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Possibly considered one of the more controversial industries housed within the borders of the San Fernando Valley, the adult entertainment industry is also the producer of a $14 billion a year market. The industry began within the 1950’s and 60’s with privately made 8mm and 16mm home video cameras that were small, portable, and easy to operate.[1] The versatility of portable home video recorders provided the industry with a very economic means of film production. These portable cameras saved the adult entertainment industry from the blow the motion picture industry took when television appeared in the 1950’s.The very popular “motel” movie aided in the process. This low budget approach to film production consisted of a quickly made film set in a non-disclosed motel room. For many years, adult film making was primarily a privatized, word-of-mouth movement.

The most difficult hurdle facing the early adult film industry was how to advertise for an underground production of material not allowed on the big screen. The answer came in 1969 when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) developed a rating system that included X-Rated as a category. The new rating system enabled the premier of Gerard Damiano’s Deep Throat in the New York World Theater in New York in June 1972. The adult film industry’s emergence into popular culture is often credited to release of that film. However, local and federal regulations soon tightened the screening of X-rated film on the big screen, impacting the industry in California and across the country. After the fall of the X-rated film on the big screen came the advent of the video cassette in 1977.[2] The adult entertainment industry was the first to capitalize on this new technology by beating the major motion picture corporations to release the first film on video cassette.

The San Fernando Valley had very strict rules governing the production of adult films during the 1970’s and early 1980’s, and producers in that area had difficulty surviving. Prior to 1986 the production of adult films, according to the LA county district attorney, was punishable with a prostitution charge, stating that sex for money, even on a film set is prostitution.[3] In order to produce the films, crews in the SFV would often time shoot in safe locations typically in neighborhoods that had been evacuated due to forest fires.[4] In 1986 Harold Freeman, adult film producer and director, stood up to the grand jury on charges of pandering in Encino, Ca. The charges were for the production of adult films in the state of California. Only after endless appeals filed by Freeman did the court rule in his favor, dismissing the case and ordering Freeman to only pay all fines and fees. The Supreme Court determined that “the county’s actions had been spurred by anti-porn crusading, not by any legitimate violation of prostitution laws.”[5] As a result of that case, porn was now legal to produce and distribute within California and over night the business began to grow exponentially.

Today the SFV is home to the country’s major producers and distributors of adult entertainment. Among nearly thirty-five major companies, several of the largest are Wicked Pictures, Adult Video News (AVN), Vivid, Leisure Time Entertainment, and VCA Pictures (hustler). AVN, the organization that hosts the adult movie awards annually in Las Vegas, made San Fernando Valley its home in 1984. The company publishes a monthly trade journal that discusses news within the adult entertainment industry. VCA Pictures, Hustler’s film production company, is recorded as being the countries largest distributor of adult films. Through harnessing new technology, the adult entertainment industry continues its booming business. With an estimated $14 billion annually, the industry clearly has a found its home within the SFV to be profitable and significant.

Resources:

Bashir, Martin. Porn in Hi-Definition: Too Much Detail? Piracy, new technologies, high-definition cameras threaten change; Feb 23 2007, Nightline. http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/Story?id=2854981&page=1

Glass, Loren. Second wave: Feminism and porn’s golden age; October 2002, Radical Society. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa4053/is_200210/ai_n9085969/pg_1?tag=artBody;col1

Robert C Sickels. 1970s disco daze: Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and the last golden age of irresponsibility. Journal of Popular Culture. Bowling Green: Spring 2002. Vol. 35, Iss. 4; p. 49

“Pornography Statistics 2007,” http://www.familysafemedia.com/pornography_statistics.html accessed November 12, 2008

Arcand, Bernard. The Jaguar and the Anteater: pornography and the modern world. Toronto, McLelland and Stewart. 1993

Images courtesy of Larry Sultan The Valley scalo Publishers (August 2004) and Vivid logo, Blu-ray logo, Ryan Klinger

The San Fernando Mission

The Mission San Fernando Rey de España exists today as one of the oldest buildings in the San Fernando Valley. The Mission was established in 1797 by Father Fermín Lasuén. Like many built before it the mission was one of three primary architectural components used to establish permanent ground in order to successfully begin colonizing the surrounding area. The presidio, pueblo, and mission made up that infrastructure. Having only the mission in San Fernando Valley, it was primarily used to become self sufficient; cultivation and farming was its main goal in order for it to thrive.

Construction of these massive earthen buildings was relatively simple and efficient. Using sun baked blocks to construct its adobe façade, the interior space inside stays at a relatively cool temperate feel. The adobe blocks absorbed much of the outside heat. Adobe was the most suitable building material for areas where there is minimal rainfall and excessive hot heat weather. The Mission San Fernando Rey de España was considered to be one of the very first permanent built structures in the San Fernando Valley. Housing shelters like these and many more to come were built with materials and construction methods typically known as ‘Vernacular Architecture’, that is – virtually all materials used to make this building are literally taken locally or even derived from the very earth and soil that it sits on. The idea of vernacular architecture is especially important today as we pay particularly close attention to things such as low impact products on the environment and low carbon output when dealing with today’s architecture. Through its early and innovative use of local materials, this building became the ultimate in green and sustainable architecture before its time.

Image Courtesy of CSUN DIGITAL ARCHIVE

The American experience of shopping has evolved through the years, changing as developers come up with new ways to attract shoppers. One shopping center that has gained countless hype and controversy before its opening is The Americana at Brand in Glendale, CA. Not only is it situated along Brand Blvd., which is historically one of the busiest and most popular shopping districts in the San Fernando Valley area, but it utilizes a system or typology that is quickly becoming the accepted standard when it comes to shopping centers. The best way to describe it is Caruso-like, after the developer. Caruso is responsible for developing many of today’s most popular shopping centers including The Grove in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles.

This typology is one part shopping corridor-like layout, with the stores side by side along a “street”, and one part indoor mall-like layout, where there is a few central entrances to an enclosed area (although it’s open-air instead of having a high-domed ceiling). Mix in multilevel parking and you get The Americana at Brand. It includes housing, high end retail stores, a movie theater, a playground with high-tech water fountains, and restaurants. It is suppose to function as an open-air “community” and regional retail “environment” that serves as a “fashionable” local gathering place. The Americana’s design should be noted as well. The architectural style of the Americana is meant to reflect an industrial European city, including a massive elevator shaft with exposed steel beams.

Ultimately, it is designed to appear “like” a public space, but in actuality it is mainly private property. This is done in order to allow consumers to think of it as an inviting place where they would feel comfortable to visit and spend time. To sum up in a few words, The Americana is an inward-facing commercial establishment, which gets mainly accessed from underground parking garage. However it does connect to Brand Blvd. This is where the two typologies meet. The outdoor arena-like mall meets the main street, which ultimately leads to the town square, Brand Blvd.

Americana at Brand in the making

Americana at Brand in the making

Americana at Brand in the making
Americana at Brand

Americana at Brand

In contrast to the shopping environment created by the Americana at Brand are the mobile taco trucks, fruit stands, ice cream carts/push carts, etc. that are an L.A./SFV staple. These stands are some of the few places you can see a gathering of people from any race, any class, from any age group at 3 in the morning-creating an impromptu restaurant environment. Taco trucks not only feed a craving, but also bring people together. It’s what defines us as Los Angelenos; New York has pizza, Chicago has hot dogs and we have tacos. All these cart pushers are cultural icons, they represent the sensibilities of hard working Angelenos. From a strictly culinary point of view, these vendors provide food not found elsewhere–this is food from the little-known towns and regions. It is the opposite of the type of food and vending represented at the Americana at Brand. Through local taco trucks I’ve eaten dishes from all over Mexico, most in the $2 price range. It has been a culinary education that I would not have even been able to dream up on my own.

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Bishop Room at the Mission San Fernando ReyThe Housing organization during the Mission period reflects the desire of the Franciscans to convert the Native population to Christianity and to the “civilized” life style of the Spanish Crown. The mission San Fernando Rey was built in 1797. It was composed of a small chapel, a main church and the main living area: the Convento. The massive adobe structure was 243 feet long and its façade was embellished with twenty one Roman arches.

While the clergy was enjoying the comfort of the Convento, Native Americans, according to Carey Mc Williams in his book Southern California An Island on the Land, were treated as “the lowest level of humanity”(24). Men were used as free labor, and women were kept under confinement. Indeed, they were enclosed in the monjerio, a seventeen yard long and seven yard wide barrack made of adobe bricks. Bunks were disposed along the walls, and the sewer in the middle of the room was used as latrine. The only ventilation sources were narrow windows out of reach (McWilliams 32). The lack of hygiene, to which Indians were not used, led to the spread of infections responsible for a large percentage of the deaths of this period. Native American men were not usually prisoners of a building space as were the women, but they were still discouraged to escape through even more vicious techniques. The living conditions imposed to the Native Americans by the Padres inspired feelings of despise between both parties. Native Americans, who used to live their lives with the flow of nature without any kind of rigid form of organization, were seeing every aspects of their existence, what they ate, where they slept, where they were allowed to go, who they were allowed to see, etc. , dictated by the Padres. Even though, their lifestyle in the Mission led them to spend a lot of time outside, they were now forced to exploit nature for its resources, instead of living in harmony with it.

