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Saturday, Jan 28, 2023
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The Valley: Love It, Hate It, It’s all Ours

The San Fernando Valley: It ain’t all good…and it ain’t all bad. (I revel in using the non-word “ain’t” twice in a sentence since two recent Kaleidoscope columns focused on our ability to torture the English language…I’m such a linguistic iconoclast!) At a recent meeting of the Board of Directors of VICA – one of our pre-eminent Valley business organizations – I distributed a questionnaire asking attendees to share what they loved and what they hated about the Valley. Some of the responses were predictable; others less so. Almost everyone loves the weather; the friendly and involved people; “suburban living;” and a belief that the Valley is “family-friendly.” Everyone loves the weather In fact, it is the people of the Valley that our business leaders seem to be most positive about. Several mentioned the area’s diversity and cross-cultural opportunities. The Valley community was also lauded for its support of its many non-profit and philanthropic organizations. Among the man-made improvements respondents praised were Bob Hope and Van Nuys Airports; California State University, Northridge; Universal Studios; Balboa Park; and the Westfield and Caruso real estate developments. Some respondents waxed absolutely lyrical about nature. They cited among their most-loved aspects of Valley life the “geese flying to Pierce College;” “the “snow-covered Santa Susanna Mountains;” hiking in Topanga Canyon; the nature refuge in the Sepulveda Dam Basin; and “orange trees.” I challenge the author of that last opinion to find me a grove of orange trees in the Valley, except for the one on Oakdale Avenue near Wells Drive in Woodland Hills and a small one on the CSUN campus. A few people looked at demographic and societal development, one praising the Valley for its “growth into a unique geographical, cultural and business region separate from Los Angeles.” We feel like a small town Another opined that, “Despite the fact the population is well over one million, the area in many respects still feels like a small town.” And several people spoke of the Valley as a good place to raise a family and as a child-centric area. A few responses were a bit hard to take. For example, one person loved the “mass transit improvements.” Does that person mean the bus we call the Orange Line, or are there other mass transit improvements in Our Valley of which I’m unaware? And then there’s Matt Klink’s opinion. Now, I’ve known Matt for decades; he’s a great husband and father; one of our town’s savviest and most successful public affairs consultants; and a great Valley booster. But Matt, is Casa Vega really the single thing you love most about the Valley? Casa Vega opened in 1958; I’ve known Ray Vega since I worked at Universal Studios in the ‘70s. It’s not the best Mexican food in the Valley; it’s certainly not the worst. But Matt, inquiring minds want to know: what makes Casa Vega so special in your eyes? That’s for the plus side of the ledger. We all hate the traffic Traffic is far and away the most hated aspect of Valley living. Those choosing to be more specific identified the 101 Freeway as the worst of the worst, unparalleled, in fact, when it comes to traffic. But the 405 Freeway, poor street drainage, and a lack of public transportation also received their share of raspberries. Just as many people decried the summer heat as praised the weather as one of their favorite things North of Mulholland. Maybe that means we love it nine months of the year and hate it the remaining three months of the year. Not far behind the weather was the expression of the continuing belief that we pay more in taxes than we receive in city services. Francine Oschin pointed out that among the most negative aspects of Valley living is “public school buildings that lack architectural character.” I can’t argue with that opinion, Francine, but there are a lot more structures that “lack architectural character” than just school buildings in Our Valley. Lack of self-esteem And then there’s the lack of community self-esteem pointed out by one respondent, who hates that “The old communities try to improve property values by changing their names: Van Nuys to Lake Balboa, Valley Glen, etc.; to West Toluca Lake, North Hills, West Hills; and Canoga Park to Winnetka, etc., etc., etc. I saw a house for sale advertised as “Lake Balboa adjacent.’” Among some other negative comments were the parking lot at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, pot holes, not enough restoration projects, a “lack of cultural facilities for a community of 1.5 million,” and the personal view that poor land use planning has led to a “patchwork effect.” Real estate maven Lynn Rinker complains that there are not enough good restaurants in the Valley. Matt, maybe you’d like to take Lynn to Casa Vega to disabuse her of that culinary canard against our fair Valley. Indiscriminate scattering of subdivisions throughout the Valley has made it practically impossible to properly serve any part adequately with all public services. Charles Bennett, City of Los Angeles, Director of Planning, 1946 Martin Cooper is President of Cooper Communications, Inc. He is President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission; Founding President of The Executives; Vice Chairman-Marketing of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley; and a member of the Boards of the Valley Economic Alliance and of the LAPD’s West Valley Jeopardy Program. He is a Past Chairman of VICA and Chairman of its Board of Governors; Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter; and of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mcooper@coopercomm.net.

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