There’s a very special part of the world. Beverly Boulevard. You go ahead and cross town on (shudder) the freeways; or traverse the city on, what, Santa Monica (bless your heart); I go in for cruising Beverly when it comes to making my way across Los Angeles.
My favorite stretch on Beverly is this one run, that stretch between Virgil and Western, especially the ten-some blocks between Vermont and Normandie—by and large all one and two-story Spanish-style 1920s structures; the odd car wash; a wonderful 1955 Catholic church by the great Ross Montgomery at Arlington Avenue; an excellent Late Moderne medical building, also from 1955, by J. Don Hartfelder at 3919 (oh wait they just ughed that one up pretty bad); and of course looming above it all the famed 1926 Richard D. King-designed Dicksboro at 3818 Beverly.
I wrote about Beverly in general, and the magical corner of Beverly & Heliotrope in particular, twenty years ago in Los Angeles Neon:
Also smack dab in the middle of it all—at Heliotrope, across the intersection from our beloved Beverly Mart Liquor-Deli—is the Rancho Sinaloa Market, known for its Moderne detailing and corner bar the One Eye Jack.
Take a look at the following images. This is one damn amazing structure.
How is it that stepped pylon remained standing after the Parapet Ordinance of 1949, Sylmar, Whittier, Northridge, and a fire in 1985? Incredible. These kind of intact mid-30s Moderne markets are rare as hen’s teeth and a valuable part of the built environment. (Heck, I bet even Kaplan Chen Kaplan would agree with that!) In short, it is a rare surviving example of its type and retains its integrity.
3967-3977 Beverly was designed by Edwin Felix Rudolph (1895-1942) and built in the summer/fall of 1936. It was funded by Mrs. Alice B. Cohen who lived next door at 301 N. Berendo (more on 301 N. Berendo later). In 1939 it was the Continental Grocery, by 1945 it was the B & B Meat Market (although I suspect the B & B Meat Market was located inside the Continental Grocery).
Who was Edwin Felix Rudolph? He’s not particularly well-known, Sinaloa Market being, in my humble opinion, his best work (or best known work, there’s a lot more research to be done on Rudolph). Here is his 1939 Streamline Moderne industrial building for Central Realty at 3101 East 12th St.—
And this is his 1937 industrial building for the Brin Brothers at 631 South Anderson:
Rudolph’s also responsible for the 1939 Safeway packing plant on Vernon east of Alameda; a 1939 San Fernando warehouse and feed mill for San Fernando Milling in Van Nuys; a 1934 market at 1070 West Jefferson (damaged in the ’92 riots, it was thereafter helpfully demolished by the nonprofit “Rebuild LA” thus ensuring nothing would be rebuilt there, ever); and was structural engineer for a number of buildings including the recently-landmarked Sunset House/Hollywood Reporter.
In late 1954 the Continental Grocery/B & B Meat Market became the dental offices of the Hotel and Restaurant Union. In 1967 the market became the home of a typography/printing/darkroom shop called Ad Compositors. It reverted back to groceries in 1975 when it became the Wai Wai Market (and one of the few places in town, noted the Times in 1981, to find Thai staples like makrut, nam pla and pickled egg yolks). It was purchased by Vietnamese refugee Luong Truong in 1985, becoming the Cathay market, and although Truong suffered a disastrous fire there that year, he persevered. It became the Rancho Sinaloa sometime around 2000.
Its corner shop at 3977 began life as a malt shop, became a cleaners, was an insurance agent’s office in the 1950s, and got its bar license in 1965, originally called The Yukon—and was a gay bar, according to the records at the One Archives—and was renamed One Eye Jack sometime around 1972.
And because this is RIPLosAngeles, you know where this is going. Yep:
Brought to you from the good folks of 4D Development and Investment. The design is by AFCO Development. Every time I do one of these posts I think “well, we’ve finally hit bottom. A rendering can’t get worse than this.” And then I’m pleasantly surprised-horrified.
And yes, it’s TOC-ridden: because seven units shall be low income, it gets a sixteen foot increase in legally allowed height, to sixty-six feet; and a 25% decrease in open space around it. Floor area ratio is upped by 14%, and the whole project has a 70% increase in density. There’s only a half a parking spot for each unit.
So, here’s the Department of City Planning report on the site. It’s prepared by some guy named Jason Hernández who, because he works for the City, God bless him, doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about. For example, he states that the 1936 market is built in 1942, and two houses from 1919 are from 1922, etc. I mean why should he bother to be sensitive or accurate? After all he works for the City so kind of has to ensure they get torn down—and the poor kid only makes $92,000 a year (and that’s just part-time), so why should we even expect him to be good at his job?
