Within five blocks of my house are two not-so-empty lots and the Getty House.
In truth, one of the lots is directly across the street from my driveway, surrounded by a fence of oxidized copper patina. Occasionally the lot is tidied up, but it is typically home to a field of massive weeds, discarded mattresses, heaps of refuse, and an army of well-fed feral cats.
Just a few blocks beyond this is the Getty House, which is home to the sitting mayor of Los Angeles (the recently re-elected Eric Garcetti). This historic home was once planned to serve as headquarters for the Getty Oil Company. But it has served as the seat of the mayor’s official residence since 1977 (though not all mayors have lived there since that time).
The Getty House is beautifully maintained with perfect green lawns behind an ornate fence.
In the other direction of the cat-lot lies the second of two not-so-empty lots within five blocks. This one is full of water drums and construction materials. They plan to build commercial and residential property, per the site foreman, whom I stopped to question one morning. They started a bit of work on it back in November, but seemed to have stopped due to the rain. Everything has been sitting there ever since.
Both of the lots are covered from top to bottom in graffiti on whatever exposed surfaces exist in or around them.
Living in Los Angeles has made me realize just how much that it’s a city of pockets and communities. There can be drastic changes from one street to the next; even from one side of the same street to the next. There are no warning signs, no announcements that you have left a slum and entered gentrified territory, or vice versa.
These changes are somewhat startling, and can be surprising. You can drive down the same street as it passes through an affluent neighborhood, through slums and projects, and back out to another affluent neighborhood, all in the course of a couple of miles.
In the course of walking my dog in morning, I often go from passing by homeless people begging on trash-filled streets near the subway, to passing in front of multi-million dollar homes within a few minutes. Then it’s inevitably back toward the not-so-empty lot, where my neighbors, the feral cats, lurk under parked cars to hiss and swipe their claws at my dog.
Perhaps one day I’ll wake up to notices and construction materials at the lot across the street and they’ll sandwich yet another apartment building in on the block. Perhaps then the cats will move on to the huge backyards of the mansions a few blocks beyond their current lot. And perhaps then Animal Control will finally come deal with them.