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Sep18

Apartment complex across from Hollywood Palladium sails through planning commission

By Jenna Chandler for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

Plans to build an apartment complex on a Hollywood strip mall that houses an Out of the Closet thrift shop breezed through the city’s planning commission on Thursday.

The seven-story building would bring 270 apartments to Sunset Boulevard and El Centro, plus new street-level shops and restaurants and parking for 361 cars in an underground garage.

Sidewalks will be widened and the building’s architecture will feature “different textures, colors, [and] materials,” making this pocket of Hollywood more walkable, city planning staffers wrote in a report to the commission.

“The project will support Hollywood’s identity as an area of commerce, while bringing much-needed housing,” the report says.

The complex would wipe out the existing strip mall, located at 6200 Sunset, which also holds a pharmacy and Discount Tire Centers.

It’ll rise immediately to the west of Gower Gulch, and it will face the historic Palladium, which is poised to undergo a restoration and redevelopment with the addition of two 28-story towers.

Plans for 6200 Sunset now head to the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Sep11

Single-family homes cover almost half of Los Angeles—here’s how that happened

By Elijah Chiland for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

Los Angeles is known for its charming residential streets, lined with grassy parkways and dotted with single-family homes.

There are condo towers and courtyard apartments—but for better or for worse, LA’s image is a city of ranch homes and Craftsman bungalows.

It’s an image that was cemented by decisions that city planners and elected officials made in the decades following LA’s early 20th century boom years, when the city was growing most quickly.

Last month, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson blamed LA’s affordable housing crisis on its abundance of single-family neighborhoods.

Today, close to half of all developable land in the city is still set aside for single-family homes, not apartments or other forms of housing that could hold more people.

Just under two thirds of land in the city of Los Angeles is now zoned to allow residential construction, according to the Department of City Planning. Of that total, more than 75 percent is reserved for single-family homes or duplexes.

Other U.S. cities dedicate similarly large portions of land to single-family housing, but LA’s suburban-style streets stand in stark contrast to the density of big cities such as New York and Chicago.

But that wasn’t always the case.

In 1920, the city introduced its first zoning code, which put LA’s available land into five categories of land use, including single-family home construction. Though this was by far the most popular form of housing in LA’s sprawling urban environment, few parts of the city were off limits to larger projects.

As Andrew Whittemore, professor of land use and environmental planning at the University of North Carolina, points out in his essay “Zoning Los Angeles: a brief history of four regimes,” in 1933, less than 5 percent of the city’s zoned land was exclusively restricted to single-family homes.

Most residential properties at that time fell under a more flexible zoning designation that allowed for many different types of construction—including the bungalow courts and small multifamily buildings that can still be found alongside single-family homes in older neighborhoods like Silver Lake, Hollywood, and Venice.

But LA’s zoning rules became much more restrictive in the following decades.

By 1970, almost half the city was zoned for single-family use only, according to Greg Morrow, director of UC Berkeley’s Real Estate and Design program.

What happened?

In 1934, Congress passed the National Housing Act, creating the Federal Housing Administration. The new government agency promoted homeownership by guaranteeing home loans with long repayment periods that lenders might have otherwise been unwilling to give (prior to this time, buyers usually had to pay off home loans within five years, meaning that monthly mortgage payments were quite high).

Since taxpayers would be on the hook if buyers failed to pay back these government-backed mortgages, the FHA went to great lengths to minimize the risk of the loans.

Part of that, as Whittemore explains an article published in the Journal of Urban History,meant shying away from loans in neighborhoods that weren’t deemed “safe investment areas.”

To the agency, safe areas for investment were often those where residents were almost entirely white, as redlining maps from the era clearly illustrate. But racial demographics weren’t the only determining factor.

The FHA (now part of Carson’s own department) also at this time discouraged loans in areas where commercial buildings and apartment complexes abutted single-family homes—the idea being that a mix of building types made the neighborhood more susceptible to changes that could negatively affect property values.

In response to these lending policies, city planners across the United States sought to make urban neighborhoods more homogenous, clearly separating building types and creating lot size and setback requirements to make single-family neighborhoods as safe for investment as possible.

