Does Pico-Robertson Need Public Basketball Courts?

I argued with Orthodox Jewish friends the other day about who owns the neighborhood. They say nobody owns the neighborhood and people should be able to do what they want with the property they buy, including building a giant mansion.

My Orthodox friends are opposed to legislative attempts to limit mansionization. Orthodox Jews tend to have large families and on average they don’t care as much as goyim do about maintaining certain neighborhood aesthetics. For instance, are Orthodox Jews more or less likely than Presbyterians to keep a clean and neat lawn and garden? Modern Orthodox Jews tend to like to keep up their laws and gardens, traditional Orthodox Jews vary widely.

Who’s more likely to leave trash on the roof of their garage? Orthodox Jews or Anglicans or blacks?

Who’s more likely to yell? Orthodox Jews or WASPs or Puerto Ricans?

Who’s more likely to have a lot of loud rambunctious children? Orthodox Jews or WASPs or Africans?

Ryan Bradley writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Earlier this month, the city planning commission released a report on so-called mansionization. It found that from 2005 to 2015, 57,224,810 square feet of either new additions or new construction had been developed in single-family zones throughout the city. Recently, the commission took steps to mitigate the problem. It voted to eliminate various loopholes, including one that grants a 20% square footage bonus for building “green.” But the City Council must review and sanction these changes before they become law, and plenty of loopholes still exist — attached garages, for example, do not count against total built space if they’re located at the back of the property.

Unfortunately, very little about the proposed adjustments will do anything to curb the underlying realities that incentivize such unlovely building choices. Much of Los Angeles is still zoned for single-family house construction, so developers can’t maximize the space available — and their profits — with multiple units. Instead, developers drive up the asking price by piling up the square footage.

It’s not just the aesthetics that bother me. All those additional square feet add up to an enormous waste of space.

In “Life at Home in the 21st Century,” UCLA researchers tracked 32 middle-class Angelenos, trying to measure and analyze how we live today. One family in particular they followed intimately, tracking how they moved around the house during the mornings, evenings, and weekends — when they were all home. The results were amazing: the family huddled around the kitchen and family room nearly all the time, leaving the living room, porch, and more than 50% of the rest of the first floor communal spaces almost entirely empty. The habit of gathering around the kitchen to eat, or huddling in front of the TV to watch, hasn’t changed much since the 1950s, but the average home size has — from 983 square feet in 1950 to more than 2,660 square feet today. Meanwhile, the average family size has shrunk and so has the average number of people living under one roof, from 3.3 in 1960 to 2.54 today.

We’ve managed to build more space for fewer people in a city with arguably the worst housing crisis in America. Mansionization is the inverse of densification—less space for more people—which we desperately need to keep L.A. halfway affordable and environmentally sustainable in the long term. Community groups rail against the large apartment buildings going up in Hollywood and downtown, but it’s the mansions that are terribly out of step with the reality of this city.

I wanted to know the moral reason why my Orthodox friends held that nobody can own a neighborhood. From what I deduced, they had the libertarian view that people should do what they want so long as they don’t hurt others and they didn’t want more city rules about how they build and renovate.

I guess I have a citizenist or nationalist view that people should be able to band together to maintain neighborhoods as they see fit. If a neighborhood or block doesn’t want Jews or blacks or whites or asians in it, they should be allowed. If a neighborhood doesn’t want mansions, they should be allowed. In Jerusalem, there are requirements to build with Jerusalem stone to maintain a certain aesthetic. My Orthodox friends don’t like it. People should be able to build what they want.

I think this discussion gets at deeper points than just mansionization. Who owns a neighborhood or city or country? I think its citizens do and they should be able to determine who gets to move in and what the rules are. In short, I think they should be able to discriminate just as Orthodox Jews discriminate in favor of other Jews.

Homeowners at Robertson Blvd and Airdrome are not happy with the basketball courts in the park because basketball courts attract young black men who commit high rates of crime, including violent crime, theft, and drug pushing. Blacks are selling drugs at the park at Robertson Blvd and Airdrome, sometimes to Orthodox Jewish kids. Residents are not happy. They don’t want young black men hanging around. They don’t want homeless setting up camp in alleys. And they don’t want more public parking. They want people to have to buy a monthly sticker to park.

Here are some Yelp reviews of the Robertson Recreation Center:

* The outdoor/indoor basketball courts are okay. Between the guys doing drugs in between buildings of the Rec Center and the homeless guys that leave their trash by one of the doors to the center and “work” at the Ashram temple across the street, you’d have a better time crawling into a sewer for your own amusement than coming to this place. It’s a travesty.

