What in the Actual Hell, Los Angeles

Couple days ago I posted about the forthcoming loss of an unpresuming little stuccoed side-gabled number which nobody’s going to shed a tear over. Well, I will, and you should, but that’s not the point.

Point is, NOW let’s talk about the magnificent street full of magnificent houses where they want to demolish the best ones mid-block to build—what else—a 56-foot five-story building with a 20% reduction in open space.

What if you lived here—

—and you were told they were going to start destroying it? You’d declare “well I don’t live there and it serves those rich folk right!” but settle down Bernie, this endearing slice of Old LA is in Pico-Union. Here’s some more of this side of the street:

On the opposite side of the street, though there are a couple of sixties apartment buildings, life ain’t too shabby either—

Back on the east side of the street, let’s take a look at these two houses, specifically, 1238 and 1248 Magnolia Avenue:

Holy cats look at these houses—the windows are there, the shingle is there, the porches haven’t been enclosed, and OMG LOOK AT THAT DECORATIVE TRUSS

Of course they were sold in March, marketed as “a development opportunity.” Ergo—

Where it says Magnolia Ave on the right? The two houses directly above that.

The smaller house, center, 1248, was built in 1902. Not sure who the architect was. The large white house on the left, 1238, built in 1905, was designed by Garrett and Bixby.

Who are Garrett & Bixby? William Stanley Garrett was older, established, arrived during the boom—he’d partnered with Fred Dorn for a time in the early nineties—and partnered with young crackerjack draftsman-architect Burton Boardsman Bixby in 1900 and remained so until 1912.

Garrett & Bixby are well-known and well-respected in the world of turn-of-the-century architectural partnerships, among the likes of, say, Hudson & Munsell and Dennis & Farwell and Train & Williams. They built a lot of homes, apartment houses and hotels, commercial buildings and whatnot like fire stations and hospitals, etc. Their work is maddeningly rare, as so much has been demolished, like their structures on Bunker Hill—e.g., the 1904 Marcella and 1911 Van Fleet, once both on Flower Street.

Los Angeles Herald, 3 September 1905

Here’s one you might know—a survivor, though unlike 1238 S. Magnolia, it’s been stuccoed, has crap windows, and goofy neighbors:

1515 South Hoover Street
Note the use of sandstone at the lower level, just like our friend at 1238 Magnolia
Los Angeles Herald, 17 April 1901

Here’s a wonderful Garrett & Bixby survivor, well-maintained, though with an unfortunate neighbor (which serves to underscore the wonder and virtue of Magnolia Avenue), 2917 Brighton Avenue, built for Mrs. Mary L. Bonnell in the spring of 1903:

Hey look, I just found this Garrett & Bixby at 1544 Pleasant Avenue. It’s the green house on the right, built for John M. Baker in 1903.

See its neighbor on the left? They just tore it down and there’s a Tier 3 TOC with three additional incentives in the works for the lot. That’s right, a sixty-foot grey box coming to Boyle Heights! Because housing! Progressive!

Many Garrett & Bixbys that do survive end up like so—witness these flats just down the street from our threatened house:

1438 South Magnolia. I can guarantee you, they didn’t look like that when built in 1903.

So, bit of a history lesson on Garrett & Bixby (trust me, it wasn’t as involved as it could or should have been) but the import being YOU DON’T GET TO TEAR DOWN A GARRETT & BIXBY. You don’t get to tear down great unmolested turn-of-the-century houses in general and you don’t get to tear down Garrett & Bixbys in particular.

Shame on you Sherri Rigor! Your family has owned that house for almost fifty years and now your name is on the demolition permit. And you, Lance K. Zuckerbraun, acting as demolition applicant. I get it, you’re trying to cash in, take the money and run, but you’re doing a disservice to the neighborhood and Los Angeles. Sure, when you can’t sleep at night you’ll try to tell yourself you’re adding units to the housing market. Of course according to a recent census, there are 100,000 homes sitting empty as it is. As has been pointed out by my colleagues, we don’t have a housing crisis as much as we have a housing use crisis.

Ultimately you persist in making the city less warm, less human, less historic, less fascinating. You gaily engage in abhorrent activity but beware, you are loathe to make disingenuous statements feigning innocence because you acted singularly nor can you abjure responsibility because you acted along with the collective.

Because, of course, it doesn’t end here.

