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Column: An election 2020 visual diary shows a plywood landscape

A giant Doc Martens boot hangs over a boarded up store on a pedestrian promenade
Not very punk rock: the Doc Martens store on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, boarded up on election day.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)
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President Trump famously said during the campaign for his first term that the United States would build “a great wall” — and that Mexico would pay for it. That didn’t quite work out. Instead, across the United States, people are building their own walls. And in places like Los Angeles, it’s largely Mexican American construction workers who are the ones getting paid to do the work.

The walls, however, are not “great.” They are plywood — and they went up at record speeds around Los Angeles (and many other U.S. cities) as the country braced for election unrest. It’s as if a hurricane were about to land — a hurricane named Donald Trump.

It’s an apt metaphor: NBC news correspondent Katy Tur once said that covering Trump “was like a hurricane making landfall everyday.”

And, as Alissa Walker points out in Curbed, even Trump has boarded himself up — adding a security fence around the perimeter of the White House this week. “After four years of trying to keep people out, his defensible space has grown smaller and smaller,” she writes. “He has, truly, locked himself up.”

A black construction fence in the middle of a grassy park
A public sculpture in Beverly Hills (shown on the afternoon of Nov. 3, 2020) is surrounded by a protective construction fence in anticipation of civil unrest following the 2020 election.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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This election has changed the political landscape. It is changing the physical one too.

On Tuesday afternoon, I took a drive across Los Angeles.

A city that was already sleepy from the pandemic was awash with the sounds of power drills on election day. Vast swaths of businesses in Hollywood, Westwood, downtown L.A., along the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and in Mid-City L.A. along the length of Wilshire Boulevard were all covered in plywood.

Beverly Hills went to town too. The city blocked off and boarded up the faux European pedestrian alley Via Rodeo and blocked all pedestrian and automotive access to Rodeo Drive — keeping Gucci and Balenciaga safe from looming conflict. It also wrapped up public sculptures and built fencing around others to protect them from damage. Given the questionable aesthetics of some of the city’s public art, I’d say this might be a good thing.

Boarded up cities, shut-down bridges and highways, a security fence around the White House, multiple attempts to disenfranchise voters — the United States can survive many things, but normalizing threats to our right to vote is not one of them.

Amid this wildly abnormal new reality, I was intrigued by the ways in which some business owners attempted to make plywood seem like part of the design. The Beverly Wilshire painted its plywood the same putty shade as the building’s stone, so all this architecture of civil strife wouldn’t be so unsightly.

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Others did wonders with a few coats of paint.

Herewith a very short visual diary of L.A. on election day:

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Club chic

A white building with a sign that reads "Pink" is covered with plywood painted black.
Victoria’s Secret in Santa Monica boarded up, but the shop went for a nightclub effect by painting the plywood black. Very chic.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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Installation art

A man walks past a boarded ticket booth at an Art Deco movie theater
The ticket booth at the Regency Bruin theater in Westwood Village all boarded up — looking like a curious piece of installation art.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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Whisper campaign

Neoclassical architecture covered with plywood that has been tinted pink.
The Louis Vuitton store in Beverly Hills tinted its plywood a light shade of pink. As my editor Laurie Ochoa describes it: “It’s a whisper of pink. The La Croix of paint jobs.”
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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Believe it

A mask-wearing T-Rex stands over the boarded up Ripley's Believe It or Not Museum in Hollywood.
The boarded-up Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum on Hollywood Boulevard. Welcome to 2020.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

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Open and shut

A Beaux Arts building houses a Vans store with painted black plywood that advertises "We're Open."
The Vans in downtown L.A. wins for the most creative camouflage of plywood: a sign painter was hired to gussy it up with a big sign that says “We’re Open” — because the breakdown of democracy shouldn’t interfere with the acquisition of checked sneakers.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)