If there is a person in the power structure downtown who has opened his home to a crack addict he has been awfully discreet about it.

Our ability to live Christ’s example is daily impeded by the dark river of social ills policymakers have created.   The current is too strong to cast our nets as fishers of men, even in those off moments when we wish to.   City Hall is breaking the bonds of fellowship between citizens. It has made us all a little harder, something we’re beginning to recognize in ourselves and resent.

Almost everything about Van Nuys has changed dramatically for the better in the past decade.   Except for Shantytown, Inc.

As my friend Wise Andrew put it, we may be looking at the twilight of tolerance.

Dear John…

Yeah you, douchebag
Yeah you, douchebag

“Your car has been seen on Sepulveda Blvd, a known area of street prostitution.”

“If you aren’t soliciting, you have no reason to worry about finding one of these letters in your mailbox. But if you are, you and your wife or family will have something to discuss at dinner. This letter will discourage you from returning. Soliciting for sex in our neighborhoods is not okay.”

“Our license plate readers are everywhere.”

Sincerely, Nury Martinez 

Since my car is frequently seen on Sepulveda Blvd., I guess I can look forward to receiving many such notices like this.

Mrs. UpintheValley‘s car is on Sepulveda twice daily. In fact,  she’s in the habit of frequenting the known prostitution hot spot that is the Jon’s supermarket parking lot, the better to prize meat for her husband.  No, really.  You don’t think…?

Gee, and to think we were sharing the same bed all these years.

Cult of Personality

The divinization of Nury has begun
The divinization of Nury has begun

Flattery of politicians through muraling is the hallmark of Third World governance.   Why are we doing it in Los Angeles?

Why are we allowing politicians to put their faces on public service billboards, campaign style, paid for with our tax dollars?

Why are we allowing Councilman Jose Huizar to use the marquee of the historic Los Angeles theater on Broadway as his personal bulletin board?

Why are we allowing Kevin De Leon to throw a party for himself at Disney Hall, complete with mariachi bands and banquet tables, to “celebrate” his selection to the revolving post of Senate Pro Tempore?

Just asking.

Light and Dark in the banana republic of Los Angeles

Glendale has streetlights
Glendale has streetlights. How did they manage to do that?

Juan, a nice young man who works for a neighborhood advocacy organization approached me last week with a petition. ‘Sign here, and Nury’s office will ask for streetlights for the neighborhood.”

How wonderful.  Who could say no?  Sure I’ll sign…

Not so fast.  The streetlights are going to cost ‘only’ $6/month, per house. $72 a year, for life.

Juan was having difficulty collecting signatures.

Streetlights fall under the category of Things We Already Pay For.  That is, in the normal run of things in the wealthiest state in the country, from the vast pools of property tax revenue, income tax, sales taxes, utility taxes there are ample funds to light the streets.  Not so in the banana republic of Los Angeles, where we are now being asked to kiss the ring of jefa Nury, and pay a special assessment, to obtain what Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena,  even downmarket working class San Fernando already have by right of citizenship.  How soon before we are issued shovels and asked to fill in our own potholes?

In Van Nuys, $450,000 buys  moonlight
In Van Nuys, $500,000 buys moonlight

Hector Tobar, formerly of the Times, wrote recently the presence of a permanent caste of squatter communities is the signature characteristic of Third World cities. A life-long Angeleno, liberal, and son of Guatemalan immigrants, Tobar sees Los Angeles heading in this direction. This is true, but only half the story.  L.A. has its own twist on the formula: Swedish levels of taxation and Brazilian levels of service.    A two-tiered society with a narrow band of Beautiful People on the other side of the hill living in an urban playground of artisanal pleasures, and a vast workforce paying top dollar to live within commuting distance to serve them, then returning home to unlit streets.

All one has do is leave the city limits to see how different it can be.

Squeaky Wheel

DSCN4290

Last week, in the run-up to the city council election, I posted of the ongoing problem of the crackhead encampment blocking the Bear Mural on Roscoe Blvd.

Two days later, the crackheads were gone.

Whisked away, as though by some kind of municipal rapture.  Only tagging and little heaps of discarded clothing remained.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

To have a cranky blog post turn the gears of the City machinery in a helpful direction is…satisfying on the one hand.  On the other….really? Really? This has been going on for over a year. I tag Nury Martinez’s name on election eve and suddenly somebody who matters picks up the phone and calls Street Services?

Okay, I choose to be grateful.  Full props to whoever made the call, whatever the motivation.

I have keyboard, hear me squeak.