On the same block, on the same side of the street, 1200 South Magnolia, put up by builder Charles P. Lyman in 1906-7, also lovingly retained and maintained:

Zuckerbraun is on the march!

So as you demolish early Los Angeles, one wonders if you are in fact just doing it just for the money. It would seem you and your brethren have a morbid drive to erase the identity of Los Angeles and its people. It’s no longer enough to ask cui bono? for that implies financial gain, rather, we must read your drive to destroy as a pathological, ideological push to expunge the families that built our city, obliterate their homes, rip out their gardens, and eradicate all the elbow room that people came to Los Angeles for.

Cultural terrorism is an ugly thing. May I make a suggestion? Don’t do it.

226 N. Berendo St.

My Lord, who stuccos a house anymore? Seriously, I thought that nonsense disappeared years ago, like kids selling crack or approaching you to replace your pea stone with tar macadam.

So here is 226 North Berendo a few years ago, looking like she needs a paint job, but a lovely little house nonetheless. Nice horizontal board. I especially like the two sets of French doors opening onto the yard.

And she gets a paint job!

226 had been built by Dr. M. E. Hutchinson, who acted as his own architect, in 1919.

But then the Stuccoman comes a-callin’ and turns those French doors into two vinyl sliders. And suffocates the house in that putty-colored horror.

Hey, they kept the columned entryway and the sidelights!

Here’s my theory. The reason they stuccoed the poor house is so that I’d be less annoyed when they surrounded it in demo fencing. It didn’t work. Pro tip: I don’t get less annoyed very easily.

You knew this was coming:

Yep, no open space, built to edges of the lot, taller than it’s allowed to be, no parking, with an 80% density bonus and 55% increase in floor area ratio.

Let’s take a look at the neighborhood, because I like to give these things some context.

Beverly at left, Council Street right. Our little house dead center with the dark green lawn.

Looking up from Council Street toward Beverly. 226 about dead-center on the block. So all these little houses with their front lawns are going to have a new Imperious Master. Up at the corner at Beverly we have the 1926 Dicksboro Apartments (Richard D. King [Villa Riviera, Redwine, Sparkletts, etc. etc.]) and I love the Dicksboro more than anything, but its size belongs rightly on Beverly, not halfway down the block on Berendo.

And yes while I love the Dicksboro I am perhaps in the minority

The plan for 226 is TOC Tier 4 which permits three additional stories, for an extra thirty-three feet in height. Hell, it’ll be taller than the mighty Dicksboro on that tiny little lot.

And what will this new addition to the neighborhood look like? Probably something like this. A literal stone’s throw away across the intersection at Council, they recently demolished a couple of single family homes:

Left, 150 North Berendo, a five-room Spanish number, E. E. Hodgson, 1923; right, at 154, another five-room Spanish home, Carl Munele, 1922.

And now, some Khrushchyovka painted in three tones of Alienation Grey™. Through compliance with SNAP—the Station Neighborhood Area Plan—they got a 35% density bonus, parking elimination, reduction in open space, and an eleven foot height increase.

Seriously, I don’t think they’ll be happy until the last single family home is eradicated. And then these things won’t suffice, and we’ll be subjected to block-sized filing cabinets, which again, are bettering your quality of life. Because you’re told so.

Look closely, you’ll see they tore out a couple of 100-year-old palm trees while they were at it. Good for them!

How We Do Our Demolitions

As we’ve countless impending demolitions, let’s take a quick look at how we so nobly perform the activity.

Here’s a typical example. Its location is 2642 South Brighton Avenue. That’s down in the thick of West Adams, just south of Adams near Normandie.

Geez, looks like frickin’ Mayberry over here
The fact that that amazing chimney made it 114 years deserves an award in and of itself

2642 was built in 1905. Yes, I know it’s been stucco’d. There’s a special place in hell for those who stucco shingle houses. (But you know what’s not rocket science? Removing stucco. And as someone who’s had to replace a whole lot of shingle on his house, neither is replacing shingle.)

But, somehow, despite 2642 being a historic resource in a historic area, the owner got his demo permit.

They began tearing it down last week. The neighborhood isn’t happy, but who’s ever cared about a neighborhood? But to add insult to injury, the contractor doesn’t believe in demo fencing.