* Mom’s perspective here:

I came here with my husband and 18 month old on a Sunday afternoon for the playground. There was trash scattered throughout the sand and I would not let my kid take off his shoes to play in the sand because I felt it may not be safe. There were two men sleeping on benches in very close proximity to the playground. When one of them woke up and stared at us, my husband requested we leave.

The play yard was small and the basketball courts were full of grown men playing games. I was the only woman there. I would not feel comfortable here alone with my child.

Needless to say, I will not be back.

* It’s a police check in station, so it’s relatively safe-ish. I come here to shoot hoops and only see shady things going on once in awhile, like people smoking joints or sleeping in the bushes.

I remember one time I was walking by this park and a bunch of black guys on the court started making fun of a studious black kid going by with library books under his arm. They said he was acting white.

I don’t like walking by this park. I don’t like many of the people it attracts. I remember one day there was a homeless guy who died right beside the park. I notice some shady types park their vans by the park and live there. I’m not thrilled with all the homeless in 90035.

The La Cienega Park in Beverly Hills (near Olympic Blvd) used to have public basketball courts but they tore them down because they attracted too many blacks. The park has sterling ratings on Yelp.

This reminds me of a story from psychologist James Flynn who spent a year in Virginia in an upper-class suburb. The neighbors were all professionals. After dinner in the Asian family, the kids would settle down to do their homework. Meanwhile, the Jewish family after dinner would all yell at each other and then the kids would settle down to do their homework. And the black family? They’d gather to play basketball.

So I guess in some areas, my Orthodox friends do want to own the neighborhood. They don’t want public basketball courts. They don’t want loitering by young black men and the homeless. They don’t want open air drug sales. They don’t want illegal immigrants urinating publicly. If they can clean up the neighborhood, they’ll increase property values, which in turn will keep out undesirables. Our prices discriminate so you don’t have to!

I like the old days in America and Australia and Canada and England where homeowners banded together and kept up their neighborhoods by keeping up their standards. There was a sense of “We own the neighborhood.” With ownership, comes increased care and increased demands. I think that makes for better neighborhoods than everyone doing their own thing.

That phrase, “You don’t own the neighborhood!” bugs me. It reminds me of Jon Stewart’s epic rant, “This country isn’t yours!” Jews certainly feel, correctly, that they own Israel.

Homeowners feeling ownership of the neighborhood strikes me as a good thing.

It seems to me that ownership belongs to those who can take power. If you can control your neighborhood, you own it. If you can control your city, you own it. If you can control your country, you own it. If you can control your religion, you own it. If you can control who identifies as Alt-Right, you own it.

Ownership requires power effectively demonstrated.

Right now, the hardcore Muslims control Islam because the softcore Muslims don’t intimidate anyone. The Pope seems to have a lot of power over the Catholic church. He’s changing the church.

The Alt-Right is fighting back against Jews who claim to be Alt-Right. If the leading intellectuals of the Alt-Right declare that Jews can’t be in the party, then any Jew who claims to be Alt-Right appears foolish.


Well, the convention’s over. I thought Donald Trump was going to speak. Ivanka said that he was going to come out. She said he was really compassionate and generous, but then this angry groundhog came out and he just vomited on everybody for an hour.

The Republicans appear to have a very clear plan for America, and they’ve articulated it throughout the convention. One, jail your political opponent. Two, inject Rudy Giuliani with a speedball and Red Bull enema. Three, spend the rest of the time scaring the holy bejeezus out of everybody. But I’m not interested in that. I’m actually interested in gymnastics.

With the Rio Olympics coming up, I’m enjoying the gymnastics portion of the program that’s about to occur. That would be the contortions that many conservatives will now have to do, to embrace Donald… J. Trump, a man who clearly embodies the things that they have, for years, said that they have hated about Barack Obama.

(Clip of Fox News presenters calling Barak Obama thin-skinned, straightforwardly authoritarian, and a raging narcissistic who has no grip on reality.)

Yes. A thin-skinned narcissist with no government experience. Yes, that sounds exactly like… Barack Obama. So now the right-wing media’s going to have to spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, justifying this choice they’ve made. Can they make the turn? They already are. Let’s trace their journey through the eyes of one of their most talented gymnasts.

(Photograph shown of Sean Hannity.)

Uhhhh, his name escapes me. Let’s just refer to him as Lumpy. Hey, Lumpy. For instance, here’s how Lumpy felt about Barack Obama’s divisiveness.

(Clips of Hannity calling Obama the most divisive president in history, bringing up black vs white, racial lines)

Cats versus dogs! Batman versus Superman!

(Photographs of Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.)

That one against the other two! I’ve been out of the business a while, I don’t know what that is. If you don’t like divisiveness, what about when Trump suggested Mexico is sending us their rapists?