The effects of this were particularly felt in cities like Los Angeles, where plenty of land was still available for new developments.

In 1946, when Los Angeles updated its zoning code (creating the system still in use today), the city’s single-family zones were more fully defined—with nearly three pages of restrictions and regulations. Separate classifications were also created for duplexes and “suburban zones,” with similar parking and yard-size requirements.

These zoning rules helped to create the neatly arranged residential communities Angelenos today know and love, but they also severely limited available space for new development. That’s become a pressing concern as LA deals with a severe shortage of affordable housing.

“We’re clinging to this model—the old version of the American Dream,” housing advocate Mark Vallianatos tells Curbed. “It doesn’t make sense to reserve large portions of any city for only one home with a yard and just one family.”

Compounding the housing shortage is the legacy of plans for the city’s development made in the 1970s, when residents and local leaders sought to slow LA’s growth by limiting the amount of housing that developers could build.

As Morrow points out, Los Angeles was zoned to hold up to 10 million residents in 1960. By 1990, the city had capacity for just 3.9 million residents.

Today, that number has increased slightly but so has LA’s population—the city is home to roughly 4 million people. As of 2010, it was zoned to hold just 4.3 million residents.

To accommodate future residents, Vallianatos says single-family neighborhoods could be “sensitively densified.” Planners could allow property owners in these areas to build triplexes and fourplexes there—buildings that allow more people to live in these communities without sacrificing their low-slung character.

But that would likely garner strong resistance from homeowners, who fought hard to preserve, and even expand, LA’s single-family zones when the city introduced its community plans in the 1970s.

Likewise, Los Angeles planners are probably keenly aware of the political risk of tampering with zoning rules in single-family areas.

In the 1980s, the city of Long Beach eased restrictions in these areas to spur construction of affordable housing. Capitalizing on loopholes in this policy, developers replaced historic bungalows with hastily constructed apartment buildings, which critics derisively referred to as “crackerboxes.”

Discussing the city’s new Land Use Element, which will regulate future development, Long Beach planning bureau manager Linda Tatum said in March that allowing these apartments was “absolutely a mistake on the city’s part.”

In Land Use Element maps approved by the Long Beach City Council earlier this year, not a single one of the city’s single-family neighborhoods was altered in any way.

LA officials have shown some willingness to tamper with single-family zoning in areas near transit. In July, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a plan to adjust the zoning of several single-family blocks near stops on Metro’s Expo Line.

The new zoning rules will allow “neighborhood-scale mixed-use development that creates ground-floor commercial activity” with the “capacity for multifamily housing.”

Vallianatos says that Los Angeles and other nearby cities need to start thinking more seriously about “upzoning,” that is, allowing more dense forms of housing, in order to bring down skyrocketing home prices and reverse the discriminatory policies that kept low-income and non-white residents out of neighborhoods favored by the FHA.

“If you change the zoning a bit, you can keep some of the feel of the neighborhood,” he says. “But you open it up to a much wider diversity of people and ways to live.”

Sep4

40-story skyscraper would be Long Beach’s tallest

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

A 35-story tower at the Shoreline Gateway project is due to break ground in 60 days, earning the title of Long Beach’s tallest building, says Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia. But the high-rise won’t hold that title for long.

Garcia unveiled on Tuesday plans for a new development in the city’s downtown that would include a 40-story tower—tall enough to unseat the Shoreline Gateway as the city’s highest, when complete.

Developed by Maple Multifamily Land, a subsidiary of Trammell Crow Residential, the project would rise on a large parking lot directly north of the World Trade Center in Long Beach, near Broadway and Magnolia.

Renderings show the building as a glassy high-rise shaped a bit like a prism standing on end. Architecture for project, called the West Gateway, is by Long Beach-based Studio One Eleven. The firm did not respond to a request for comment.

Flanking the tower would be a handful of shorter buildings of a variety of uses, Garcia said. The project would 694 residential units to Long Beach’s downtown, which continues to experience a boom in residential building.

