4544 Los Feliz Blvd

Nathan Marsak

Nathan Marsak

· 14 min read

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.

Anderson’s 1952 church at 1830 Foothill Blvd. remains remarkably unmolested after seventy years

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.

Dig the diamond-mullioned windows and elaborated chimney with double chimney pots

Jane Carpenter Gregory, on her side porch, ca. 1950. The shingle and brick have since been painted and, IMHO, brick should be brick and shingle should be shingle color, but that’s just me_. _But then, with some effort, reversible. Demolished by backhoe and tossed in a landfill, not so reversible

On the front lawn, looking north toward the famed Los Feliz deodar cedars, ca. 1947. Left to right: Jane Carpenter Gregory; Edith Kate Neads (who had married Herbert Gregory); William Nicholas Gregory (Ambrose’s brother, i.e. Jane’s brother-in-law); Joan Gregory (Edith Neads’ daughter); and Jane’s daughter Ada Jane Gregory. Check out Edith and Joan’s moiré ensembles!

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:

Of course, more Tudor. Isaac Paacht Residence, 5057 Los Feliz Blvd (S. Charles Lee, 1927)_. _Don’t miss the tudoriffic Hulsman House (A. Godfrey Bailey, 1933) a stone’s throw at 5079 when you’re in the ‘hood

Wouldn’t be Los Angeles without Spanish Colonial Revival. Wiggins House, 5036 Los Feliz Blvd (M. L. Barker, 1929)

Speaking of Spanish, the gorgeous Barcelona/Corunna courtyard apartments, 4615 Los Feliz Blvd. (George Forsayke, 1932)

More courtyard apartments, but in Streamline Moderne, 3747 Los Feliz Blvd (Bob Home Construction Co., 1941). When have you seen Streamline-fu (curved corner windows, porthole windows and ship railings) but with **shingle**? While you’re checking this out make sure you hit 4207 LFB, another incredible Streamline apartment complex

Harry and Ada Scholer Apartments, 3808 Los Feliz Blvd (Louis Selden, 1947). What really sells this Colonial Revival is the octagonal roof cupola hiding up there behind the deodar branches_. _If you like Colonial don’t miss the Darling residence at 5110_, _or the Feigenbaum house at 5015, which has a Regency flair

The Los Capri, 3815 Los Feliz Blvd. (Edward H. Fickett, 1949). The Los Capri is the cousin of Fickett’s Sunset Capri above Sunset. Note the fanciful script; Los Feliz Blvd is replete with mid-Century dingbattian fonts

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:

The developer, for the record, is a kid from the neighborhood. Grew up on Cromwell just five blocks from here (before he took off to a gated community in Simi). It’s his first project. You’d think he would have some emotional connection to his childhood home. I want to disbelieve what everyone says about millennials, but…

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:

Design by Kevin Tsai Architecture, with Gary Benjamin of Alchemy Planning + Land Use

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?

- Los Feliz Boulevard

Nathan Marsak

About Nathan Marsak

NATHAN MARSAK says: “I came to praise Los Angeles, not to bury her. And yet developers, City Hall and social reformers work in concert to effect wholesale demolition, removing the human scale of my town, tossing its charm into a landfill. The least I can do is memorialize in real time those places worth noting, as they slide inexorably into memory. In college I studied under Banham. I learned to love Los Angeles via Reyner’s teachings (and came to abjure Mike Davis and his lurid, fanciful, laughably-researched assertions). In grad school I focused on visionary urbanism and technological utopianism—so while some may find the premise of preserving communities so much ill-considered reactionary twaddle, at least I have a background in the other side. Anyway, I moved to Los Angeles, and began to document. I drove about shooting neon signs. I put endless miles across the Plains of Id on the old Packard as part of the 1947project; when Kim Cooper blogged about some bad lunch meat in Compton, I drove down to there to check on the scene of the crime (never via freeway—you can’t really learn Los Angeles unless you study her from the surface streets). But in short order one landmark after another disappeared. Few demolitions are as contentious or high profile as the Ambassador or Parker Center; rather, it is all the little houses and commercial buildings the social engineers are desperate to destroy in the name of the Greater Good. The fabric of our city is woven together by communities and neighborhoods who no longer have a say in their zoning or planning so it’s important to shine a light on these vanishing treasures, now, before the remarkable character of our city is wiped away like a stain from a countertop. (But Nathan, you say, it’s just this one house—no, it isn’t. Principiis obsta, finem respice.) And who knows, one might even be saved. Excelsior!””
Nathan’s blogs are: Bunker Hill Los Angeles, RIP Los Angeles & On Bunker Hill.

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