So, it’s been a while here at RIP Los Angeles. Is that because the Powers That Be stopped tearing down everything that makes Los Angeles special? Certainly not. In fact, just the opposite. We’ve watched as everyone screamed “but Los Angeles builds no housing!” when all it DOES is build housing, on top of every Tudor house, so that there won’t be a single Tudor house left.
And for whom are all these new units being constructed? Our population is in a freefall. Above and beyond the vast numbers of individuals and businesses who have fled, California has for the first time seen a drop in new entrances (and not by some small number, but by nearly half). Any population dip in California is unprecedented territory but this exodus is extraordinary—for the love of God, California is losing a US House seat for the first time in history.
Dear Lord, what do you have against the Tudors anyway? What did Edward VI ever do to you, you ungrateful wretch? “But,” you squeal, “they’re not building AFFORDABLE housing!” Yes they are, aforementioned ungrateful wretch, in fact therefrom comes the blank check being handed to developers to run roughshod over zoning laws—making developers include Low Income Units is what gives them a big fat zoning variance to build overscaled Jenga boxes with no green space (and for the last time stop calling the zoning variance a “density bonus,” as cutesy euphemisms are not, in fact, cute).
In case you haven’t been paying attention, it’s been absolutely brutal of late. Everything that makes Los Angeles nice and livable and human-scaled is being demolished; Los Angeles is having its heart torn from it. I was blogging about that for a while. It got too disheartening. But I have to return to it. SOMEONE has to make a record of these structures. They’re all going to disappear and a generation from now Zoomers will actually think Los Angeles sprouted up from the earth looking like a bunch of big beige Jenga boxes.
I won’t even go into AB 602 and SB 478. Or SB 9 or SB 10. The very idea that these were “wins” for “pro-housing activists” is ludicrous. Grow up. It doesn’t even matter that these folk are the useful idiots of developers (who live places that will never be upzoned). Ultimately, this is about a new California run by people who hate you.
YIMBYs hate your way of life. They hate that you have landmarks. And green spaces. And views. And history. It’s not enough that converting every possible lot into multiplexes increases the vaunted government tax base; it’s that cheek-to-jowl density is somehow…more moral. More…European. Which is ironic, since all the European architecture in Los Angeles is going to be demolished in favor of vast swaths of Jenga boxes thanks to SB 9. (Heck, even the pro-development LA City Council was against SB 9, citing that it would be bad for communities, and bad for the environment, but Glorious Leader has spoken!)
Oh, anyway, riiight—as I was saying way back there, ultimately Mr. YIMBY (strictly speaking, the YIYBY, Yes in Your Back Yard) and his separated-at-birth-monozygotic-twin Mr. Developer-Speculator is out to destroy every wee Tudor house. Case in point:
Jane Carpenter Gregory was born in Calne, Wiltshire, England 18 December 1864. She immigrates to American in 1879 and lands in the southland in 1888. She is wed to Ambrose Gregory—originally of Melksham, Wiltshire—in San Bernardino in 1899. Yes, they were both surnamed Gregory; his father was William Arthur Gregory and her father was Nicholas Gregory, both of Wiltshire, and I’ve no idea of the relation.
Their daughter, Ada Jane Gregory, was born in 1892. Ambrose passes in 1919. In 1939 the widow Jennie and Ada were living together in the house they’d built in 1920 at 2032 North Vermont, when they decided to build a home of own their a couple blocks east at the corner of Los Feliz Boulevard and Rodney.
They hire architect/contractor/builder Nephi Lorenzo Anderson, president of the local Building Contractor’s Association of California, and, interestingly, Bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Anderson is probably best known for his (also half-timbered English-cottage style) Mormon church in La Cañada.
English-born Jane chooses to build her 2,226sf house, at 4544 Los Feliz Boulevard, in the English style, with the requisite Tudor half-timbering.
Jennie died in the house in 1954, at age 90. Ada lived in the house until her death in June 1977.
Now, let’s talk for a minute about Los Feliz Boulevard. It is an absolute wonderland of magnificent structures. With which you are intimately familiar, each and every one, have you ever driven the Boulevard, since traffic on LFB is always, invariably, terrible. So you sit in your car and marvel at one great building after another, after another, in an unbroken stretch of glory. Here’s six representative samples:
And that’s just a small slice. Los Feliz Blvd. is particularly strong on Regency Moderne, on which I have not even touched. And the Boulevard has no lack of Châteauesque. Point being with these images you get a feel for the general size and massing of the street. Yes, I am aware there are larger structures. (Yes, I am aware of the existence of the Los Feliz Towers.)
