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Neighborhood Project: NoHo Arts District

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NoHo Arts is a burgeoning East Valley area that occupies one very eclectic, historic, and active square mile within the limits of North Hollywood proper. The past couple of years have seen a dramatic increase in multi-use condo construction and the arrival of chain retail and food purveyors thanks in part to the neighborhood's role as major transit hub (NoHo Arts hosts the termini of both the Red and the Orange Lines) and the Community Redevelopment Agency's (CRA) massive efforts to (re)vitalize the area. What is at times most striking about this vibrant patch of land is the omnipresent contrast of old versus new, as seen predominantly in the architecture--and in spite of its own blossoming and undeniable urbanity.

Boundaries: 5 Points Intersection (Lankershim, Camarillo, Vineland) to the South; Burbank Blvd. to the North; 170 Freeway to the West*; Cahuenga Ave. to the East.

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*There appears to be no official Western boundary to the area; this boundary was selected by the author because of the appearance of the "Valley Village" neighborhood sign on the other side of the 170 Freeway, although no "NoHo Arts" sign is in place.

Political Lowdown: Council District 4; Councilmember: Tom LaBonge

28th Congressional District; Rep Howard L. Berman (note: some areas east of Vineland may fall under 27th District)

43rd State Assembly District, Rep Paul Krekorian

3rd County Supervisorial District, Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky

Subway stops: The Metro Red Line and Orange Line both terminate in NoHo Arts at the North Hollywood stop.

Usually considered: North Hollywood (which it is)

People who front say they live in: Why would people deny living in NoHo Arts? Just kidding. You might hear plain old North Hollywood, or the loftier Toluca Lake-adjacent.

Celeb factoid: Marilyn Monroe attended Lankershim Elementary School, which is located at Bakman and Magnolia in NoHo Arts. [Other famous North Hollywoodians include Amelia Earhart (residence only), Adam Carolla, 90210's Brian Austin Green, and Food Network's Alton Brown.]

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A Little Bit of History: In 1871, a couple of guys named Isaac (that's Isaac Lankershim and Isaac Newton Van Nuys) bought the 60,000 acres of the entire southern portion of the Valley for $115, 000. The area now known as North Hollywood (including NoHo Arts) was once called simply Lankershim, although this confused some people--particularly those who dealt with trains and shipping--because some buildings, like the post office, were called Toluca, and some were called Lankershim, like the train station. The town was officially designated Lankershim in 1890 when Wilson C. Weddington arrived from Iowa. According to

he bought two parcels of land, 12 acres for $720 at what is now Weddington St. and Lankershim Boulevard, and 20 acres at what is now Riverside Drive and Lankershim Boulevard. He was later appointed postmaster by President Cleveland and ran a General Store and Post Office that was located where the El Portal [Theatre] is today.

Eventually the area was renamed North Hollywood, in order to draw in folks based on the glamor and appeal of the nearby area of Hollywood. (This is why this LAist and North Hollywood resident sometimes fronts and calls the area "the Northern part of Hollywood.")
In the early 1900s the area was home to the Bonner Fruit Company, which shipped "1200 tons of fruit per season to major cities back east" ( Their apricot dryers were set up in the area that is currently North Hollywood Park, located between Tujunga and the 170 Freeway. The park was designated in 1927, and soon after the LA Public Library opened its branch there.

The North Hollywood Branch of the LA Public Library is located in North Hollywood Park, and is named for onetime resident Amelia Earhart

The Post Office (pictured above) was built in 1936 on land donated by the aforementioned Weddingtons, and remains the area's primary postal center to date. In addition, the nearby Fire Station (pictured below) at Tujunga and Chandler was opened in 1949, and completes the trio of civic buildings in the area.

Old Meets New: As North Hollywood thrived and wrestled with identity throughout the 20th century, eventually it became a lower-middle class enclave of little distinction and suffered from an increasingly evident case of neglect. According to their website, the CRA first adopted North Hollywood in 1979 (this was prior to the establishment of the NoHo Arts District as a neighborhood, which occured in 1992). Their Project Area is 743 acres, and adheres virtually to the same boundaries as NoHo Arts, with the exception of stretching farther north (to Hatteras Street) and south (to the 101 Freeway), which explains why NoHo Arts banners are hung on Lankershim Boulevard posts past the blue "neighborhood" signs. Major changes did not begin to take place until the late 1990s, and the first significant and most visually apparent change is arguably the opening of the North Hollywood Red Line Station, which took place during the No Ho Arts Festival in 2000.