But then, he’s probably just getting his information from what he was given by Kaplan Chen Kaplan, who did the Historic Resource Eval report for City Planning. Hernández wrote on page 26: “According to the Historic Resource Evaluation conducted by Kaplan Chen Kaplan on November 22, 2019, none of the four (4) existing buildings were found to have historic significance or have the potential to be a historic resource. “ Well of course not! KCK are high-priced consultants-for-hire, utilized frequently by government and developers, routinely hired to tear down your neighborhood, a fact about which I go into some detail here. The Office of Historic Resources also says our subject properties are of no historic importance—but only, it states, did it decide so “after reviewing the Historic Resource Evaluation.” Which was just partisan propaganda and, though I guarantee you it was over 200 pages long, contained less pertinent and accurate information in it than this stupid little post does. C’mon OHR, you can do better.
So that, being demo fencing, is that. But wait! Don’t answer yet! You’ll also receive THE DEMOLITION OF THESE THREE SINGLE FAMILY HOMES!
That’s right, immediately to the east, at 301 North Berendo (where Alice B. Cohen lived, who built the Continental/B & B Market, remember?) is this lovely little house, which the City report refers to as a “commercial building,” which I suppose is fair. It began as an SFD, and became a commercial building, converted to a restaurant:
301 was constructed in 1919 by builder Samuel W. Spangler, who acted as its architect; Spangler was one of the many LA entrepreneurs who built and sold concrete bungalows in the teens. It was a restaurant by 1942, when owned by Lucille Rowley, and through the 1950s was Lucille’s Cottage.
In 1961 it became, briefly, Young’s Oriental Inn—”The Oriental Gourmet Spot of Los Angeles.” In 1963 it became the site of the first Peruvian restaurant in the United States. Others would follow, but Inca’s was first and always considered best, a highly-regarded red table-clothed affair run by Carlos and Ofelia Binasa and managed by son Gabriel, as the only Peruvian easting establishment to feature serious and authentic dishes; it also had art showings. The space became Atlactatl in September 1989, and has (had) the best pupusas in town (the southland’s best pupuserias are located in my neighborhood, but these, these merited driving to).
This it Atlacatl’s neighbor to the north, 307 North Berendo:
Like Spangler, Ira Allison Marshall was a local realty man, who built, bought and sold bungalows across Los Angeles in the teens, perhaps as many as 250, mostly in the Westlake district. Marshall built this in early 1919. It has a wonderful clipped gable roof, and the traditional American Colonial boxed eave return above the porch. Look at all those original windows! In December 1979, 301-307 N. Berendo became the International Institute of the Maitre-D’, which transformed into the National Restaurant Academy in September 1980, and which apparently dissolved in mid-late 1983.
To the west of our friends on Berendo, at the north of our market, is 306 North Heliotrope:
Again, American Colonial built in 1919, this time for a Ms. Gretta C. Sutherland; the builder was Charles MacMillan. Gable roofed, hipped n’ clipped, with a wonderful matching clipped hip porch gable. Tough to see through the security bars but, like the house behind it on Berendo, original sidelights and windows (double hung in this case) and, I hope I don’t have to point out, marvel of marvels, neither house has been stucco’d.
So as I was saying. All this gets dumpster’d in favor of this—
Built to the edges of the street—and monstrous—is a fate we must accept solely for no other reason than it having seven affordable units within. Because you cannot disagree with housing, because we don’t build housing! Except…there’s a million of these things going up every day, everywhere. There were 58,437 market-rate units built in Los Angeles in 17-18-19, plus another 10,877 low-income units; for example, in 2018 specifically, Los Angeles gained only 2,000 residents yet built 16,525 units. And the number of units added to market in 2020 (although I am without precise numbers as the Department of Finance has yet to release them) has skyrocketed, in part because of implementation of the ADU Ordinance, even despite COVID (not to mention the 8,000 new units for homeless families, built via PropHHH).
So why, then, are rents so high? Well, as regards newly-built units added to the housing stock, it has much to do with the exorbitant cost of building in Los Angeles—apart from our high land acquisition costs, it runs about $400/sf to build here, given the very steep cost of labor, high cost of construction materials, and meeting our particular building regulatory codes (solar, sprinklers, etc.); our permitting fees, which are nothing compared to all the escalating school, parks, and other government-mandated fees (LAUSD’s fee alone for this project will run about $425,000); the pricey soft costs of architects and engineers, and then you have to deal with property taxes, and so on. No-one is going to build if they can’t recoup their investment (unless it’s a government project, of course) and they wouldn’t build this if it wouldn’t turn a profit; not turning a profit makes people get fired. It stands to reason, then, someone is paying $4,000/mo to live in a studio.