But, this being RIP Los Angeles, what, you ask, are the density brownshirts and their Malibu-mansion’d developers plopping in place of our twee Tudor? This:
First of all, let’s talk trees. Trees? Yes, trees:
I mean, I could do a whole blog just about how architects lie and lie and lie in their renderings. Renderings are always BS, because their primary use is to sell projects to local government and placate angry neighbors. I mean, yes, we expect renderings to make the building look smaller if need be, and we know the finished product never looks so nice and high-end (much less incorporate half the interesting touches). But pay attention to the fudged surroundings as well. Look how empty and caaaaaaalm the street is (Los Feliz Boulevard—hahahahaha!). Note the absence of anything ugly and intrusive like stop signs or streetlamps; all is cleanliness and order.
And, as I said, the trees: for now, Rodney, running south, is evenly lined in Phoenix canariensis, AKA Canary Island Date Palms.
Be advised the Canary Island DP is THE KING OF PALMS. Usually architects put them into renderings because they look cool, though when all is said and done the “landscapers” invariably plant a couple crappy $12.99 Home Depot shrubs and call it a day. A mature Canary palm runs $75,000, when you can get one, which you can’t, because when available they always go straight to Vegas casino projects. Here, though, they’re cutting down two of these Canary Island Date Palms, and replacing them with three Washingtonia robusta, AKA the Mexican Fan palm. Who does that? Nobody. (First of all, good luck getting fan palms that tall, and secondly, fun fact: the fan palm is a unique tree in that it produces the VOCs isoprene and monoterpene, particles which pollute the air in hot weather.) In short, the developer apparently intends to cut down City-owned mature Phoenix canariensis just because it will help them in moving around their construction equipment, and replacing them with the world’s only polluting tree. If that isn’t sick and criminal I don’t know what is.
Oh wait I do: along Los Feliz Boulevard, witness the apparent felling of a Deodar Cedar. The removal of which being actually criminal, as it is protected tree. But look! They’ve replaced it with some more fan palms! So they’ll chop down the deodar cedar and say “oops! sorry!” and then shell out to the City the—gasp!—$1,000 fine.
But back to this thing:
Because it’s near a bus stop—and has three affordable units—this project is eleven feet higher than is allowed by law. Also, the City cut its required open space down by 20%. Beside the three affordable one-bedrooms units, there are twenty-five two-bedrooms. And thirty-seven parking spaces.
Projects just like this, through the TOC program, have added approximately 37,000 housing units in Los Angeles in the last few years, of which about 8,000 are reserved for low-income tenants. Admirable, but not enough, say the YIMBYs, and it will never be enough. They say Southern California requires 1.3 million in the next eight years (um…). The City is, under its Housing Element, is upzoning now to build 455,00 new units. New laws will see to it that these new mulitplexes won’t get built in traditionally underserved neighborhoods—apparently while the poor and disenfranchised need homes, if you build those homes near where they actually live, everyone yells at you for gentrifying. Fear not, all, the fact that this 53-bed monster is going up on the tony corner of Los Feliz & Rodney indicates we’re not in fact gentrifying, so you may cease your pearl-clutching. Sure, it’s all (often ill-informed and historically-inaccurate) good intentions until the YIMBY-developers leave us with a zero control over our neighborhoods, turned into Jengaboxland replete with gridlock, displacement, environmental damage, and, most importantly, no cute little Tudor houses.
A YIMBY always scoffs at the idea that “architecture matters.” That scale or massing or character or community matters. That grass and trees and open space “contribute.” Most importantly, they really, really hate history. Call them on these facts, or assert that these things matter, they will call you stupid, reactionary, apologists, racists, etc. etc. To them, more density is the answer to EVERY PROBLEM, and creates NO PROBLEMS. YIMBYs say they’re doing it “for the people” but damnnn don’t get them into a conversation about the hated second egress in apartment construction…and they’ll actually spit and walk away if you talk to them about embodied carbon, say, via the concept of turning office space into residential. Because you’re failing to address that courtyard apartments are exclusionary, maaaaan.
Aaaaanyway, point being, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and felt the need for a “re-introductory rant.” Now over. Just saying, Los Angeles has cool stuff, heart and soul, which we are seeing removed bit by bit, piece by piece—like the wise man said, how many petals can you pick off a flower before it’s not a flower any more?