Here’s something that came over the transom, not in the form of some Planning Department notice, but via social media. The properties in question are three apartment buildings at 4629-4651 West Maubert Avenue:
Five matching sets of flats, 4613-4615 W. Maubert, were designed and built in the spring of 1920 by developers Wright & Hogan.
Ben O. L. Wright was a tireless promoter of East Hollywood. In 1920, he was 31 years old, and living with his wife, daughter, mother and brother in the home he designed and built in 1919, a few blocks north at 4626 Melbourne (demolished for a parking lot in 1969).
For example, we all know our beloved Vista was designed by Lewis A. Smith, and run by Bard (being Lou Bard’s Hollywood before its renaming to the Vista in 1928), but do you know whom we actually have to thank for it? Wright & Hogan, that’s who.
But back to our Wright & Hogan flats on Maubert. The other day this popped up:
STEALTH ATTACK ON LOS FELIZ?
LAST MINUTE ADDITION OF MAUBERT PROJECT TO COMMITTEE AGENDA RAISES QUESTIONS.
Late last week an additonal item was placed on the Planning & Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee agenda. The PLUM Committee will review a report related to the project proposed for the 4600 block of Maubert at the southern edge of Los Feliz, near Barnsdall Park. The proposed project is an 8-story residential structure containing 153 dwelling units. The PLUM agenda says that the new building will set aside 17 units for Extremely Low Income Households, but it doesn’t mention that demolishing the existing structures will erase 14 rent-stabilized units. In other words, there will only be a net gain of 3 units that will be accessible to Low Income households. The City wants you to believe it’s trying to address LA’s housing crisis, but the only people City Hall is really interested in housing are the folks who make six figures or more.
This could be bad news for Los Feliz. As a TOC project, this is already on the fast track, and the fact that PLUM is considering making it a Sustainable Communities (SC) project means they want a quick and superficial environmental review process. Like many of the homes in the Los Feliz area, the buildings to be demolished are nearly 100 years old and potentially historic. The fact that this was slipped onto the PLUM agenda during a holiday week when many people will be out of town could indicate that the City is trying to avoid public scrutiny. Will this be their strategy for other projects in the area?
With the City’s tangled approval process, it’s hard to say where this project stands right now, but if you’re bothered by all of this, you could send an e-mail to City Hall to let them know you’re concerned. Among the areas of concern are….
> Net gain of only 3 units accessible to Low Income households.
> No notification has been sent to the surrounding community or the neighborhood council.
> Loss of potentially historic buildings.
Please use the following subject line:
4629-4651 Maubert Ave., Case Nos. DIR-2019-3760-TOC-SPP-SPR, VTT-82654
Send your e-mail to:
Kevin Keller, Deputy Director of Planning
And please copy:
And if you’re wondering what, exactly, the developer intends to do, it is this:
And from this post came a flurry of shocked responses. But more than that. Informed responses. Good to see the neighborhood folk on social media having, or gaining, a good working knowledge of the forces at work in their neighborhood. The same folk who voted for JJJ out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re seeing TOC turn their neighborhood into a developer’s paradise not because it will do any good for the poor, but because it ups the tax base for City. Their neighborhoods are marketed as “TOC Development Opportunity!” meaning zoning goes out the window: no green space, no setbacks, no parking, increase the height, increase the units—and to hell with community input, design review, neighborhood councils—and the Planning Commission says their hands are tied because of JJJ.
And of course, people are writing emails, and reporting that they’re being bounced back with notices that their reps are out out of town/out of touch for the holidays.
Don’t let that stop you. Make twice the calls, write thrice the emails.
I’m kind of digging this social media thing now. Makes me wonder, had the pensioners of Bunker Hill been so supplied back in 1956, as City Council was considering the redevelopment project, if things could have gone another way.
This seven-room, 1,840sf Craftsman bungalow was built in the spring of 1912, in the Country Club Park tract, by the contracting team of Peter J. Schulte & William J. Wisler. Wisler was the owner.