Since then, many of the CRA's projects encountered snags and stalls, but have been in full swing for the past couple of years. The top three projects currently are the NoHo Commons, a three-phase condo and retail development that is in the completion stages of Phase II and is located on three land parcels in the area of Lankershim and Chandler; the restoration of the North Hollywood Historic Train Depot; and a Metro Mixed-Use Project, which includes more condos and retail that compliments the Commons project and is currently in its formative stages. The area was adopted because of increased population, the deterioation of structures and historic sites, incompatible use of land, and more. The advisory panel studied the area and wrote a report called "Transit and the Arts in NoHo: Building a Vibrant Community" which is available as a pdf via this page. There is a tremendous amount of information regarding the Commons and Mixed-Use projects available online as well via the West Coast TNDs (Traditional Neighborhood Design) website, which explains the finer points about these Transit-Oriented Developments (TODs).

A new condo project dominates the skyline and towers over the old lots that contain industrial yards, some businesses, and old historical locales.

This tarp, which cleverly includes area trivia and history, conceals the fence that surrounds the old train station, which is slated to be restored by the CRA.

A tug of the tarp and a zoom of the lens gets us this peek at what remains of the old train station, which is in horrible shape and desperately needs restoration. Get on it, CRA! We love this building and want it to be out in the open!

Why is it called NoHo Arts? The idea was and is to transform this core part of North Hollywood into a "walkable urban village" (Wikipedia). The area has long been known for its numerous art galleries and small-venue theatres, public art, and annual Arts Fest (which did not take place in 2007 after many years, and seems to be shifting gears to a different kind of festival called "NoHo Scene" scheduled for October 6, 2007). The neighborhood has managed to retain a generally "independent" vibe, and is home to numerous non-chain retail stores and restaurants, as well as many tattoo parlors, smoke shops, acting schools, vintage clothing shops, furniture liquidators, and dance studios (most notably the Millennium Dance Complex, where Britney sightings are frequent). How long NoHo Arts can stave off "big box" retail is uncertain; with the Commons comes a Coffee Bean, T-Mobile, and Panda Express, and even bigger retail is assured with the Metro Multi-Use Project. One of the major anchor companies in NoHo Arts is the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, whose courtyard boasts many busts and statutes of television pioneers and innovators, and which is connected to the Academy Pointe apartments, the first major condo developments in the area. A giant Emmy statue sits atop a fountain (pictured at left) in the Academy's courtyard. The Emmy nominations are announced here in the plaza (The 59th Annual Primetime Emmy Award nominations will be announced here this week, on July 19th).

A statue of Lucille Ball sits atop a pedestal and marks the entrance to the Academy's impressive courtyard.

Theatre in No Ho Arts: Theatre is one of the strongholds of the arts in NoHo, and the District is home to over 20 professional theatres, including the nationally lauded Deaf West Theatre, who took their smash hit musical Big River to Broadway, and the El Portal Theatre, which is often featured in film and television, such as on Scrubs, The Sarah Silverman Program, and Last Comic Standing. Check here for a complete and official theatre guide.

Where to eat: As LAist's Food Editor, and longtime NoHo Arts resident, I can attest that food is not ever a reason to come to NoHo Arts. However, people need to eat, so I offer the following:

The newly remodeled Eat (formerly Ned's) on Magnolia for breakfast; Pit Fire Pizza at Lankershim and Magnolia for gourmet pizza, salads, and pastas; The Eclectic Cafe on Lankershim for moderately priced pre or post theatre fare; CeFiore on Lankershim for fake Pinkberry yogurt (better than Pinkberry, imho); Sitton's at Magnolia and Tujunga for 24 hour greasy spoon fare; Crown Burger stand on Lankershim for cheap teriyaki plates and so-so burgers; Dragon St. for Chinese (delivery is best); Miyako for Sushi (not the best, but they deliver); and you can order your pizza from Pizza Man (skip Domino's, please!).

Where to drink: The NoBar at 10622 Magnolia Blvd.

