Thousand Oaks

38 thoughts on “Thousand Oaks”

  1. The discussion of what might happen if there is a sudden turn in events, earthquake, another “financial crisis”, of failure of technology, reminds me of the Y2K thing.
    I heard an interview with someone in the government agency that handles cash money. Treasury IIRC. They stated that in 2000 and after they received more than usual packages of damaged bills to be recovered. If they can find enough of a bill that’s been burned, eaten by rodents, or other animals, they will send you a check. A farmer once sent in part of a steer’s stomach with his wallet in it. He was on his way to an auction when the steer ate his wallet out of his back pocket. They were able to clean and identify the cash.
    In the Y2K situation quite a few people took the advice of talk radio hosts and buried cash in their back yard. Later remembered and dug up only to find the bills damaged by water or insects.
    I recall having some conversations with people at that time about what might be effective preparation for the predicted catastrophe. Most suggested that they wanted to have cash as, with no electricity, credit and debit cards would not work. I gave my thought that if things got that bad there would be chaos. In a short while cash, or gold, would likely be useless as food stores would be empty or taken over by people with guns. What would be useful; non-perishable food, water, and tobacco and coffee to barter with.
    Of course there would be nothing to stop someone with a gun from taking any of those things away.

    1. Conversations tend to veer toward the two ends.

      One: Everything will be fine forever. No need to do anything. No need to even think of doing anything. Remember Y2K? Ha ha ha.

      Two: The world is coming to an abrupt end so better build a bunker in the woods and load up on ammo.

      I live by the third and most likely scenario. Civilization marches on while individuals – on occasion – experience difficulties. Loss of employment, loss of investments of various kinds, fire, flood, earthquake, divorce, illness…

      Preparing for a simple power failure that goes on for some time (Puerto Rico right now) is different from preparing for The End Times.

    2. Forgot conclusion.
      The best planning sometimes fails to achieve its goal. This is clear whenever there is a large wind driven fire in California. Or it could be on an individual basis for example dealing with a nasty neighbor or a car crash.
      When the 1994 Northridge earthquake happened bridges and buildings failed that were supposedly resistant to shaking and built after the 1971 Sylmar earthquake.

      1. So is your point to do nothing? That’s most people’s plan. Live your life and things will probably be fine. And for most people that’s going to work just fine. Then again, I know plenty of people who were hit hard by the 2008 economic crash who still haven’t regained the life they lost ten years ago – and they may never. And yet, their lives carry on, just at a lower level. Shrug.

        1. No, doing nothing will achieve that. As I mentioned having some food and water is a very good idea. Or not going into complicated financial dealings.
          If there is a large problem, an earthquake or the 2008 economic crash, we can count on the various agencies to do little or nothing. At least for some time.
          None of us is going to be here forever. I try to find something between the head-in-the-sand and putting everything into a off the grid bunker on some mountain.
          Though the mountain seems like it would be good sometimes.

            1. Yes a country cottage is a good plan. In many ways it is what I have.
              Which reminds me of what I wanted to say about the suburbs that you detailed in Thousand Oaks.
              My ‘cottage’ is in an unincorporated area. The nearby city has tried, since it began in 1982, to transform all the remaining farm and ranch land, within its borders, into suburban McMansions. When I started living here, twenty years ago, the city was trying to get rid of some pre-1950s homes in a canyon. They planners wanted the canyon for a four lane road to go to new tract homes and a golf course. One idea was that the canyon was a flood zone and the houses should be removed.
              Most of these plans went on hold after about 2006 when the lots could no longer be sold and the houses were not built. Twelve years later less than a third of the planned houses are there. There are lots of graded pads, but no houses and a planned school was not built.
              Johnny, you probably know about the large decrease in revenue that State and local governments experienced after the financial fraud of 2000-2008-9. Unlike the Federal government they cannot print money and most are limited on issuing bonds.
              So many projects are waiting for the next economic expansion, if there is one.
              And the houses in the canyon are almost all still there and very few of them have lawns.
              The road in the canyon is still two lanes. It becomes four lanes for about a half mile where the turn off is for the golf course, with its few surrounding homes.

  2. Who would buy a house for 700-2000K that rents for 3000/month? Doesn’t make sense to this farmer. I suspect 10K off the top for property tax and insurance. Then you’ve got a maintenance budget, water/sewage, lawns, and for most people property management. Sounds like prices have gotten ahead of rents out there. Won’t be the first time.

    1. Lots of moving parts here. Short version – yes, rents are too low relative to current property costs. However…

      The owner of this house probably bought it many years ago at a much lower price than it’s worth today. And California has the whole Prop 13 property tax situation so you pay tax based on the purchase price not the current value. So whoever owns this place probably isn’t carrying much of a monthly burden. $3,000 a month might be a pretty good cash flow situation. And many people purchase property for reasons other than cash flow. Foreign investors are mostly interested in converting liquid cash into something safe and tangible outside their home country. They don’t have mortgages, They pay cash.

    1. If it’s a bluff it’s a highly coordinated project because there were (no exaggeration) hundreds of these signs absolutely everywhere. I needed a special permit displayed in my windshield to park in the area while I was in town.

  3. This house is currently for sale.

    ‘Round here in flyover country, we refer to those buildings as “mansions” if the owners are socially acceptable and “compounds” if not. Haha.

  4. What does The Good Life look like? For many around the world, it’s that semi-rural “estate” with the half circle driveway, the porte-cochère to welcome guests, the cabana by the pool, the horses trotting in the distance. It’s a seductive vision, much older than America. And it’s actually quite a feat of (petroleum) engineering that America has managed to offer some semblance of this lifestyle, however fake and tacky, to a large swath of the population.

    From this perspective, it’s no surprise people get up in arms about street parking. That’s for the peasants down in San Fernando Valley proper. Not us with the 4-car garages. With privacy being the highest virtue, it’s a sliding scale with how much privacy you can afford being the virtue signal par excellence.

    The problem, of course, is that’s it’s unsustainable and boring as hell. Not at all like the movies. The public realm is parking lots and chain stores. So… now even Thousand Oaks wants a downtown:

    1. The desire for the country estate (actual or pastiche) is prevalent in much of the country on average, but, when you get to the individual, my experience is that it can be a simply an automatic default ‘want’. My personal history is spending the first 20 years of my life in the central, but small, City in very rural northern lower Michigan, but have no desire to live ‘in the country’. I prefer living in town/city, but wouldn’t mind owning a country property that I could visit.

  5. Some of those rooftops make me think the building underneath would get a hilarious treatment from McMansion Hell. Fascinating that that five-bedroom has a private bath for each bedroom. I didn’t realize the developers were already planning for the buildings to be subdivided/converted to rooming-houses. At current prices, there’s not much alternative, but I didn’t expect the developers would be building for it.

    1. Because they know what the future holds? Or they just think the single-family market at this price point demands a bath for each bedroom. Then 20 years from now (or 5 years) an enterprising loophole finder buys it to turn it into a defacto rooming house.

      We have an analogous phenomenon occurring my small city. We have an area of the city that has the main concentration of the oldest and least maintained (ie cheap) single-family properties. There is one property owner that owns several properties and targets the registered sex offender market. They rent by the room and it’s effectively permitted by the zoning code as a ‘family’ is broadly defined and the property is kept as ‘one housekeeping unit’. In many communities, this population is shunned by many landlords or are legally prohibited from living in certain areas due to distance requirements from schools, churches, etc. So, you can get a concentration of such individuals in a specific area. Once the neighborhood or community gets wind of it, you can imagine the preconceived notions and desire reactions by the community.

  6. Hi Johnny, I absolutely love your literary voice. Your ability to turn a phrase and bring complex issue into striking clarity is remarkable. Despite having an obvious position on problems, I hear what strikes me as a sincere humility in your observations and ideas, which is rare. I also tend to agree with your assessment on many of the ills that plague us and solutions for improvement. I am passionate (obsessive?) about all things urban design. I find connections between physical (health), environmental, social and economic problems, and in your words, “the way we inhabit the landscape.” For all of these reasons I am hooked on your blog and look forward to each new post. Thank you for sharing your observations.

    On Fri, May 18, 2018 at 6:02 PM, Granola Shotgun wrote:

    > Johnny posted: ” This weekend I attended the graduation of my niece from > California Lutheran University. Since I was in the area for a few days and > there was a lot of down time between events I wandered around the > neighborhood with my camera as” >

  7. Hi Johnny. I read your blog because my folks are small-time property developers and want to make their little part of the suburb livable and pleasant to walk around. My family’s patch is about 20 miles from the centre of a city of two million people. They want to do high density budget living but don’t want to produce a slum. Do you have any recommendations for resources or ideas? (A community garden is already part of the plan.)

    Your photography is very informative and you seem to be very good at approaching people with wildly different ideas to you, which benefits all your readers. Thank you for all your work on the blog.

      1. My son recently moved into a low income community with mostly double-wide manufactured housing on small lots. Lot rentals are around $500, plus $350 month rental.
        He bought his place (3 br 1/2 ba) for $35.000. And the place is ‘cooperative’. So you just have to look. If you wanna huge McManse, look elsewhere.

    1. I have no crystal ball. But I can glean hints from other people and places. If you want to create a good quality rental property for your tenants (and reduce turnover, lower vacancy rates, make more money, and improve the neighborhood all at the same time) you might want to add amenities that low wage, but high quality families value.