There are precious few Craftsmans left in this part of the world; they’ve been nearly exterminated east of Wilton. It is especially noteworthy to find one that has not been stuccoed, windows changed out, porches enclosed, etc.
Look closely at the expressive use of brick in on the chimney and porch.
Then, one day, she is put up for sale:
Interestingly, when 933 was listed, they stated “it can be demolished to create 8 to 9 new condo or apartment units”—
It should surprise no-one here that they intend to build twice that:
Sixty-seven feet? Nearest thing that tall is a half-mile north on Wilshire.
I get it. We have private property rights. If I have the money to outbid a museum to buy a Tintoretto or an Edward Hopper, and then go home and toss it in the fireplace, more power to me. If there’s a grove of old-growth trees, some sylvan forest producing shade and oxegyn, where children have froliced in the bucolic glades for generations, I’ll buy it and clearcut it and leave the slash piles to rot because I can. I won’t, mind you, but I can, for we are endowed by our Creator with all sorts of inalienable rights, codified by the Bill of Rights, among which lives freedom of speech, which I’m going to use here and now to say that Mr. Reuven Gradon is a moral leper.
It’s not so much Gradon bought a great house and tore it down. Rather, that he deceived the owners to do so. He procured the house through trickery and deceit for no other reason than to demolish it.
361 North Citrus, by Henry Knauer & Clarence Smale, was built in 1927 as an Architect’s Show Home, that is, a design showcase example, at the southwest corner of Citrus and Oakwood in Hancock Park. There she lived peacefully and was purchased about 2010 by the Coles, who restored the girl, up to and including new piping, wiring, and a full seismic retrofit.
After being in the house about a decade, it was time to sell; they listed on July 18th, 2019, and the offers came in. Many were over asking. One came on July 29th, with this letter:
Now that just drips with sincerity. They’re going to deepen their roots in this, the home of their dreams. They’re going to fill it with joy and heart. Hell, even the three-year-old loves the house.
As one Curbed commenter pointed out, Cole may have rejected a higher offer because of this letter, and may also have accepted Gradon’s offer because it was without contingencies, like inspection and repairs—specifically because, unbeknownst to Cole, Gradon intended to demolish the house and didn’t care about such things. (Though most of the Curbed commentariat, of course, went on about how opposing historic demolitions meant you were a loathsome boomer NIMBY).
In any event, the Coles sold the house to Gradon. This is Reuven Gradon:
The house went into escrow on August 5th, 2019 and Gradon closed sale/took ownership September 18th. He got his demo permit on October 18th only because he stated, via the legal stipulation, that he had physically posted notice on the house about its impending demolition, thirty days prior, on September 18th:
Gradon is awarded his demolition permit on October 18th. Problem is, according to neighborhood residents, Gradon never did, in fact, post any such notice thirty days prior:
Moreover, LADBS would not have issued the demolition permit without approved plans for the new building in hand, further indication Gradon always intended to demolish and rebuild. (Besides, as a developer, how is it possible he bought a house without realizing it wouldn’t suit his needs?)
Here’s another wrinkle—so to recap—Gradon goes into escrow August 5th and supposedly discovers during the ensuing 45-day-period that the house, I dunno, doesn’t have enough character, so on the morning he is handed the keys to the front door, September 18th, he heads down to good ol’ 201 North Figueroa and files to demolish, thus, he will get his demolition permit issued October 18th. Which he does. The Department of Building and Safety fails to and doesnot, despite theirown law, send written notice “at least thirty days prior” to the three abutting property owners. Again, nor does Gradon post public notice per the law. Rather, after thirty days of quiet ownership of 361 it’s October 18th and DBS issues him his demolition permit. Conveniently, it’s a Friday, and shocked residents find out bulldozers are firing up and their calls to the City ring off the wall. Some say Gradon did put the demo signage up on October 18th (though neighbors dispute he did even this)—but behind some shrubbery inside his dining room window, so it’s a moot point, as that’s both a month too late and in contradiction of LADBS order to post in a “conspicuous place.”
