13921 Vanowen St., Van Nuys

These three little contiguous flats were built by W. P. Short in the fall of ’48. The house in back was constructed in 1954.

Nice birds of paradise, too

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.

3755 S. Canfield Ave., Palms

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.

1844 N Alexandria Ave.

This handsome Los Feliz house was built in 1912.

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.

Hate to see her go.

The Blog is Changing a Bit

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.

On Another Note

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.

Above, a grim reminder of the MSzMP; below, the remodel, based on 1928 architectural plans of Dezső Hültl

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?

Leo DiCaprio’s bathroom—one of them, anyway—for the past twenty years, at 1675 Angelus Avenue
God bless flippers, saving us from Art Deco so we may shower in the ubiquitous hotel bathroom of Everytown, USA

Too Ugly for a YIMBY?!

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.

I’ll bet you a Coke that’s fake grass

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 “boomer NIMBYs”.

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:

Totally supreme

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—

—demolished recently, but you can live in the Tripalink replacement:

Don’t have an image of the new property but it possibly looks like this (from here) or maybe this (from here)

Or here at 1607 West 35th Place, God save us from another one of those dreaded Single Family Homes!

This one was built in 1910, again, in the middle of a block of similarly scaled homes
Gone, being replaced by another sixteen-unit, three-story Tripalink structure

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.)

To which I might add, in looking at the images shot by Mr. Schumacher, they seem to feature a decided lack of flora. Likely because the City has bent over backward to allow developers to not plant trees. This, despite the immense amount we have lost recently; I’m sure I don’t have to remind you of their benefits.

Those, then, are my musings on seeing a simple Facebook post from our demo-happy, density-disposed pals over at GrowLA. Cheers!

10555 Bloomfield Street, Toluca Lake

Raise a glass to classic Valley living—low slung, two story, lots of trees, predominantly Postwar, i.e., the vaunted, vilified suburban dream.

For example: the homes, top, other side of the alley, are from 1936 and 1940; along Cahuenga, hiding under the foliage, the houses are 1949, 1949 and 1946, and then at bottom right, is 10555 Bloomfield, built in 1941.

She’s a little hard to see from the street, what with all the trees and bougainvillea.

Still, with a little maneuvering of the Googlemobile, we can peek in:

The house was designed for engineer Floyd Martin Boes by architect A. Godfrey Bailey, who designed these and all of this.

You knew where this was going:

Of course, all of that air-cleaning flora will be torn out and dumpster’d too, especially since the fifty-seven-unit structure gets to reduce its open space considerably and build to the edges of the lot. But, somewhere in the subterranean garage the developer is adding room for bicycles! This project is green!

The social engineers insist it’s green because, despite the fact that with this density comes, say, overburdened resources, emissions from outflow stacks, the Urban Heat Island, cars sitting in traffic, and so forth (and no, those sixty-nine parking spaces filled with Tolucan EVs aren’t fooling anyone), rather, they’ll say it’s green because no-one deserves a single-family home. Trust me, I don’t follow the logic either, but then also I don’t get how they’ll put fifty-seven units on the site of a single family home.

I’ll give ’em this, though. If we estimate 100 people live in the new complex, that’s on average 3,500lbs of trash for the trash trucks to pick up each week. At least they won’t have any green bins to empty.

Magnolia Update

I had based my tale of 1238 on the application at Planning for the 36-unit that was being plopped on the site; the demo permit I linked to in the text was issued back in July. Was contacted by an area resident to inform me the house was already gone.

The black box replacing these two will be taller than that Canary Island Date Palm

And its wonderful neighbor reduced to this. Because density über alles.

And of this one up at the corner—

I will say this, though, in defense of their replacements. They will absolutely define our age. In a generation, people will look at their SimCity/Minecraft architectonic form and say yep, that’s 2020 in a nutshell.

And then tear them the hell down.

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!