Per Adrian at Curbed, the City Council just voted to allow homeowners to paint murals on their houses in Echo Park and some of the surrounding areas.
If you think this is going to end well, check out the handiwork of one aspiring artist in the area, thoughtfully painted on the front fence one of my buildings:
Can you imagine what this budding artiste could do with an entire single family home as his canvas. And, lest you imagine that the type of people who do this stuff don’t own homes, I direct your attention to the area around the intersection between Echo Park Ave. and Baxter, where several of the homes are, indeed, owned by known gangsters (who periodically get shot at by disgruntled associated / rivals / etc.).
One of the more annoying aspects of LA zoning is the requirement for large front setbacks in almost all neighborhoods.
What’s a “front setback”? Simple: It’s a front yard.
In your standard R1 zone, which is the zoning for most single family homes in the city, the required front yard is 20% of the depth of the lot, up to a 20 ft maximum. A standard LA lot is something like 50′ x 150′ (7500 sq ft). 20% of 150′ is 30′, so the font setback would have to be 20′ deep (because 20′ is the maximum). That means that 20′ x 50′ = 1,000 sq ft of the lot, or 13%, is required by the city to be front yard.
Why is that so annoying? I’ll answer the question with another question: When was the last time you saw anyone actually using their front yard?
I think the reason no one uses the front yard is because it’s not private. It’s by definition close to the street. And, due to LA’s insane fence ordinance, which limits fence heights in many places to 3.5′, there’s no way to screen that street-adjacent land from prying eyes.
So, you’re left with a big patch of nothingness, which is likely to be planted with grass and will therefore require a bunch of chemicals and tons of water to maintain.
How should the code be changed? One possibility would be to allow parking the front setback. That would free up space on the sides and in the rear that is generally used for parking. But the problem with this idea is that no one wants to walk / live on a street with a bunch of cars parked in front of the houses.
So, a better option is to allow houses to be built much closer to the street. I would dramatically decrease the minimum front setback, to something like 5′. I would not increase the allowable floor to area ratio; in other words, I would not allow houses to grow, just shift forward on the lot. The result would be larger back yards, which are by definition more private and usable, and (I think) more interesting streetscapes, with less wasted space.
The NY Times has an interesting article today about a group of homeowners in Hollywood who are trying to stop charities from feeding homeless people in their neighborhood.
Adrian over at Curbed responded with a fairly reasonable take-down of the homeowners. After all, particularly at this time of year, it’s pretty hard to sympathize with people who are upset over the hungry being fed.
That said, I think the locals have a legitimate point. Put yourselves in their shoes: Every day, hundreds of homeless people congregate in the area immediately adjacent to their houses. These people are fed from a truck. Sure, someone picks up the trash afterward. But, where are people using the bathroom? What happens after they’re done eating?
Anyone who’s ever tried calling the police about quality of life crimes in LA knows that those kinds of issues end up pretty far down the LAPD’s list. They’re chasing murderers; they don’t have time to deal with someone pooping on your driveway.
And yet we all have a right to safe, orderly, clean neighborhoods. So, what is the city supposed to do?
The answer is that the city ought to put some sensible restrictions on free food distribution. For example: It probably ought to take place in commercially-zoned areas, as opposed to residential ones. Portapotties probably ought to be provided. And the charities involved ought to have to cover the cost of clean-up and some extra policing, in the same way that film productions do.
Obviously, it ought to be legal (and encouraged) to give away food to people who need it. However, the process of doing so ought to be designed in such a way as to minimize impact on our communities.
We’ve just completed construction on another fourplex for Adaptive Realty Fund 1.
This one is on London St, just south of the 101. It’s kind of an experiment for us, since we’ve never done a project there before. But the units came out great, and we’re pretty confident we’re going to get our rents.
If you know anyone interested in an amazing 2 bed / 1 bath place with private outdoors space, two off-street parking spaces, and all of the modern conveniences, have them shoot an email to Doll [at] adaptiverealty [dot] com.
Meanwhile, check out these pics:
No, this isn’t a piece about taxes on our utility bills. Or, at least, not explicit taxes.
Instead, I’m writing today about the implicit tax imposed on LA property owners by DWP’s horrific customer service.
First, some context: When you buy and renovate an apartment building, you need to:
- Switch the master utilities into your name
- Then, when the tenants move out, switch each individual unit’s utilities to your name
- Then, once renovations are complete and the units are rented, have the tenants switch the units to their names
Each of the above necessitates multiple calls to DWP. Until a few months ago, hold times for these calls were a ridiculous but still manageable 60 minutes or so.
Now, since the installation of a new phone system (presumably purchased, used, from some backwater in Botswana), wait times have swelled to 120+ minutes. And, about half the time, you get through the 120 minutes, only to be hung up on.
The net result, in our office, is that my assistant spends her entire day on hold with DWP.
In any non-monopoly business, the market severely punishes any company that treats customers this way. But DWP is a monopoly. So, the only way things are going to improve is for the politicians who oversee DWP to demand better. Know anyone?
We just signed the last lease on a 13 unit project on Silver Lake Blvd.
Total time to lease up all of the units was 18 days, start to finish.
Rents ended up averaging around 10% more than what we expected when we started the project last Christmas.
Hat tip to Jon for his designs and Ilana for managing the whole leasing process.
I’m always surprised, when I speak with other so-called “value add” players, how limited their definition of “value-add” is.
There are loads of firms out there running around buying buildings with plans to slap on a coat of paint, re-carpet the hallways, switch out the appliances, and raise rents a little bit.
We are not those guys.
Here’s an example of what we’re doing to a five-unit we’re doing (with permits!) for some fee-for-service clients:
- Total re-configuring two upstairs one beds into wonderful two beds
- Dropping staircases from downstairs one beds into unused basement area and turning each unit into a 3 bed two bath
- Re-configuring the horribly laid-out two bed in back into a wonderful, efficient 2 bed / 2 bath
- Adding private outdoor space, decks, etc.
- Re-piping / re-wiring / etc., so that these systems last for 50-100 years
- Adding all the modern conveniences (washer/dryer, dishwasher, etc.)
You may think this sounds excessive. But, my guess is that, even after paying us a big fee to do the project, our clients are going to be all-in on this building for 9.5x the annual rent and something like $300k / unit for large, efficient units with parking in a premium area.
Does that sound high? The guys building all those units downtown are all-in for something like $400-500k / door for one beds in huge “warehouses for people” where they compete with thousands of other, identical units.
I used to wonder why we get paid what we do on these fee-for-service deals. Now I know.