By Burton Cantara, Quilt staff.
Canoga Parkians have become shocked and enraged by a recently erected billboard just outside city limits - and some have taken to the streets in protest.
The “Healthy Living Photo Contest Winner” billboard features a photo of a genial man in his garden as well as the smiling - some say “taunting” - countenance of Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitchell Englander.
|Billboard inspires healthy living, local outrage. Staff photo.|
|Location of the 'Healthy Living'|
billboard. Image: Google Maps.
“It’s a smack in the face to us!” shouted Variel Avenue resident Brad Thielen. “They know we have to pass this sign every night on our way home from our jobs up at Porter Ranch Town Center! They know this!”
“I put in ten hours at Walmart - the pepper spray one! - and then I have to come home to this?!” echoed Annette Moncure of Lanark Street. “And most of the time I end up stuck at the light so I’ve got it staring me in the face for a full minute!”
The collective anger stems in part from the fact that the low alkaloid content in the soil here in the Owensmouth River Basin region, coupled with the often severe winds blowing down from the Santa Susana Mountains make successfully growing sunflowers all but impossible within Canoga Park city limits: some have commented that the billboard’s subject matter, celebrating a bumper crop of tall, beautiful sunflower plants, seems to be calculated to antagonize the local citizenry - especially given that it’s the first thing travelers driving south on Topanga Canyon Boulevard will see as they enter Canoga Park proper.
Englander’s “Healthy Living” photo contest encouraged his constituents to “explore our beautiful district” - that is, District 12 which encompasses a number of West Valley communities surrounding but specifically not including Canoga Park - and submit photos that demonstrate a healthy way of life in the West Valley.
Yet, many Canoga Park residents - unaware that Englander is not their Los Angeles City Council representative and equally unaware of which district they live in - submitted contest entries, only to learn recently they were ineligible to participate, accounting for another faction of angry locals.
“Hey, I could use a million bucks, so I sent in a photo I took called ‘Gathering Soccer Balls from the LA River Channel Next To Canoga Park High School’s Athletic Fields with Uncle Gus’ - and I never heard back,” grumbles Victor Oseguera of Milwood Avenue.
|Evelyn Pierson's artful entry. Photo: Evelyn Pierson|
“It was a frickin' great example of healthy living - I mean, first, we had to climb over that chain link fence, carefully lower ourselves down to the bottom, then Gus had to keep a lookout for cops since we’re not really supposed to be there, and then we got a bunch of balls, took the picture and then had to climb back up, carrying two or three balls a piece. Man, what a frickin’ workout. If that’s not ‘healthy living,’ I don’t know what is. Oh, and we sell the soccer balls at a yard sale over on DeSoto, so that’s like recycling, which is healthy for the environment, right? Hey man, you need any soccer balls, I'm your hookup.”
“My entry was ignored, too,” insists Evelyn Pierson, recently of that little road that cuts behind Sherman Way over to Shoup by Del Taco.
“It was a picture of me, my friend Helen who I met at Goodwill when she was being evicted, and Susan, my daughter - at the home we now share. I titled it ‘We All Live In a 1983 Two-Tone Brown Volkswagen Vanagon’ and I thought it really fit the theme of Healthy Living, although maybe it's more of a sustainable living thing, I don’t know. I mean, our footprint is pretty small and-- Oh, crap - here comes Parking Enforcement! I have to move it - one more ticket and they’re going to impound us for sure! I’ll tell you one thing, though: I wouldn’t have to worry about that if I won the one million dollar first prize!”
Chase Street resident Bob Holbrook’s entry was similarly dismissed.
|'Healthy Living Through Free Apartment-Seeker Guides.' © Bob Holbrook|
While Englander’s office has not yet responded to our inquiries, the Quilt was able to definitively ascertain that Canoga Park is part of District 3 represented by LA City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield. Further investigation revealed that there was no indication of any sort of a cash prize for winning the ‘Healthy Living’ photo contest.
That didn’t prevent protesters numbering almost a dozen from assembling in the Von’s parking lot on Tuesday night with the intention of marching up Topanga Canyon Boulevard en masse for a prayer circle and candlelight vigil to be held at the base of the sign in honor of those who didn't win the contest as well as to remember all the sunflowers that never made it beyond a foot or so tall before succumbing to Santa Susana's relentless hot, dry winds.
However, upon realizing the trek to the provocative billboard would cover a grueling 1.08 miles, a vote was held and the protesters unanimously agreed to “just get something to eat at McDonald’s instead since we’re already here and it’s probably the last day for those Shamrock Shakes,” a spokesperson for the group said.