That said, there has been much talk about how many of these new units are built as luxury units, and many sit empty, and the answer therefore is slapping the owners with a vacancy tax. I would contend, however, that it is not the private sector’s responsibility to alleviate social ills. But they do, in fact, indirectly—the bulk of LA’s upkeep is paid for by real estate: of the City of Los Angeles’ $5billion annual budget, $3.5billion comes from property taxes and permitting/fees. This year we’ll spend nearly a half-billion of that haul on the homeless crisis, which many contend is not nearly enough. You know, $130million of this year’s budget is going to the City Attorneys office—that could build subsidized units rather than pay for those endless $400/hr attorneys, right? $52million is earmarked to pay salaries at City Planning, who—as I’ve demonstrated—hire incompetents and worse, pay for expensive, lavish studies written by venal jackals (who, in their defense, are at least competent atturning out those depressingly repetitious “this significant structure is insignificant!” studies). Cut their budget and spend that money on affordable housing—you know, without cutting Office of Historic Resources, naturally.
But forgive my thinking out loud—I’m neither an authority on housing crises nor their resolutions, so don’t take to me task on the previous paragraphs. I just like to look at old buildings. Which is becoming an increasingly difficult pleasure, since developers keep tearing them down, aided and abetted by a local government that’s making bank on the process.
I am forever fascinated by GrowLA’s Facebook page. They are first-tier density cheerleaders, fervently committed to tearing down any and all Los Angeles and replacing it with vast swaths of multi-units. Here is their cover page:
Need I say, the opposite of this graphic is the actual truth. According to studies by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and all their various graphs involving demographic cross-tabulations of USFPP vs PPB (Unit Square Footage-Per-Person, Person-Per-Bedoom) and so forth, Americans in houses are “overhoused,” meaning they have more elbow room, while Americans in denser areas and multiunits are “underhoused,” i.e., suffering from overcrowding. This is true across all spectrums of race and ethnicity, income, metropolitan area, citizenship, etc. Don’t know if the YIMBYs made an honest mistake here, or they’re just lying liars who lie. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, of course.
What sort of thing gets posted on GrowLA? This is typical:
There’s you answer, “get” the City of Los Angeles to “do this,” what, through eminent domain? Tearing down single family homes is always the answer. (We’ll ignore the fact that 5,000+ units are already under construction for UCLA right now.)
And what are we to replace Los Angeles’ single-family-dwellings with? Micro-Units, of course!
When you read this article, you’re supposed to feel warm and fuzzy because look! there’s more units and they COST LESS! Win for millennials!
Of course, what they fail to explicate: When you spend that $2,305 for a one-bedroom you are getting on average 768 square feet. That is because average rent around there is $3/sf. Ergo, the 265 square foot apartment at MicroUnitz should cost $795 a month. Why then would you pay $1500, or $5.66 a square foot, for your tiny place, when $5.66/sf is the going rate in Beverly Hills? But think of the amenities! Like not…having…parking…or a closet.
But you’re not supposed to ask these questions. You’re supposed to just accept that we can add millions of new people to Los Angeles—it will all be ok because we can tear down the old neighborhoods, those homes and lawns and trees, and learn to live with less. (I wrote a little bit about glorified dorm life in this post.) It has been said that living with less is good for the environment, and far be it from me to argue with that. What it does to your soul be damned, of course. The individual (and certainly the soul) are outdated concepts, anyway.
The new way of living is certainly the pod. All hail the pod! Here is General Pod discussing life in the Pod. Moscow-born Elvina Beck, CEO of PodShare, formed PodShare “like the idea of the government giving you everything in a Communist state”…though you still have to pay $1200 for the privilege. Which I suppose is a step up from living in disused sewer pipes:
Los Angeles has been criticized as an exclusionary region for homebuyers, though at least homes kept selling, which prevented their demolition. As those monied, home-buying types depart Californiain general and Los Angeles in particular, the powers-that-be are only interested in filling the void with a vast sea of perpetual rent serfs who will never know antiquated concepts like “elbow room.” I’m not sure how these PodPeople™ are going to pay the rent; Lord knows they won’t be working for Disney or Universal or Warner Brothers (if any of us are left alive; at 59 people per acre, Los Angeles is considerably more dense than New York or Chicago [47 and 41 people per acre, respectively] and we are being absolutely hammered by the plague thanks to that). Maybe they can get a service industry jo—oh, damn. Wait I know, government can subsidize their rent, via the money-making Californians paying 62¢ out of every $1.00 they earn—oh that’s right, those people moved out of California because the government took 62¢ out of every dollar they earned.
