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