(Clip of Hannity explaining how Trump ‘didn’t call all Mexicans rapists’)

You’re right, and on Cinco de Mayo, we had the Trump Tower taco bowl, and that’s one of the healing-est meals on the Trump Tower menu. I’m not an expert on racial unity. But I do believe that some of our more vaunted historical leaders in that area did retweet white supremacists less than Trump. So I believe… I’m just saying. Then there was the Obama crony that Lumpy couldn’t stand. His old friend, Teleprompty.

(Clip of Hannity saying Obama ‘can’t read a sentence without using a teleprompter’.)

He probably sleeps with the darn thing and then probably doesn’t call it the next day because it didn’t say so on the teleprompter. Lumpy, your 180, please.

(Clip of Hannity praising Trump’s use of teleprompters.)

[Shouting] You hate teleprompters! You’re saying now, “Teleprompters are for stupid people, and I thought Trump handled it pretty good.” O.K., inexperience aside. Divisiveness aside. The worst thing about Barack Obama is his elitism.

(Clip of Hannity asking the audience ‘we have to wonder how in touch’ Obama is because he has a $1 million home and ordering a burger with Dijon mustard.)

Yeah, you elitist! You probably eat that burger with your mouth instead of acting like a real American and having a Magnum fire it up your ass. Like they serve them at Arby’s. That’s how they serve them, actually, at Arby’s, they shoot them right up your ass. Meanwhile, here’s how Lumpy feels about the guy who sits in a literal golden throne at the top of a golden tower with his name in gold letters at the top of it, eating pizza with a knife and fork. How do you feel about that guy?

(Clip of Hannity describing Mr. Trump as a ‘blue-collar billionaire.’)

That’s not a thing. You know what? It is true, Trump does seem like the kind of guy you want sit down and own a fleet of airplanes with. Look, all that stuff is actually superficial and I’m sure it’s easy for people without ethics or principles to embrace someone who embodies everything that they said they hated about the previous president for the past eight years. Because, really for a president, it’s about what’s inside. And that’s where Lumpy and friends, this is where they really have found the president lacking.

(Clip of Hannity criticising the Rev. Wright Jr. and saying he would not go to his church.)

Obama would. He’s the type of Christian that’s, you know, [whispers] not Christian. When the pope said that Trump’s talk about immigration was not Christian, surely that gave Lumpy pause.

(Clip of Hannity asking how the pope can decide who is a real Christian ‘at heart’.)

Yeah. Who died and made that guy pope? So let’s just say, for real, here’s where we are. Either Lumpy and his friends are lying about being bothered by thin-skinned, authoritarian, less-than-Christian readers-of-prompter being president. Or they don’t care, as long as it’s their thin-skinned prompter-authoritarian-tyrant-narcissist. You just want that person to give you your country back. Because you feel that you’re this country’s rightful owners.

There’s only one problem with that. This country isn’t yours. You don’t own it. It never was. There is no real America. You don’t own it. You don’t own patriotism. You don’t own Christianity. You sure as hell don’t own respect for the bravery and sacrifice of military, police and firefighters.

Trust me. I saw a lot of people on the convention floor in Cleveland with their ‘blue lives matter’ rhetoric, who either remained silent or actively fought against the 9/11 first responders’ bill reauthorisation. I see you and I see your .

We’re live. [Colbert gives audience thumbs up] Never been on a television show with stakes before. So I see you. You’ve got a problem with those Americans fighting for their place at the table. You’ve got a problem with that because you feel like — what’s Representative Steve King’s word for it? Subgroups of Americans are being divisive. Well, if you have a problem with that, take it up with the founders. We hold these truths to be self-evident. [Singing.] “That all men are created equal.” Respect, Lin-Manuel. Those fighting to be included in the ideal of equality are not being divisive. Those fighting to keep those people out are. So, Lumpy, you and your friends have embraced Donald Trump. Clearly, the ‘c’ next to your names don’t stand for constitutional or conservative. But cravenly, convenient [Colbert interrupts with an air horn.]

About Luke Ford

Raised a Seventh-Day Adventist at Avondale College in Australia, Luke Ford moved to California in 1977. He graduated from Placer High School in 1984, reported the news at KAHI/KHYL radio for three years, attended Sierra College and UCLA, was largely bedridden by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for six years, and converted to Judaism in 1993. From 1997-2007, Luke made his living from blogging. Living by Beverly Hills (, he now teaches the Alexander Technique (moving the way the body likes to move). Lessons cost $100 each and last about 45 minutes. In 2011, Luke completed a three-year teaching course at the Alexander Training Institute of Los Angeles. His personal Alexander Technique website is Luke is the author of five books, including: » The Producers: Profiles in Frustration » Yesterday’s News Tomorrow: Inside American Jewish Journalism
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