Well then I guess I don’t know what will happen. People like me will keep complaining I suppose, but I am after all the problem, according to our pals at GrowLA:
People will know about it! Me and that pesky politician who sides with the homeowner. (Because this blog exists to recount all those times pesky politicians keep stepping in to save houses from becoming multiunit Jenga boxes.) But goddamn the homeowner! Who owns their home at the expense of everybody else! I can’t wait till we do away with that pesky private property and fix that!
Whither Los Angeles? Will we end up living as atomized ants in a great isolating colony? These kooky kids of to-day love them some globalism, and the Great Reset promulgated by their kreepy king Klaus Schwab, who is working for the abolition of private property (of your private property, that is; elites buy up everything with the money you gave them). So when Los Angeles becomes this, and I hear you say “once in awhile I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. No where I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded.” but at least it’s “much better than the path we were on!” I will punch you in the…no, I’m sure I will say Hail General Pod.
Can’t believe it’s been nigh on four months since I’ve posted. I must beg your forgiveness—in September we birthed the Bunker Hill book with Angel City Press, thereafter doing lots of publicity, while at the same time I was compiling and designing my self-published Bunker Noir! magazine, so it’s been a busy autumn. But I’ve been keeping an eye on things, and there’s a lot to talk about.
Of course during these lock’d-down times (to think, I remember when they were just loc’d out) the demolition of Los Angeles has managed to continue apace. While the act of your shopping six-feet-apart at the local mom& pop is definitely going to kill our collective grandma (and no, you’re not allowed to go to her funeral either), a yard full of dudes shoulder to shoulder yelling and sweating and tearing down vintage houses to build Khrushchyovkas, well, that in fact makes those fellows immune to Coronavirus. Trust the science.
Now then. Let’s talk for a sec about a building that has no immediate threat of which I am aware. No permit has been taken out in anger against it. But still.
Here she is, 915 South Grand View St.
George W. Stimson, prominent Pasadena developer and prolific builder of early Los Angeles, without whom we’d have no West Adams-Normandie neighborhood, on October 11th 1902 pulled permits to erect three grand homes: 1312 West Fifth Street (demolished in 1954), 457 Westlake Avenue (lost to the Hollywood Freeway), and 915 Grand View. The architect here is George Lawrence Stimson, who did all the architectural work for his father. Read more about G. Lawrence Stimson here and here and here.
915 Grand View was purchased from developer Stimson by William Horatio Sanders, who, though his parents were English, was born in Scotland, in June 1839. He came to America in 1860 at twenty, going to work on the railroads; he married Emma Ellsworth in Minnesota in 1878. He and Emma came to Pomona in the eighties, where W. H. worked as a civil engineer. He became a partner in the Los Angeles-based engineering firm of Quinton, Olmsted & Sanders, and moved from Pomona to Los Angeles to be closer to the action. W.H. also worked as an engineer for the newly-formed United States Reclamation Service Railroad when he and Emma pulled up Pomona stakes and bought Grand View. They lived there until he passed away in the house, in 1924; Emma moved back to Pomona and passed in March 1942 (she was fifteen years his junior).
After 1924 it becomes the home and chiropractic offices of Dr. George Shabo (who builds the garage in back in 1932); he and his wife Vera live there until his death in 1949. It remains single family until owner Joseph Gary converts a couple rooms to apartments in 1961.
So why do I bring up this charming old home? It sold last week, on December 21st. The realtor copy—as penned by Paul Yoo of Keller Williams— reads thus:
The mention that 915 is an “excellent opportunity for developers to acquire prime property on an R4 zoned and TOC Tier 3 lot” is what, I would wager, sealed the deal. Therefore, according to its TOC, this 117-y.o. two-unit with the hedges and the rock wall will likely become a thirteen-unit, pushed right to the sidewalk, 22′ higher than surrounding buildings, etc. On the other hand, maybe the new owner will keep it a duplex with the church, or heck, even return the whole thing to an SFD! Because that happens so often.
Meanwhile, you shelter in place. Your whole neighborhood is clamped down tight. Then why is there no calm in the world? Why, when you are trying to sleep at eight in the morning—because Lord knows you can’t go to work—there’s hammering and high-pitched tile saws everywhere? Because the building of high priced condos is essential work. Everybody knowsthat.