rancho-cahengaDouglas Monroy, in his book  Thrown Among Strangers The Making of Mexican Culture in Frontier California,  states that during the Spanish period, the ranchos were depicted as places of “grace, honor and pastoral affluence”(115); however, in the early Mexican times the ranchos were not examples of material comfort. The adobes were initially two room houses. The living room, la sala, and the bedroom were shared by the whole family. Beds were made of twigs and leaves, blankets were made out of hides and sheets were rare (Monroy 115). The Don was the lord of the family and the head of the Rancho. The land was managed by the Mayodomo who directed ten to twenty Vaqueros, usually Native Americans who learnt Spanish and were good equestrians. The rest of the work was performed by uneducated Native Americans. The Rancho housing organization mirrored the mutual dependency between the Indians and the landowners. Even though the gente de razon looked down on the Native Americans, they needed their labor. On the other hand, the gente de razon were the main source of food for the Native Americans. The opposition of status that was established between the gente de razon and the Native Americans was a way for the first ones to establish their social status as elite (Monroy 138). Thus, thanks to the labor of Native Americans, Ranchos progressively accumulated wealth.

The main house was an adobe house organized around a central corridor and a patio. The entrance of the adobe was characterized by a large porch. The main core of the house, located in the front part, was organized around a front hall. Family members’ bedrooms and living areas were adjacent to this hall that led to the rear part of the adobe. The rear part was usually organized around a central rectangular patio that gave access to additional bedrooms on one side, and to servant areas on the other. The far rear part was dedicated to the Don offices.

After secularization, Ranchos became very important to Californian production. The main house was considered as a business center. In some Ranchos, up to one hundred Native American laborers were supervised by the Mayodormo  and organized into small manufactories of “wool combers, tanners, shoe makers, seamstresses, washerwomen” (Monroy 101).  The front porch was used as the main place of production because it was the cooler and the most ventilated area of the house. However, some Ranchos also had their own individual production rooms.

A separated stone structure was used to put the cattle and house the Vaqueros (Monroy 113).The Native American who worked in the Ranchos lived on the Rancho land in the indiada, structure near the main house, or in houses “made of tules or sticks stuck vertically in mud and then thatched” (Monroy151) by the herds. In Rancho Ex-mission San Fernando, the Mayodomos had their own Adobe House juxtaposed to the Main House (or Convento). Thus, during the Mexican period, the Ranchos establish the pattern of social and economic relationships in the San Fernando Valley.

 

photos-0391Sources

Picture 1: Bishop Room at the Mission San Fernando

Picture 2: Rancho Cahuenga, from The San Fernando Valley America’s Suburb by Kevin Roderick (29)

Picture 3: Production Room at the Mission San Fernando Rey

Life Beyond the Walls

Isolation, fear, shared interests and privatization are all aspects of life that share a similar role when analyzing a gated community. Separation from the outside world, by means of a wall, is not a new concept. In ancient Rome, walls were erected to protect its citizens from all forms of warfare and violence. Similarly, today within Southern California walls are being erected to protect groups of citizens typically of equal economic means. The gates today, although appearing at first glance to represent the ideals of the ancient Roman walls remain both physical and psychological manifestations of a barrier. Two pieces of literature, the first Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle and the second Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States by Edward James Blakely and Mary Gail Snyder dissect the world of gated communities. Through the introduction of two opposed families, to a detailed background of the gated communities, the two works open up what living in this type of urban environment entail.

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Tortilla Curtain is a story of the dualism between two cultures, the immigrant family roughing it in the wild next to the Anglo family housed in a new middle-class community. Boyle analyzes the lives and structure of the husband and wife within each of the two families including the hardships they encounter. For the Anglo family, the main problem to face is dog-eating coyotes, where as for the immigrant Mexican family, coyotes are the least of their worries. Within the text, Boyle depicts how both of these families are actually dependant on one another to maintain their own lifestyle. The demographics of the neighborhood make it vital to keep permanent contact with the very people they are attempting to keep out. The Anglo families within the gated community form a dependant relationship with their hired manual labor force employed to maintain their lifestyle. The walls, or barriers brought to life within this text show both physical and sociological notions of what keeping someone out actually entails. The barrier lying between the Anglo and the immigrant families appears blurred. Essentially the message from Tortilla Curtain is one that defines this notion of a Wall and acceptance.

