As was inevitable, New Urbanism has come to Van Nuys. The granny flat on a trailer. Tidy. Well-ordered, aesthetic. Entry off the service alley, away from disapproving neighbors. A parallel Los Angeles blooming behind the ranch houses. An elf kingdom sliding rent checks under the door, and scurrying away, unseen. It may be small-ish, but there is nothing cold or dismal about it.
When Mrs. UpintheValley decides the end of the hallway is not far enough, she can have this. On second thought, I’ll make it my Man Cave.
Such Cratchitville arrangements are not new, and exist de facto all over the city, without rental income involved. We decry eyesores, but on what legal basis do we deny people the ability to park on an industrial street, set up a hibachi on the sidewalk, pull a lawn chair out of a dumpster and proclaim oneself at home? Provided they are not committing crime or polluting the neighborhood, what’s to argue? The embrace of backyard trailer houses by city government will make it more difficult, politically and morally, to draw a firm line against the Shabby RV People. The shrubbery of the San Fernando Valley is already well-watered with the urine of nephews living in the casita (read: HomeDepot toolshed) in the backyard.
If parking on someone’s property and paying rent is the basis of legitimacy, then the presence of wheels gives the City plausible deniability. We are not codifying this, Los Angeles tells itself, we are giving the public a workaround from zoning law. If there are problems, theoretically they can be rolled away. Of course, this means any pushcart can now be recognized as an ‘housing alternative’.
There are people pushing carts all over the Valley. Or towing non-functioning vehicles from one parking location to another. There seems to be a stark dividing line within the world of the dispossessed between those with wheeled shelter and those without. A beater car is preferable to a tent by the freeway. It means one retains aspirations of hanging on, however tenuously by his fingernails, to a place in the Social Contract.
After the wheels are gone, there is the tent. Once the tent goes there is…the makeshift crackhead fort.
After you are unable to cobble together a crackhead fort, you just roll yourself up like a burrito and imagine the passion of St. Francis under the stars.