One way or another the neighborhood gets wind of his plan and Saturday morning, social media is doing its thing:
But it’s too late, the work week begins Monday and by lunchtime Wednesday the house is gone. Everything, all the hand-carved woodwork, the vintage tile, the antique fixtures, even the mature fruit trees, nothing is salvaged: it’s all torn asunder and dumpstered as a great big extra fuck you.
Allow me then to collect (via the Redfin listing) and display some images—
I asked Brian Kaiser, one of the foremost authorities on 1920s Southern California tile, and an expert in tile restoration, preservation and salvage, about this one. In an email exchange Kaiser said:
The fireplace is (WAS) quite special. A deluxe, deluxe example. The Terra Cotta mantel is one of the most elaborate and detailed that he made. I have never seen it before. The mantel was the most expensive part of the fireplace. There were many “Grades” of mantels. The beautiful, very detailed Pilasters, are rarely seen. They are also very special. The corbels above them are very large and also rare. The spandrels are also very, very nice. The hearth has a “Curb”. It helps stop ashes from coming out into the living room. Probably based on an actual English fireplace from the Middle Ages. A very impressive, and classy design. A terrible, terrible, tragedy that it was not saved. I could have had it out in 3-4 days.
Now let’s discuss these bathrooms:
I spoke with Max Solomon, head of the Los Angeles design and restoration firm Augustus Interiors. He said that given the watercolor style and coloring, the tile work was in all likelihood H & R Johnson, an English manufacturer favored during the interbellum years in the most high-end homes. The use of the tony, trend-setting maker stands to reason further, Solomon asserts, since “they wouldn’t skimp on a showcase house, plus the H & R Johnson showroom was located nearby; moreover the house was Tudor, so an English tile maker would be all the more appropriate.”
And so the house and all its charm and memories are gone. All that’s left is this letter to the editor from the Coles:
…and a lesson to the people of Los Angeles. Perhaps, if there is a silver lining, it’s that this lesson may enrage and engage some folk, and call them to action; posts like this one
use terms like mark my words—this will not happen again—enough is enough.
Postscript—but gosh, maybe I’m being too hard on Mr. Gradon. According to this, Reuven and wife Shevy “are going to build something much more beautiful.” I’d be happy to look over the plans you had in hand weeks ago at DBS and critique them sir, and if I’m wrong about all this, I’ll eat my words. Of course you’ll be spending thrice what you paid to match that level of materials and craftsmanship, but I certainly respect that choice. Here’s to the new 361!
These three little contiguous flats were built by W. P. Short in the fall of ’48. The house in back was constructed in 1954.
The continued abhorrence of anything lo-slung and lo-density requires these be replaced with, as you might imagine, vastly increased height and density, and because density proponents will tell you this is “green,” there’s also a massive reduction in green space.
This two-story six-unit apartment building was designed by engineer J. Doherty in the spring of 1962, and will be gone soon, which is a shame, as there aren’t a whole lot left in area that reek so of 1962.
They’re building four stories but only adding two units? Must be some capacious apartments.
She needs a little love, but don’t we all? Like my aunt Gladys, nothing a coat of paint can’t fix. Plus she hasn’t been stuccoed, the windows are original, and the porch hasn’t been enclosed. And dig those dramatic gables. Bonus factoid: First Lieutenant Dale C. Tipton, when released from a Nazi POW camp in June of ’45, well, this is the house he came home to.
Though she’s to be torn down for an apartment building, remarkably, the developers are not going TOC with a five-story, forty-some unit structure.
Not that I don’t love scribbling the overwrought vitriolic screed but the problem is those things take time. And the problem is, I’ve got this other architectural/ social history to write, and a publisher who’s after me to finish it, so it behooves me to spend my time making that deadline.