      For example, I know of a landlord in a working class suburb who converted one apartment in the complex to a day care center with after school activities. Parents were better able to work when they knew their kids were in a safe environment with certified adult supervision right at home. That allowed tenants to be better employees, earn more money more consistently, pay their rent on time, and keep their kids out of trouble. The tenants were loyal and all the families looked after each other’s kids and the building more attentively as a result since the place was better than anything else on the market.

  8. I am a gardener with a particular interest in edible gardening and food forests.. and like you as I drive around the suburbs I evaluate front lawns with an eye to how many fruit trees could reasonably fit in there. I live in a small cottage on what is a large block for my central position in a regional city in Australia, and I have already converted all of the lawn to food production. I live in an older suburb where many of the now gentrified houses were once corner shops with attached residence, and I am quite keen to see a return to that model. Just think how many square metres of productive work space will be freed up when we can’t afford to house the almighty automobile any more.

  9. Hi Johnny,
    Your blog is wonderful!
    Do you have any recommendations on where a 20-something could eventually plan to settle? In other words, what places in the U.S. seem best situated to hurdle the changes headed our way? Thank you!

    1. I don’t know anything about Jess’s situation but I would also like an answer on where exactly should 20-something singles be looking at; At one point, you seemed almost schizophrenic on the rustbelt and older industrial cities after Cinncinati… What do you think about Maryland?? Montgomery or PG County?? Umm.. Baltimore??

      Are the prospects of the rustbelt really soo poor?? Uh..Buffalo?? Springfield?? Also…What’s your take on New England cities like Providence and New Haven?? Vs booming metros like Austin, TX and Southern California??

      Thanks for all of your thoughts!!

    2. I’m not in the business of doling out advice. I just don’t know what the future holds. And everyone’s circumstances are different. In general I advise avoiding debt, cultivating “soft” personal and community connections with all kinds of different people that you can assist and who may assist you. and build skills which make you useful in the world. Hunkering down in one good place with great people is an option. So is keeping light, mobile, and liquid. Perhaps a mixture of the two is best – a home base that you can return to from adventures out in the world… Good luck.

  10. I will continue to read with interest. I do not have the vocabulary or lexicon of an architect and fancy myself more of a poet and creative writing mentor for other amateur writers, but I marvel at your insights and eloquence. I look forward to more posts when they arrive. Thank you for your commitment to sharing ideas, your fine writing and informative photography.

  11. Great piece. We too are having a moment in Van Nuys with panic over some new “enormous” five story tall apartments adjacent to a mostly single family area. The parking of cars is what residents fear most. But what many don’t realize is that $4,000 a month rents for houses and $2500 a month for two bedrooms require three or more adults (with cars) to pay for. So the less multi-family housing we have, paradoxically, the more on-street parking there is.

    Thousand Oaks, as you presented it, looks like that ugly subdivision in the HBO series, “Silicon Valley” complete with the sprawling, ungainly, pastiche of plastic styles that have vandalized California since 1950. I’m sure they are protective of their homes out there, but the place looks deadly boring, with nowhere to walk to, no possibility of engaging with neighbors except over some perceived hostile act, like taking a photograph with your camera while standing on a public street.

    1. I’ve come to the conclusion that fretting over aesthetics (like the abundant use of synthetic grass lawns and Lee Press-On faux facades isn’t a productive use of my energies. Neither is kvetching about regulations or other people’s attitudes about… anything. Let it go.

      Focus on the underlying structural dynamics. Some places are well suited to change and will ride out future dynamics better than most. Others are destined to decline rapidly under the best of circumstances. Thousand Oaks will endure for quite some time because the people who live there have political authority and money to buffer themselves fro quite a lot. It’s a good place. It’s just not my place.

      1. Hi Johnny, I absolutely love your literary voice. Your ability to turn a phrase and bring complex issue into striking clarity is remarkable. Despite having an obvious position on problems, I hear what strikes me as a sincere humility in your observations and ideas, which is rare. I also tend to agree with your assessment on many of the ills that plague us and solutions for improvement. I am passionate (obsessive?) about all things urban design. I find connections between physical (health), environmental, social and economic problems, and in your words, “the way we inhabit the landscape.” For all of these reasons I am hooked on your blog and look forward to each new post. Thank you for sharing your observations.

      2. I suspect that the homes in Thousand Oaks are dependent on upper middle class incomes to pay the mortgage, maintenance and taxes, and on tradespeople of varying skill levels for maintenance.

        If the $#!+ hits the fan, they might not be winners unless they are also wealthy (other than property wealth) or already prepared with a productive half-acre orchard and garden.

    2. Not only is there “no where to walk to”, there is no way to safely walk because most of those homes don’t have sidewalks in front of them, or if they exist they are sporadic. The public infrastructure is the bare minimum.

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