Why You Should Forget What You Think You Know About Housing in L.A.

In 1991, Francis Anderton, a young journalist new to Los Angeles, pulled into a one-bedroom unit in a building co-designed by Frank Gehry. His 1960s stucco apartment house in Santa Monica, with its jutting red roof and wide wooden balconies, was something of a cross between a bungalow-his motel and a Japanese folk house. Early in his career, Mr. Gary lived there with his family. At times, so did his sister, his psychoanalyst, and artist Judy Chicago.

Raised in England, Anderton became a long-time producer and host of a design and architecture radio show for KCRW in Los Angeles. But she skipped the itchy temporary habit of many Americans whose first apartment is the gateway to a single-family home.

In the process of dating musician and author Robin Bennett-Stein, whom she eventually married, she made a room for him in her apartment. After the couple had their daughter, they swapped for a two-bedroom in the same building (the unit that once belonged to Mr. Gehry’s analyst).

and remains there. “During my years of living alone, I felt safe and hid among my neighbors. After that, our only child grew up in a building where he never felt lonely,” she said. Anderton writes in a recent book.Commonalities: Los Angeles apartment complexes

In “Common Ground,” 60-year-old Anderton says Los Angeles may look like a vast breeding ground of gardened American dream homes, but there’s an equally compelling history of shared real estate today. I point out that it continues to

With constant sunshine, the city’s multifamily homes are opening up to courtyards and parks, adorned with exterior staircases and balconies, breaking the solid blocks of traditional apartment buildings and fostering social connections. Most of the building forms and arrangements in , like Angelenos itself, were transplanted from other regions, but they bear the imprint of the creative claws of architects who came to Southern California to test their imaginations. . A health-seeking humanist like Irving Gill, a radical modernist. A maverick who manipulates shapes like Mr. Gehry, like Rudolf Schindler.

Modern architects and developers are working to solve Los Angeles’ vicious housing shortage. About 42,000 people in the city are currently homeless. “Common Ground” provides an example of affordable multifamily housing that may seem out of the ordinary.

Real estate development is never an easy task, but with the city’s stringent restrictions easing on creators of affordable housing, the region is easing decades of inequality created by exclusive housing. It attracts design innovators to work with progressive developers working to get things right. policy. For this reason, many of the projects that Common Ground highlights make the most of the smallest: odd-shaped lots, peripheral locations, and those that use factory-made components.

One example: MLK1101, a 26-unit complex for former homeless veterans and low-income families, offers a balance of sunlight, greenery, and shared and private spaces without sacrificing a sense of security. Designed by Lorcan O’Herlihy with non-profit development agency Clifford Beers Housing (now his Holos Communities) and completed in 2019, the energy-efficient building features a green roof that plummets to the ground at the entrance. I have. critic As pointed out, it may be familiar cultural building But they are rarely seen in affordable housing.

“Our job is to create solutions, not just things,” O’Hurley said. This does not detract from the importance of curb appeal. By designing attractive buildings that give a sense of prestige to the city block, they are helping to stave off resistance from their neighbors.

O’Herlihy works to provide access to green spaces, but you can find them. For his 11-unit market-price condominium, Formosa 1140, which was built in Hollywood in 2009, West was unable to provide a courtyard for financial reasons for the project, so his developer and his partners agreed with the city. We negotiated and leased part of the site as follows. A pocket park that both citizens and citizens can enjoy.

Today, his office is completing Isla Intersections, an affordable multifamily home on a wedge-shaped median between two streets in South Los Angeles. From this unlikely location rises a stack of factory-built steel his modules separated by small green spaces. Each of the 57 modules is his one-bedroom unit, and his one on the adjacent street turns into a paseo (a public pedestrian street with landscaping that helps clean the air).

Squeezing a whole new building type out of the margins, not just residential, is an accomplishment that “Common Ground” highlights in its One Santa Fe discussion. Described by Anderton as a “flipped skyscraper,” the three-block-long building opened in 2011 and is a combination of 438 apartments, 20% of which are affordable and There are shops, restaurants, bookstores and several common areas. Including pool deck.

One Santa Fe runs alongside subway tracks in the city’s newly developed arts district, so the surroundings and air quality are anything but idyllic. “There was almost nothing there,” architect Michael Maltzan recently recalled. “You’ll see tumbleweed cross the street. I’m not compensating for that.”

There was no real precedent in Los Angeles for the scale of the building and the level of mixed use, he noted. Faced with criticism that the size would overwhelm the neighborhood, he tried to be proactive and imagine how the city would evolve around it. Designed to provide access to Line stations. Once that happens, the complex, which mostly floats at street level like a bridge, will transform into a gateway between public transport and the city.

The building attracts a hybrid group of residents of varying ages and income levels, and is described as “an alternative to Los Angeles’ dichotomy housing division, with apartments for the childless poor and young and old and It’s a home for wealthy families,” Anderton wrote. And it has proven to be a pioneer of similar large-scale developments in other regions.

Larry Scarpa, partner at architecture firm Brooks + Scarpa, said he believes the future of Los Angeles housing lies in combining affordable and market-priced units under one roof. His company recently completed a mixed-use development called 11NOHO. It takes advantage of California legislation that allows for increased height and density of buildings with affordable units (12 out of 60 in this case). The building sits on the edge of North Hollywood’s emerging arts district, which is “full of restaurants and shops that need service industry workers.” What is?”

The design is a variant of the courtyard apartment style recognized in Los Angeles for more than a century, and features two early Brooks+Scarpa projects featured in “Common Ground.” Rose Apartments, a mixed-use complex for young people who have left child welfare facilities and foster care in 2022. All of these buildings surround a communal outdoor space that visually connects to the street, yet provides a feeling of a light-filled sanctuary.

Anderton said she wanted to be an apartment complex cheerleader when her daughter, who was in high school, complained of feeling stigmatized for living a life so different from her friends in a single-family home.

But when she started writing the book, she remembered.

She recalled a racial history that blanketed Los Angeles with single-family lots, provided financial assets for white families, and pushed renters of color to their limits.

“It’s all completely true,” said Ms. Anderton. “But that doesn’t mean this other story isn’t true either. We have to really value the history of apartment complexes.”

Living Small is a bi-weekly column that explores what it takes to live a simpler, more sustainable, and more compact life.

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