The content of this blog will therefore streamline some—as in, instead of the usual lengthy discourse, with its links and pretty pictures and meandering diatribes, I’ll post a building, its architect when I can, and what’s to become of it, short and sweet. I wanted to point this out so that you didn’t think I was just slacking off, or didn’t love you anymore.
The good/bad news, then, is I should be posting with greater regularity. Besides, you probably already know where I stand on the subjects of density and TOC and the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance (and I haven’t even talked about the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance).
And then when my book is finished we’ll be back to our usual rancorous broadsides against the moral lepers who would have Los Angeles become some super-regulated version of Kowloon City.
When the people of Budapest have a piece of Soviet-era architecture, like Kossuth Square 4-6 (Béla Pintér, 1972), which they deem…inappropriate, especially in a landscape as great as Kossuth Square, they remodel it, so it may reflect the regional consciousness.
When the people of Los Angeles, when presented with something as simple and culture-defining as a green-and-black tiled 1931 bathroom, they too deem it inappropriate, and remodel it so it may reflect…what, exactly?
I was on the Facebook GrowLA page last week and came across something that made me ask, can a developer make a building so ugly even a YIMBY can’t love it? (Roughly analogous to the old test o’ faith can God make a rock so heavy even He can’t lift it?) And the answer, apparently, is yes.
It was on this post I saw a collection of images shot by a Mr. David Schumacher—here’s some:
These are all down around USC. Most of Schumacher’s shots are of near-identical Tripalink structures. You have to look twice before you realize oh, right, these are in fact different buildings.
Unbelievably, the YIMBYs thought their own beloved mid-block ultra-dense max-height econobox cubes were, for once, less than appealing:
If, at the outset, you’re asking what is a YIMBY? that stands for Yes In My Backyard, meaning they are anti-NIMBY, who don’t want development in their backyard. YIMBYs want development in your backyard; there’s no actual evidence they’ll accept it in theirs. They’re the sort who pee themselves a little with glee and break into song when, for example, single family zoning is eradicated:
But predictably, enough is never enough:
They also invariably refer to NIMBYs as “boomerNIMBYs”.
I can assure Mr. Sanchez, there are a lot of his Millenial brethren who are fans of a human-scale Los Angeles. In fact, the NIMBY comes in all forms, and you might read more about them here and here and here.
But what of these bilious buildings which elicited such a response?
As I said, many down by USC are built by Tripalink. Tripalink is based in Los Angeles, building primarily for Chinese USC students. “It is our mission to establish a truly co-living neighborhood, to redefine the experience of living overseas” which they do through building multi-unit co-living set-ups. In this article, Tripalink CEO Donghao Li uses phrases like “the value of connectivity fostered by Co-living community” and “Co-living is the trendiest lifestyle in recent years” resulting in a “supreme living experience”…and pairs it with this image:
Which may raise the question, what is co-living exactly? Simply put, it’s teaching young people to live with less. Instead of having an apartment with a bathroom and kitchenette, say, they have their little bedroom, with a communal kitchen and toilet down the hall. Modern co-living stems primarily from Dutch communism in the 1960s, from which springs lots of lofty words about sharing and connection and such. Ultimately it’s people getting the Youth of Today accustomed to their Glorious Tomorrow: tighter space, fewer amenities, on the pretext of combatting loneliness, and being cheap. I suppose there should be something charming about a return to Dickensian living but I’m not seeing it. I thought part of the the appeal of Los Angeles was to escape the tenements of the east…though in this case I guess I refer to tong lau, and not the Lower East Side.
But anyway. Let’s look at some recent losses. Here at 1224 West 35th was this house, built in 1906, on a block of vintage homes—
Or here at 1607 West 35th Place, God save us from another one of those dreaded Single Family Homes!
Of course the disingenuous chuckleheads at Curbed have for years been saying stuff like:
But imagine my shock, YIMBYs are certainly not fine with with allowing that, and as we’ve seen again and again and again and again and again, it’s been by and large five-story buildings with no parking right in the middle of side streets. (But nice thing about Tripalink? Hey, at least they’re only three-story buildings.)