Historic Van Nuys: Katherine Avenue and Vicinity


screenshot_366 DSCF0070 DSCF0048 DSCF0047 DSCF0046

Is Van Nuys, as some believe, a hopelessly hellish place beyond redemption?

Perhaps not.

Hidden just east of Van Nuys Boulevard, south of Vanowen, is a secret garden neighborhood of historic houses, quaint architecture and lovely homes. Katherine Avenue is the heart of it, and it has a landscaped traffic circle, a construct of such ingeniousness and calmness that it is a wonder that it is not used everywhere.  Shadier, slower moving, safer, the neighborhood could almost pass for Pasadena.

Along Katherine, and down Kittridge, there are many old houses, some dating back to the early 20th Century, with large gardens and an eclectic bunch of styles: Mission, Spanish, Wooden. Many fly the American Flag on a front porch, a marker of civility, pride and patriotism signaling that our best hope for America begins at home.

Writer and comedian Sandra Tsing-Loh lived here for a few years and wrote a satirical novel about her experience: “A Year in Van Nuys”.  Unfortunately, her humor was less remembered than her brutal depiction of the suffering of having to live in Van Nuys. 14132 Kittridge 14127 Kittridge


Walking this neighborhood I found a Mid-20th Century apartment building on the corner of Katherine and Vanowen which had been stylishly and subtly updated with a good-looking wood and iron security gate. Roofline edging was added, smartly and economically emphasizing dark horizontal strips of wood.  The whole place was neat and well-maintained with an aura of Japan. DSCF0055 DSCF0054 DSCF0053


There are also ugly new projects (14310 Vanowen) that some call improvements, including a gross trend, seen around these parts, of painting plain buildings in burgundy and gold, pasting thin stone veneers on walls and the lower parts of structures, and dropping decorative lanterns into the mix. Security lights are on all night illuminating a deluxe prison. I wrote about this trend last year at another desecration: Kester Palace. DSCF0039 14306 Vanowen


DSCF0011 DSCF0014

Again, what is missing in Ms. Nury Martinez’s Sixth District are big investment and big plans. There is gridlock in Van Nuys because the people who live here are not making enough noise. They are not demanding that their community go in a better direction. The passivity of the area is understandable as many who live here are just surviving and trying to get by. But what about the larger city of Los Angeles and the re-development of the San Fernando Valley? Must it be done so poorly and so haphazardly? How many more years will Van Nuys sit with its empty stores, empty parking lots, filthy sidewalks, and battered down signs?

Mayor Garcetti and Councilwoman Nury Martinez will no doubt be attending LA River clean-ups and “pride” events but will they be building the buildings and businesses in an architectural and civic plan worthy of a “great”city? Will the city which counts among its citizens the wealthiest celebrities in the world say it has no money?

If you walk, as I did, along the better parts of Van Nuys, you will learn that there are people and places worth saving. The powers that be must recognize it.

3 thoughts on “Historic Van Nuys: Katherine Avenue and Vicinity

  1. OT, but I wanted to forward this relevant upcoming Metro meeting in Van Nuys:

    “Metro, in collaboration with the Cities of Los Angeles and San Fernando, will host informational meetings to update the community on the status of the East San Fernando Valley Transit Corridor Project. The project study considers various options for adding a new public transit system along Van Nuys Bl and San Fernando Rd in the east San Fernando Valley. Options being considered include Bus Rapid Transit (similar to the Metro Orange Line), Tram, or Light Rail Transit (similar to the Metro Gold, Green, Blue and Expo lines).”

    Wednesday,
    November 12, 2014
    4:30 – 6 pm

    Marvin Braude Constituent Service Center
    6262 Van Nuys Bl,
    Room 1A
    Van Nuys, CA 91401
    Validated parking available at City Hall parking lot

  2. Driving out on Katherine to Vanowen across the street was a 2-story, 2 or 4-plex apartment building in the late1940’s. I was three or four and lived in two apts there. While there my sister was born in Van Nuys Maternity Hospital. If you are heading in Katherine about the second house on the right were friends of my parents and where I stayed the night my sister was born. Visited last year and was surprised and very happy that the little circle was still there. THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR POSTS!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s