A Spirited Exchange

Digging through the archives of L.A. Observed, I found this 2006 entry from blogger David Rensin, which includes this description of Granada Hills:

I’m in the left turn lane at Balboa Blvd and Chatsworth Street in Granada Hills, facing north, turning west. I grew up here, went to high school just down the road, but it doesn’t feel like home anymore. The Hughes at Devonshire and Balboa got eaten by Ralphs (for the worse) years ago. The Orange Julius I worked at has become a Korean BBQ. Across the street an old Ralphs has become a Walgreens, and the whole corner a McMiniMall.

The local hospital is out of business, a wasted facility butted up against a once-anticipated expansion that never made it past the iron beam "jungle gym" that grows out of the weed patch and broken blacktop. It's still a nice neighborhood to be sure. Affordable. Its own "Main Street" -- Chatsworth -- retains its sense of community. A tidy quaintness remains -- no overgrowth of overbuilt homes, at least here, but for me, a melancholia as well. What could I expect? Time passes, people change.

The post goes on to explain the real reason for his melancholy perspective and why his home town "doesn't feel like home anymore": his mother's failing health and struggle with dementia. Rensin's concise snapshot of Granada Hills -- "no overgrowth of overbuilt homes," a sense of community in spite of "McMiniMalls," a mix of comfortable familiarity combined with changes we can't control (um, Kohl's?) -- serves as the backdrop to a story about a son confronting a feeling of helplessness as he tries to help his aging mother. It's a beautiful post, succinct, evocative and moving.

Yet Granada Hills South Neighborhood Council Vice President Brad Smith took the story as a direct insult to our little suburb and took it upon himself to write to L.A. Observed to complain. His unintentionally humorous letter alternates between sounding like a defensive response to wounded civic pride and a real estate brochure:

We chose to buy a home and raise our children in Granada Hills because of its amenities, including one of the best public high schools in the state, parks, libraries, and close proximity to a public university....

...Granada Hills, despite being a mature community with all the problems that entails, has an active public life, with an active Chamber, Business Improvement District, and both the Granada Hills North (Knollwood) and Granada Hills South (Old Granada Hills) neighborhood councils; GHSNC was only certified this year, and is the newest of Los Angeles' neighborhood councils.

At the same time, the council and the community are doing everything we can to maintain and improve the quality of life here, including as close involvement as we can with the new public LAUSD high school proposed for the site of the old Granada Hills Community Hospital.

Rensin wrote a gracious apology, but gently tried to explain to Smith that he's missing the point:

Thanks for the input. I love Granada Hills and Northridge. I think it's clear in the piece that I was just upset about my mother's condition -- which is what the essay was about.

Still, consider yourself warned: don't be hatin' on the G.H., or you gonna have my homey Brad Smith all up in your bizness, and he hardcore, man.


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