So keep an eye on your neighbor. No, not to spy on their mask-wearing. On their purchase of moving boxes. Chances are good they’re getting the hellout. Then a bunch of investors will swoop in, purchase their place. These newfolk will gleefully tear down what’s left of Old LA, and haul in a hundred heavy-breathing workers, a-hammering furiously. A million units built nice and dense, housing crisis ended! Just like the last time a bunch of new units were added to the stock, which certainly cured us. This time it may be a little different though. New immigrants into California will pay the rent with…what? The odd $600 check?
I’ll just be sad when they tear down 915 Grand View.
Let’s say you’re living peacefully in your vintage home on your block of gracious low-slung craftsmans when some developer decides to tear down the house next door to put in something grossly out-of-scale. You’re shocked that it will block light and air and views and ruin parking and cause noise and destroy the historic fabric of your neighborhood and the whole magilla. Surely you can lay out your concerns to the Powers That Be in the form of an appeal to which they’ll listen thoughtfully and say, My God, You’re Right. Maybe in this case we shouldn’t worship at the altar of Scott Wiener and fall in lockstep with the abjuration of zoning ordinances.
Or, the City might tell you to go screw.
Take for example 1537 South Wilton Place. It was built in 1905 and designed by Charles F. Whittlesey. The F is for Effing, because this house was designed by CHARLES EFFING WHITTLESEY.
So, demolish the hell out of the Whittlesey, and in its place, Gabriel and Tomer Fedida propose building this five-story, fifty-five-foot, twenty-one unit, 22,313 square foot apartment complex. The City is awarding them a collection of zoning variances, allowing the Fedidas to build eleven feet higher than permitted by law; decreasing the side yard requirement 25%; and giving them a 20% decrease in the open space requirement.
So the neighbors approached the City and said, hey, we’re filing an appeal, in that there’s a few problems here. They pointed out that the South Los Angeles Community Plan Design Guidelines/Citywide Residential Design Guidelines require new developments to respect the scale and architecture and identity of the surrounding historic neighborhood, especially as this neighborhood falls under the Character Residential Overlay as implemented by the City Council to protect the historic neighborhoods in South Los Angeles. Plus the developer screwed up the math on the TOC Incentives, getting them all kinds of wrong, as further miscalculated by City staff. And you can’t just make the project vested for land use entitlements and CEQA exempt because you feel like it. And so on.
But, said the Department of City Planning’s City Planning Commission, we do agree that neither the developers nor us gave one piddlingiota of thought or care as to whether 1537 might be a potential historic resource, so tell ya what, we will hire some real live architects, Kaplan Chen Kaplan, to do a Historic Resource Evaluation Report on this here Whittlesey house.
KCK came back and said the Whittlesey house was absolute worthless crap, devoid of all merit in every conceivable way. KCK’s report was some 100+ pages and, since they bill on average at $200/hour, I can assure you, was not cheap. Your tax dollars at work! For example, KCK hired an RPA Certified Archaeologist to check records, which is akin to hunting mosquitos with an elephant gun; it’s the kind of work you give to Bob the Unpaid Intern and and he does it on his lunchbreak. Hell, it’s the elemental gruntwork I save for when I’m hungover and do it in half my lunchbreak.
In any event, some snorty guffaws and one Very Expensive and Useless Study later, and the City sat down to thoughtfully consider the neighborhood’s appeal. Which is precisely why they own a comically oversized rubber DENIED stamp they use to pound upon appeals with an embarrassingly ebullient and theatrical flourish.
Up in the Valley there’s an indication as to how we used to live. Low slung structures, lots of open space. Cool shade from the towering trees. This is, of course, a rare, precious, disappearing commodity.
In the autumn of 1939 a fellow named P. N. Morgan designed and built a twelve-room, four family residential structure just off Lankershim in North Hollywood, at 10912 Blix. Then, a chap named W. Charles Swett saw what Morgan did, and liked it so much that in the spring of 1940 he pulled permits to put up one very much like it on the adjoining property at 10916, hiring engineer/architect Edward Rudolph to design another one-story, twelve-room four-unit.
Look how nicely the two work together. See how they form a sort of allée, passing through a planted boscage.
Needless to say, 19012 was marketed as a development opportunity:
And the lot, being 57×170, is going to lose any vestige of open space to absorb a five-story, eighteen-unit structure:
Here’s an overhead—that tree canopy is about as dense a green spot as you’ll ever find that close to Lankershim.
And yet… The footprint of the four-unit structure now is 41×80. Were Boyajian & Co. to build on that same footprint, with three stories of four units and two stores of three, up five stories, well, there’s your eighteen units, with trees left intact, and—
Oh wait nevermind, I just found the rendering for the thing. I was right, it eats up every inch: