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Posts Tagged ‘Housing’

The Parable of Sower

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Octavia Butler’s sci-fi novel The Parable of the Sower is set in a chaotic and hostile environment just on the outskirt of Los Angeles. Its protagonist is Lauren, a fifteen-year-old girl who recalls her youth growing up in her gated community. These gated communities are the means for which it is possible to have the slightest chance of growing up in a relatively safe area. Throughout the novel, Lauren encounters many life-changing events that shape her experiences in this dystopian world that is not so far from that of impoverished developing countries.

The year is 2024; gated communities and neighborhood walls are nothing but a means of possibly having the opportunity of growing up in relatively safe environment. Not having a barrier and more importantly a community to belong to means the difference between life and death. Societal hierarchies are gauged by the safety of your wall. Due to the extreme situations and living conditions, traveling outside the gates require you to be armed and travel in groups like a pack. There is no telling what violent encounters one may be exposed to. But above all, when traveling you must appear dirty as not to call attention to yourself; the idea is not to seem as though you are well off when the rest of the world is at wits end. Natural resources such as gasoline are unfathomable to attain. The social elite are the only ones disposed to afford such a luxury. Water is yet another precious resource that the elite only seem to have an abundance of. The situation is so dire that people kill one another for a few gallons of clean water. Drought-like conditions have dried Los Angeles for the better part of seven years. Luck strikes Los Angeles one day in the form of a few rainstorms; this event is so unlike anything from the norm that even pious individuals skip a rainy day Sunday in order to fill up pots, pan, tubs, etc.

The Parable of Sower responds as a critique on the totally unproportioned and deterioration between the rich and the poor. The story dives on the political restructuring of the economy in order to get people to work. As a result, the newly elected president pushes for suspending minimum wage, environmental laws and work protection laws. Lauren’s response to the news is appalling. “And what about those suspended laws? Will it be legal to poison, mutilate, or infect people – as long as you provide them with food, water, and space to die?”

Images Courtesy of Flickr

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Panorama City houses and curved street (Roderick 126)During World War II, the defense industry boomed in the San Fernando Valley. According to Greg Hise in his book Magnetic Los Angeles Planning the Twentieth Century Metropolis, the population of the San Fernando Valley grew 64% during the war. As a consequence, the housing industry also boomed. Private real estate developers transformed the landscape of the Valley into highly subdivided complete communities. For example, Kaiser Community Homes located its new project in Panorama City, by the Lockheed Airport. The choice of the site was mainly determined by the proximity of industry, such as General Motors, seen as potential employers of the future inhabitants. Kevin Roderick reveals in The San Fernando Valley America’s Suburb that the project of Panorama City was to build three thousand units of ready-to-move-in houses. The two bedroom dwellings came with a garage, a standardized floor plan and all the necessary fixtures for the price of $3,690.

 

Thus, contrary to popular belief, the Valley was not a bedroom community where all commuters were going back and forth from the Valley to their work place in Los Angeles. Promoters were determined to create a community for “living, work and play” (Hise 187). Housing was surrounded by school, recreational spaces, churches, commercial centers, and regional industries. “More than one hundred new industries within fifteen minutes”(Hise 187) was one of the most successful selling slogan of the Kaiser Community Homes.

 

The houses were typicallly one level ranch style tract homes. In comparison with pre-war housing, Kaiser Community Homes was maximizing floor plan flexibility. Promoters intended to create more spacious units with fewer small rooms. One of the main characteristics was the relocation of the kitchen into the rear part of the house to improve privacy and the ability of the housewives to watch their children play outdoors (Hise 201). Three bedrooms and duplexes were also available for a price range of $9,000 to $15,950 (Hise 201). The key to the Kaiser Community Homes project was the standardization of the floor plans and the parts. However, standardization was also their main disadvantage. Hence, to reduce monotony, the promoters curved the streets, varied the location of the garages, and used different façade paint colors (Roderick 126). In 1946, the Los Angeles Planning Commission joined the effort against the concept of a “bedroom suburb” in the Valley by creating a zoning ordinance to locate “self contained communities as nuclei for urbanization” (Hise 192). Since the intervention of Kaiser Community Homes in Panorama City, the desire to create complete communities in the San Fernando Valley has remained a constant preoccupation of developers.

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Picture 1:  Panorama City Houses and Curved Streets (Roderick 126)

Picture 2: Houses in Panorama city have similar features as the one on the previous picture. Today we recognize the structure of the houses built in the 40’s, and notice the signs of mass production.

 

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During the start of the development of Southern California, many different Native Americans would roam the valley in need of shelter, food and natural resources. During this time the Tataviam Indians occupied the northern part of the San Fernando Valley and would rarely stay at a permanent location. Tataviam means ‘people facing the sun’ due to the fact that they positioned their homes on the southern part of hills and mountains in order to be exposed to the sun. The Tataviam tribe is believed to have been around since the beginning of 450 A.D. when there were about 3,000 members. These members would be divided into smaller tribes that would reside in a tent like shelter, called a ki’j. The ki’j was a dome-shaped framework of willow in a circle. The structure, often used to house permanent family dwellings, was made up of poles bending inward at the top in order to form a dome. Next smaller saplings or branches were tied on cross-wise. This structure was then covered by bulrush or cattails that allowed for a fire pit placed in the center of the ki’j in order to allow the residents to cook while it rained. The ki’j would be the only form of housing the San Fernando Valley would witness for the next 1300 years.

References:

“Tribal History.” Fernandeno Tataviam Band of Mission Indians. 2008. 12 Oct. 2008 <http://http://www.tataviam.org/history.asp?page=village&gt;.

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