Where to buy your groceries: Forget that nasty, price-gouging Ralphs at Magnolia and Vineland and get thee to the newly opened Hows inside the Commons. They have a decent salad bar and deli counter, a Peet's Coffee, and is a lovely place to shop for foodstuffs.

Where to recycle: In the parking lot of the Ralphs shopping center at Vineland and Magnolia.

Where everybody knows your name: At the 'hood's only Starbucks, Lankershim and Magnolia.

Trivia: During its first week of business, a car drove onto the patio and crashed through the front window. This LAist also spent three months working as a barista there in early 2000.

What's the deal with those colorful crosswalks? It's been brought up on LAist before. They were redone in Spring 2007 to match the new CRA NoHo Arts banners that grace the area. This LAist thinks they look like a Salt n' Pepa video gone awry, and wonders what will happen when the CRA decides to go with a new look for their banners.

Where to see cool murals: Murals are all over the NoHo Arts District, but the stretch of Chandler east of Vineland that extends to Clybourn boasts the amazing Chandler Murals (its start is within NoHo Arts boundaries).

What sort of people call NoHo Arts home? Generally, NoHo Arts hosts low to middle income individuals and families of multiple backgrounds, although the dominant racial groups are whites and hispanics. Many young people move to the area because of its relative affordability (although rents have almost doubled in the past decade) and its proximity to freeways, nightlife, and performing arts locales. It is still, however, the kind of neighborhood where the Tamale Man shows up every Sunday morning on the streets, the pork rinds and shaved ice guy toots his horn all over on a daily basis, and every now and then an entire mariachi band squeezes itself into an apartment unit. The park is always full of fitness fanatics, soccer players, families spending time together, and, on weekends, those bouncy houses are ubiquitous. The streets are relatively quiet at night, save for the occasional party and those folks who think everyone in the world wants to hear the music they've got playing on their car stereos. Of course, if we're talking noise, NoHo Arts is in the flight path of the nearby Bob Hope Airport (approx. 3 miles eastward), and there is the steady sound of large-scale construction to contend with.

Where to Praise the Lord: Within the boundaries there's St. Paul's First Lutheran Church (a beautiful building across from the park) and the Christ Chapel of the Valley which is a gay-friendly non-denomonational house of worship on a residential street. Other nearby (and some out-of bounds) churches are listed here.

Where to buy or rent your porn: Odyssey Video, located at the southern tip of NoHo Arts at the 5 Points intersection (it's tough to say if this is "in" or "out" of bounds).

Next door to the Odyssey used to be the best-named store-next-door, which was The Iliad Bookshop (get it, dorks?). The Iliad packed up and moved, though, in March 2006, to its new digs, just outside the NoHo Arts boundaries (it's on the East side of Cahuenga at Chandler) and off the beaten path.

This intersection marks the Southern boundary of NoHo Arts, and is referred to as "5 Points" (and less lovingly as a "clusterfuck" by many). A note to pedestrians, and to city planners: It is technically impossible to legally cross from one side to the other in full; if you begin at the northeast corner and wish to cross to the southwest corner (i.e. where Little Toni's restaurant is) you cannot do so without jaywalking. It is also ridiculously difficult to cross the broad expanse of Lankershim in the time allotted by the walking signal.

The intersection of Lankershim and Magnolia is at the heart of the NoHo Arts District. You might recognize it as where the car crash at the start of Erin Brockovich was filmed. Many films, commercials, and television shows use Lankershim Blvd for locations, mostly in driving scenes.


North Hollywood Park

The Community and Senior Center is located at the park's northernmost point, at Tujunga and Chandler, across from the Fire Station.

NoHo's seniors have claimed this tiny spot of land for a little garden.

During the summer months, the pool is a great refuge from the heat for both young and old.

What better way to keep cool in the heat than to play amidst the sprays of water in this mini water park beside the pool.

A vigorous game of handball is taking place.

The park is home to several well-populated tennis courts.

NoHo Arts' Transit Hub

North Hollywood is the terminal point for the Red Line. It opened in 2000, and during the NoHo Arts Fest--rides were free that weekend!

Three neighborhood maps greet patrons as they emerge from the depths of the North Hollywood Station. In the distance, Phase I of the Commons project (condos called "The Gallery") is visible.

