Junk Pile.


Historic Home Demoltion.

It’s funny that the destruction of the oldest house in Van Nuys, once occupied by a man who developed the San Fernando Valley, today home to 2 million, scarcely elicits a tear.

If William Paul Whitsett were alive today, he might have married one of the daughters of the Merabi family, the developers who tore down the house and plan to erect condos there.

Who can forget (but actually who knows) that Isaac Newton Van Nuys married Susanna H. Lankershim in 1880? The original founders and creators of the land we now call “The Valley”?

Los Angeles produces so much fictional sentiment on celluloid, that we forget that it is mostly heartless in reality. The digital tricks that consume us on our laptops, or plasmas, or in the Arclight, the moment when Ingrid Bergman kisses Humphrey Bogart and the plane takes off from the fog in Casablanca//cut to black in “The Sopranos”.

We live in a black hole of memory in Los Angeles. Here is where people move to invent new lives for themselves, and tear down the work and memory of others who were here before.

When I went to photograph the Whitsett house yesterday morning, the wrecking crew was laughing when I pulled up. “You’re too late,” they said.

Just like a successful movie producer, they thought they had accomplished something worthwhile in reducing history to a junk pile.

10 thoughts on “Junk Pile.

  1. Q-
    Yours is the most intelligent assessment yet. It discusses the issues, without attacking people.
    Thank you for the comment.

    Sincerely, Andrew

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  2. There are several problems regarding the demolition:

    First is the lack of oversight. There is no board of review to actually review the project. Planning Dept. reviews only local zoning ordinance to see what they can build on the site. If the people in their neighborhood council would create a board to review any project in regards of the scale and impact of the project, then there are would be some kind of control in preserving the community identity.

    Second, there is no public notice regarding the demolition of the property. It seems that the public and us find out the demolition a day before being demolish and after the fact they got a demo permit. I think all development in the city should have notices to the public insure the neighbors best interest.

    Third, the lack of resources for the LA Conservancy. There are hardly any funds to expand the conservancy’s work to areas that are not part of the agenda, especially in the valley. It might be a good ideal to create a San Fernando Valley Conservancy.

    In all, we shouldn’t give developers an E-ticket to destroy and build without giving public notices and being inclusive to public concerns no matter where it is at. Thanks Andrew for posting.

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  3. Notice that the tone was set right from the beginning.

    On that sales flyer you reproduce below, even though it shows a new Pacific Electric depot (where was that place? I have no idea. It looks like its two stories. Does it say where it was?), it also states that Van Nuys is “45 minutes by auto” from L.A. (meaning downtown).

    Too bad Heritage Square couldn’t do anything. How about the next oldest house in Van Nuys? Where’s that one? Let’s figure that out and try to save that one.

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  4. I agree with Anonymous. Its important to recognize historical figures, which is what Andrew did on this blog. But we can’t preserve everything that belonged to any notable figure in CA history. If Van Nuys developed the valley, I don’t think he would be too upset about the development of his lot.

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  5. It’s a ‘strike the set’ mentality we have here in LA. When we’re throough with something, we teart it down for the next production, the next buck, the next dream. It took someone from Kansas City to make me see me this, even though I’m an L.A. native.

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  6. Who said anything about stopping it? It’s about how we knock down things without regards to history. Are you proud of THAT?

    And private property owners cannot build what THEY want. Zoning restricts uses.

    Pretty arrogant to think that anybody should be able to build anything just because they own land.

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  7. You know, they *are* going to build something else on top of that land.

    Pretty arrogant to think you can stop someone else from buying some land and building what *they* want instead of what *you* want.

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  8. Sadly all too typical for much of L.A. I always wondered about the history of that house when I lived in Van Nuys in the early 1990s.

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