In Fortress America, Blakely and Snyder describe the gated community as an idealized and “safe haven” apart from the rest of the urban ills that occupy cities such as Los Angeles. Within this book the authors begin with a brief history as to the reasons and operations of walls (primarily for fortification and protection). It is important to notice here that some of the same reasons from the past are still given in present day, to keep your family safe. This issue is one that has troubled the United States for decades, how do you keep yourself safe from the world outside your door? Fear, the main culprit of the gated community is an issue that surrounds the inhabitants both in and outside the gates. This fear is perpetuated with the erection of the very wall built to protect the community. The wall: a physical barrier that represents protection from outside urban ills, acts as a reminder of safety for the inhabitants within the community. As viewed within Tortilla Curtain, the people the community is attempting to keep out are the people the inhabitants depend on for their daily needs. Blakely and Snyder go through the process of how a gated community is established and how control plays a role in the system. The development has a need for controlling access, creating a HOA (homeowners association), focusing the community inward, and isolating the inhabitants from the outside world. According to this article there are the 3 P’s associated with marketing a gated community; Privacy, Protection and Prestige. Within these communities the inhabitants tend to be of the same social background and all desire similar things in life (nice car, 2.7 children, a dog named skip and a white picket fence). It is important to mention similarities, because within these gated communities it is sameness that allows regulations of what color to paint your house, what car can be parked in the street, what sports are played and what type of shingles line your roof to shape the environment for its inhabitants. According to a U.S. Supreme Court magistrate “the phenomenon of Walled cities and gated communities is a dramatic manifestation of a new Fortress America mentality.” Keeping people out of these communities is only one of the worries that trouble the inhabitants, what comes next?

References:

Fortress America: Gated Communities in the United States (Edward James Blakely + Mary Gail Snyder)

Tortilla Curtain (T.C. Boyle)

Image courtesy of Dean Terry

Sprawl is an issue that is frequently debated amongst everyone from regular citizens to architects and city planners. The word itself has inherited a negative connotation, often used subjectively to describe city development and growth. Also, most see sprawl as a quite recent “disease” created in America because of the desire to own property. However, what we see and label as sprawl today is a result of a long history of events that began long before our time in ancient worlds such as Rome and England and continue to affect our lives today. The expansion of Paris outward.

In ancient times, cities were initially situated and oriented in militarily strategic areas for protection. Often, these cities were enclosed by walls, containing almost everything needed to keep the city running within. However, being enclosed by walls meant there would be limitations on the city. Space became limited, usually consumed by large factories, governmental buildings and royal palaces. Small farms, burial sites, and pottery works were naturally pushed out of the walls to release the congestion. The limitations of the wall and the constant push to extend out of the walls were evidence that as cities develop and economies mature and prosper they tend to expand outward.

Soon, wealthy families began to purchase land initially to run them as farms, but quickly turned them into villa-style vacation homes, leading to the next step of the outward movement into suburbia. Initially, only a few people could move out of the city, because it was too expensive to move and the city center was where all the jobs were. Consequently, the wealthy moved out of the city center into single family lots of land to escape the congestion and bad sanitary conditions of the city. As a result, the poor began to move into the city due to the proximity of jobs and abandoned units, now at very low prices.

The city center soon grew extremely unsanitary with old irrigation and sewer systems, and the constant air pollution from factory by-products. The aged buildings had become very undesirable, and factories needed to upgrade their facilities to keep up with new technologies. To avoid high costs of remodeling, factories moved to the outskirts near the suburbs where land was very abundant and cheap. As jobs moved out, the working-class soon followed. This large migration out of the city center by industries and the working-class became the major factor of suburban sprawl.

Suburbia

Suburbia

Transportation in the San Fernando Valley started with dirt trails used by the Native Americ450px-el_camino_real_california_22ans in the Pre-Columbian era. These trails, such as the El Camino Real (currently the U.S. 101) were used from the 1600’s to mid 1800’s by the Spanish who set up missions, pueblos and presidios. The influx of the Anglos in the mid to late 1800’s came on the existing trails previously laid out by the Native Americans and the Spanish such as the Sepulveda Pass in the West and the Cahuenga Pass on the East portion of the San Fernando Valley. In 1889 Leland Stanford laid down his rails for the Southern Pacific Railroad through the SFV which aided the population boom and need for alternative transportation.

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From 1900 to 1920 (prior to the popularity of the automobile), residents of the SFV used the “Red Car” system (Pacific Electric Railway) which was a mass transit system set up and privately owned by Henry Huntington. By 1911 the Pacific Electric became the largest operator of interurban electric railway passenger service in the world with over 1,000 miles of track. This electric rail also ran freight trains into the SFV providing industrial growth. By the early 1920’s, the popularity of the Red Car System declined when the affordability decreased and was converted to cheaper buses in 1925. Major Valley boulevards such as Lankersheim, Buena Vista, Sherman Way, and others served the increase in automobile traffic.

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