Bold and somewhat majestic entrance to the subway station. As you descend, take a look at the series of murals depicting the area's rich history.

The Orange Line's dedicated Busway begins in NoHo Arts on Chandler at Lankershim.

An Orange Line Bus at the station.

Storefronts and Streetscapes

Along Lankershim, just south of Magnolia, the streets are lined with a variety of businesses. The Many Paths bookstore recently had its Grand Opening, and is next to one of the nicer restaurants in the area, The Eclectic Cafe. Lately the Eclectic has had valet parking on weekend nights, which seems just a tad out of place with the NoHo vibe.

The Avery Schreiber Theatre (named for one of the legends of improv) is on the south side of Magnolia between Vineland and Lankershim. This block hosts many small businesses and theatres, including The Age of Innocene vintage shop, among others.

The requisite 24 hour diner. Not great food, unless you are either drunk or desperate.

The vibrant Tokyo Delve's (where you go more for the shots than the sushi) is located on the West side of Lankershim between Magnolia and Weddington. Along this side of the street are many small stores and eateries, some of which seem to be constantly changing.

Wells Fargo's new branch is one of the business anchors of the recently opened NoHo Commons retail project.

The El Portal Theatre just might look familiar...

Bank Heist is set to open in this building that once guessed it...a bank. It will be a restaurant and bar/nightclub. This property has been vacant for years and years, and may have last been a bookstore. In the past, it was open as an exhibit space during the NoHo Arts Fest.

Just in case the whole BANK thing was confusing.

Another instance of old meets new: The actual "Night Depository" slot on the side of the Bank Heist building.

Bearing the ghostlike traces of some painted on advertising from yesteryear, the backside of the Bank Heist building at Weddington and Lankershim is proof positive that the NoHo Arts aesthetic is very much focused on the blending of past and future.

Inside the new Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf at the Commons are these three historical pictures, once again reflecting the old meets new sensibility of NoHo Arts.

Some examples of NoHo Arts' hidden treasure lie underfoot on the West side of Lankershim between Weddington and Magnolia. They are the names of the stores that were on these lots once upon a time, and were embedded in the entryways, as was once the architectural tradition. It's my sincerest hope that these are preserved (although someone drove a fence into "Sporty Knit" etc.) because they are really cool.

Housing in NoHo Arts

This is Nick, and he is one of many street corner sign twirlers. The signs are to lure people to look into the many housing opportunities springing up in the area. Often, the twirlers group up for training and meetings in North Hollywood Park, which is truly a sight to behold.

As Phase III gets underway, the construction in NoHo will continue to drone onward.

Scaffolding has been a familiar part of the landscape in NoHo Arts for the past few years. These condos are on Magnolia, between Vineland and Lankershim on the north side of the street.

This is Phase I of the Commons, known as The Gallery.

These condos were some of the first to appear on the scene. You get a lovely view of The Orange Line station. Hmmm...

Although apartment buildings, big and small, dominate the major and side streets, there are still many streets full of the California bungalow, picket fence and all. Some, like this one just East of Vineland, even have pink flamingos on their lawn. Many have lovely gardens and vibrant landscaping.

One multi-unit structure has a darling deco style balcony perfect for catching some rays.

NoHo Likes Itself...Really. A lot. So they put up a lot of signs to let you know.

Welcoming you to NoHo from the north end.

This is a statue by Stephen Schubert called "Phoenix Rising" and it is located at the northern entry point to NoHo Arts, where Burbank, Tujunga, and Lankershim meet.

Gracing the Commons at Lankershim and Chandler.

The CRA banners indicate the area they've had designated for improvement since 1979, although these banners look a little 1987 to me.

Lastly, you may ask: Are there any hos in NoHo? Well, not that we're overtly aware of, though everyone's personal and private practices need not be discussed. There are, however, some resident "ho"bos and folks who reside in group homes and other such spots who are fond of gathering in the park, at or in front of the library, on the Starbucks patio, and may meander throughout the residential streets. This is probably why the 'hood's 7-11 at Tujunga and Magnolia posted the following request on a handmade sign:

For one square mile, there's a heck of a lot going on in NoHo Arts. Chances are something got left out... but you'll have to come check it out for yourself.

All photos by Lindsay William-Ross for LAist

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