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Neighborhood Project: Van Nuys
The 96 year-old town of Van Nuys is awash in history and witness to a vibrant international culture exemplified by its many ethnic eateries, shops and government offices. Considered by many to be the nerve center of the San Fernando Valley, Van Nuys, or, "the Nuys," is bordered by Sun Valley to its north, Valley Glen to the east, Sherman Oaks to the south, and Lake Balboa to the west.
History: The neighborhood is named for Dutch farmer/banker Isaac Newton Van Nuys. He moved west, from Long Island, to California, in 1865. After many successful years banking, farming, enjoying his new found space and the weather, Van Nuys really got busy. In 1896, 16 years after his marriage to one Susanna Lankershim, Van Nuys built the Van Nuys Hotel. On February 22, 1911, lot sales began at the new town of Van Nuys, California. Southern California’s newest neighborhood quickly became one of the first planned communities in the Valley, as its flat lands and bountiful crops proved too tempting for early land owners to resist. Orange groves sprouted, and houses sprang up with alacrity. Today, the center of government, including a branch of the LA Superior Court, a police station, a library branch and numerous representatives’ office’s sit on Van Nuys Boulevard, allowing Van Nuys to claim the title: “the heart of the Valley.”
photo courtesy: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Database
Number of 96 year-old homes destroyed: 1
Number of Van Nuys’ in the United States, not including Van Nuys, CA: 1, Van Nuys, Indiana. Though the Midwest version is named for Frederick Van Nuys, a U.S. Senator from the 30’s.
How do I get there?
Via Freeway: There are three freeways that will take you to Van Nuys. The San Diego Freeway, the 405, cuts right through, while the Ventura Freeway, the 101, and the Hollywood Freeway, the 170, will both dump you off close to the boundaries of Van Nuys.
Via Bus: There are 16, count ‘em, 16 bus routes that run through the Nuys. Those routes are as follows: 152, 153, 169, 163, 165 164 154 156, 158, 233, 761, 234, 734, 237, 236. In addition, the Orange Line rumbles through Van Nuys en route to either Warner Center (east to west) or the North Hollywood metro stop (west to east).
There are many great things about the Orange Line, in my opinion. One is that they saw fit to include a bit of art at every stop. At the Valley College stop, a Laura London black and white photograph greets visitors at the east end. Her pictures are shot in historic locations of rock ‘n’ roll history that reference the styles and fashions of the times. She also designed the terrazzo paving areas and porcelain enamel steel panels that adorn the station platforms.
Another nice thing about the Line is the bike path that parallels the route. It's a good thing biking is good for you, because apparently, the soil along the path could kill you. Ah, the duality of Los Angeles.
Via Plane: You can fly into Van Nuys, as well, but only if you have a private jet. Van Nuys Airport (VNY) is the world’s busiest general aviation airport and the 22nd busiest airport in the world. In 2006, VNY handled nearly 1,400 flights with just two parallel runways. LAX, with four runways, had about 1,700 flights that same year. You can also use the flyawayfrom VNY to get to LAX, FYI. It's also a celebrity aviation hot spot, past and present: Cecil B. DeMille and Howard Hughes both flew out of Van Nuys during their stints in flying.
Via Train: You can board an Amtrak in Van Nuys. The station, located on the northwest corner of the map, at the corner of Raymer and Van Nuys, is a central point for Amtrakers in the San Fernando Valley.
Gender breakdown (based on 2000 Census): Women: 53.2%, Men: 46.8%
Parks: Woodley Avenue Park. This vast area of land houses the Sepulveda Wildlife Area, where numerous trails, an archery range, a cricket field, and acres of grass are open to the public year round. Located off that magnificent stretch of Woodley Ave., between Burbank and Victory, the park is easily one of the Valley's best kept secrets.
The Cricket field is home to one of the biggest cricket matches in the world. No shitting.
Inside the Marvin Braude Constituent Center, on Van Nuys Blvd., you will find an isolated paradise where you can sit on shaded benches, surf the web, relax by the bubbling stream, enjoy the art, or take a piss.
Van Nuys also boasts its own recreation center, where locals converge for softball, tennis, swinging and, of course, napping:
International Flair: As previously noted, Van Nuys was founded by a Dutch farmer. However, the current population, current as of 2000, shows that Van Nuys seems to have moved on from its Dutch roots. The largest minority is found among the Latino population (33.9 %), followed by a 6.4 % Asian population. In addition to the ethnicity of residents, local eateries continue the international parade.
On Burbank Blvd., you'll findIreland's 32, a pub aptly named for the 32 counties in the European country. Inside, there are mementos galore reminding of either your a)Irish heritage, b)standing as an alcoholic or c)poseur status as a wannabe Irish. Quotes, like "Pog Month Thoin" (Kiss My Ass) greets visitors, while Guinness banners hang down from the bar as an ominous reminder that alcoholism ain't all that bad. One reads "Ten to one, it's Guinness time," while another reassures, "Guinness is good for you."
Not to be outdone,Robin Hood, a British Pub, sits the next block over. Serving up Bangers 'n Mash and breakfast until 2, Robin Hood has been a local favourite since King George first gave up on the Colonies, or 1982. I get the two mixed up.
Moving across the plane of diversity, and the neighborhood, Spring Bok is the local South African bar and grill on the edge of Van Nuys. It features a host of local brews and foodstuffs. The name of the joint derives from both the animal and the rugby team. A Spring Bok is a kind of gazelle like creature, something I learned after asking about a hide that rests just above the bar. You can't bring in a dog, but cart in an animal hide and you'll be treated like South African royalty.
The menu can be rather daunting for those that have neither been to South Africa nor are adventurous. If you go, try the Boerewors. And don't be daunted by the Monkey Brains. It's just a title.
There are also numerous Armenian joints, BBQs, Middle Eastern restaurants, Italian establishments and, of course, there is no lacking for Mexican/Central American/South American food. Such as this El Nuevo Reconcito.
Great Italian restaurant on Victory, at Woodman:
And next door is Charlie O's, where you can dance the night away and eat prime rib while listening to jaaaaaaaaz.
Then there's Happy Dogs. Recently, Glen the owner told me, Huell Howser paid a visit to the famed Van Nuys eatery and Happy Dogs was declared one of the 10 best hot dog stands in the country. I have to say that after sampling the fare I might have to agree.
Head Shops: At least 1.
Located on Van Nuys Blvd., Captain Ed's serves its diverse clientèle with all sorts of goodies that can meet your needs, whatever they may be:
Art: Of course, no neighborhood project is complete without sampling the local art. Here, not two blocks from the government offices, public art is displayed for all to see. Personally, I think the artist, with his signature line "Kaos," is making a post modern statement on the often chaotic world in which we live and is expounding on the meaning of art in expanding the boundaries of art itself. What do you think?
Inside the Constituent Center park:
LA River: The Los Angeles River, built during the Depression to give folks a job and ease the rains that flooded the Los Angeles basin in the 1930s, flows 51 miles through some the most diverse communities in Southern California. Due to its decrepit state, the City Council has implemented an ambitious revitalization projectthat aims to beautify the running landmark and ensure that its banks become members of the community, rather than eyesores that jut through neighborhoods. They seem serious. Councilman Ed Reyes, River Committee Chairman, said, “For the first time in the City Council’s history, we are bringing a real focus to the LA River. It’s long overdue, particularly for the neighborhoods along the river’s path.”
Van Nuys is getting its share, though the gates have not yet been unlocked.