And folk in the neighborhood have spoken to everyone they can think of, to no avail. That’s how I became aware of the issue, since there’s chatter on Facebook:

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing, but the first since I began this blog a couple weeks ago, so, grist for the mill. Plus I get to caption photos I snagged offa Facebook:

The Face of the Ellis Act

Ah, you thought you were going to see the faces of those souls cast into the streets by the Ellis Act. Well this isn’t that kind of blog. I show you pictures of threatened buildings, not threatened people. But this is Los Angeles, and the lines blur. You can’t talk about buildings without making mention of their Angelenos. Or the developers who buy and sell them. The buildings, I mean. Not the people.

Of developers, specifically, I’m interested in TriWest. They came to my attention in that they purchased four complexes (I’m told more like a dozen, but these are the ones I was hipped to) from which they are evicting tenants under the Ellis Act; this resulted in a brouhaha where activists marched on Councilmember O’Farrell’s office, and (by all accounts) O’Farrell ran and hid; State Rep Wendy Carillo, though, agreed to meet activists “in two weeks.” You can read about it here.

Here are the structures:

1428 N. Micheltorena Street, four standalone buildings each with two units, and a six-bay garage in the back, built in 1923.

Now that’s bungalow court living.
Nice brugmansia.
The Del Vera Court, per a May 1925 ad in the Times

2135 West Bellevue, a twelve-unit apartment building with four-car garage below, designed by J. H. Lehman in 1959.

Dingbat anna half, or would you call it half-dingbat?
What’s the surface of this thing? Moon rock? Lava? Moon lava?
Kidney-shaped pool? Sign me up!

3616 W. Marcia Drive, a four-unit apartment house designed by Herman Goodman in 1962.

I dig the diamond pattern on the railing, and the contra-functional shutters on the windows. Note too the hedges cut like bonsai.
Here’s 3616 after the realtors removed its defining features (although mysteriously, they kept the staggered lettering). Apparently it worked, because they sold it to TriWest. I supposed stripped and painted grey gave it “curb appeal.” Every time I hear curb appeal I reach for my revolver.

1126 W. Edgeware, twelve-room quadruplex designed in 1931 by architect David Berniker.

Now here’s something I don’t get—1126 sold on Dec 7, 2018 for $1,553,500, then sold again in April for $535,000, 198% below its listing price of $1.59—granted, I don’t know anything about flipping, but I’m pretty sure that’s not how you do it.

The question then, is, what would become of these buildings? Under the Ellis Act, post-eviction, TriWest could either turn them into market rate/luxury units after five years of sitting vacant, or simply demolish and rebuild as luxury condos. Needless to say, we’ll be keeping an eye on these. Most developers choose to demolish. Some are stopped in their tracks. For more on the subject read this.

As for the people? Some of these folk’ve been there nigh on forty years, and when they’re removed, where will they go to pay $500 a month rent? Sounds like they’ll end up homeless. Well at least the billions from Prop 63 and Measure H and Prop HHH will help these folk, right? Right?

1723 N. Wilcox

People sure hate courtyard living in Hollywood. Or they love it; that is, at least, they love tearing it down.

In October 1922, Eloise A. Williams pulled permits to build five two-story flats arranged around a central courtyard. The architect was William L. Williams, her husband.

Granted, 1723 isn’t going to make the cover of Bungalow Court Monthly. I prefer ’em one-story with scalloped parapets and covered in red tile and filled with accordion-playing divorcées as long as we’re on the subject. You know, the kind of bungalow courts that Conservancy justifiably frets over, and are on the endangered species list. But still, these evoke the nice old low-density Hollywood in which we’ve come to feel comfortable.

Let’s take a look up and down the avenue.

Easy livin’, right up the block from the Warner Pacific.

Looking the other way up toward the Lido (F. A. Brown, 1927) a bit of the Mayfair neon poking out, and another courtyard apartment complex of two-story structures at right, from 1916, this one with all its original windows and great privacy given the towering cedars.

So, our little pink friend on Wilcox has been owned by Nathan Korman for some time. Mr. Korman owns all sorts of properties, to various effect. Seems it’s easier to build big shiny new hotels on them.

The way he’s decided to go in this particular case is with an 80-foot tower.

Given my years of training with Hugh Ferriss, my renderings are superlative, and as such the tower will, I assure you, look exactly like this:

But if not, that’s what an 80-foot structure should basically look like on the site.

Enjoy your new Hollywood, everyone!