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Best Place to Pine for the Ol’ Dirty Hollywood

(Illustration by Ronald Kurniawan)

{mosimage}I downed two organic tangerine margaritas at the Hungry Cat while waiting for the bill. Afterward, I needed a stretch. As I meandered through the courtyard, I took in the latest incarnation of the once-notorious corner of Sunset and Vine.

The property was recently transformed by the Meléndrez design firm from a sketchy, litter-strewn hub of illegal activity, perversion and danger into a not-so-hideously designed “retail, entertainment and residential ‘urban village,’” according to the Web site. The urban village is the latest trend in upscale living wherein newly constructed apartments loom above large complexes that are home to restaurants and shops. The idea is to create a self-contained community in which tenants need not venture out beyond the home complex. Inside said urban village, residents are encouraged to spend mindlessly and relinquish any and all traces of individual identity as consumer culture swallows up their threadbare wisps of creativity and imagination, spitting out a Gap-clad society of drones who watch television, eat processed Republican mind-control food and talk about celebrities.

Where was I? Oh yes, Sunset + Vine, “a safe place to congregate and a luxurious, sought after address.”

As for the structure itself, it’s not overtly offensive. It’s large and loud, but not nearly as hideous as the chaos over on Hollywood and Highland (gross). The minimalist attempts at landscaping are fine enough. The parking structure works and the sidewalks are clean. I can even squeeze myself around its intention, as the structure does provide much-needed housing in a vastly overpopulated city bursting at the seams. However, the eyesore that is the chunk of corporate retailers occupying the space sends me into a liberal anticapitalist frenzy every time I drive by.

Borders, Baja Fresh, Bed, Bath & Beyond. Barf. Hollywood is quickly becoming another example of a gentrified Los Angeles. It wasn’t enough that the monied took over the Westside and the beaches, rendering any place lovely and interesting unaffordable and dull (see also Silver Lake). Now, instead of character and diversity, we have homogenized clones, making once unique and interesting neighborhoods common and prosaic and completely indistinguishable from one another.

I wandered the tiny courtyard, tipsy and nostalgic for the seedy Hollywood of my ’70s youth, when the corner of Sunset and Vine was sketchy and dirty and dangerous, when Hollywood didn’t look like every other nameless, faceless urban clusterfuck in the country. I missed the hookers, the trannies and the addicts and failed in my internal attempt to reconcile that this once-illustrious corner, paid tribute to in countless songs and stories, is now a destination for jersey sheet sets and high-end boba. Arrr.