The project was only recently proposed and is working its way through the planning process.

Aug29

5 programs for first-time homebuyers in LA

By Elijah Chiland for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The Los Angeles housing market is not a hospitable one for first-time buyers.

Less than 30 percent of all LA residents can afford a median-priced home, according the California Association of Realtors. It can be even harder for first-time buyers, who don’t have a property they can sell to cover the cost of a down payment.

But plenty of programs exist at the local, state, and federal level to help buyers purchase their first homes—and many of them provide borrowers with help to make those costly down payments.

Home shoppers are probably already aware of resources like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s FHA loans program, or the VA loans available to U.S. service members and veterans.

But those aren’t the only options. Below is breakdown of five options available specifically to buyers in the LA area.

To take advantage these programs, buyers must also obtain loans from private lenders, so credit limits or other financial restrictions may come into play. But it’s worth investigating these options if homeownership seems just out of reach.

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California’s first mortgage programs

The California Housing Finance Agency’s first mortgage program is available to most first-time buyers in California who meet the income limits where they live. In Los Angeles County, borrowers must make under $116,280 (for a one or two-person household) to qualify.

Through the CalPlus and MyHome programs, which are generally paired, buyers who receive conventional home loans from qualified private lenders can then obtain smaller loans from the state agency. These are available to cover closing costs and up to 3.5 percent of a home’s price in down payment assistance.

The smaller loans aren’t factored into monthly mortgage payments; instead, buyers repay them in a lump sum when selling or refinancing their home—or after paying off the entire mortgage.

The maximum price for properties purchased using these loans is $705,000, meaning buyers can get up to $24,675 in down payment assistance.

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Los Angeles County’s first home mortgage program

Administered through the Southern California Home Financing Authority, a partnership between Los Angeles and Orange counties, this program is somewhat similar to those offered by the state’s Housing Finance Agency in that borrowers can get financial assistance that goes toward the cost of a down payment.

It’s available to buyers in nearly every part of both counties, with one major exception: the entire city of Los Angeles. That’s bound to be frustrating for many prospective buyers, but hey, there are plenty of nice areas to explore outside the city limits.

To qualify for the program, participants must earn under $116,280 for a one or two-person household, or under $135,660 for a three-person household. Purchases are also capped at $625,764, except in targeted areas where at least 70 percent of residents are considered low-income earners by statewide standards. In these areas, buyers can pay up to $764,823.

The first-time buyer requirement is also lifted in targeted areas, meaning that homeowners in those regions could take advantage of the program to trade up for a larger or more amenity-rich property.

Program participants work with participating lenders to obtain a home loan, which comes with a grant that can be used for down payment and closing costs. The grant, which buyers do not have to pay back, can be up to 4 percent of the total value of the loan.

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Los Angeles County homeownership program

This program also provides financial assistance for down payment and closing costs, but the money comes out of a pool of grant funding from the federal government. That means there’s a limit to how many people can participate in the program. The county is accepting just 39 applications between now and March 2019.

Participants, who must earn under $62,000 per year (for a two-person household), can obtain loans up to $75,000 through the program. Interest isn’t charged on those loans and they don’t need to be repaid until after the buyer sells the home or pays off the mortgage.

This program also excludes the city of Los Angeles, along with many of the county’s other large cities. A list of places where participating homebuyers should focus their searches can be found here.

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City of Los Angeles homebuyer assistance

The city of Los Angeles has two very similar programs for first-time buyers. One is for low-income buyers making under $62,000 per year (for a two-person household). The other is for moderate-income buyers earning under $116,300 (also for a two-person household).

Both programs offer loans up to $60,000 that can be used to cover down payment and closing costs. The low-income loans can only be used on purchases up to $498,750 for single-family homes and $404,700 for condos. There isn't a maximum purchase price for the moderate income program.

The loans don’t have to be paid off until buyers sell the home or pay off the mortgage, at which time the city will also collect a percentage of the home’s appreciated value, which varies depending on the size of the loan (if the loan amounts to 10 percent of the purchase price, you’ll have to pay back 10 percent of the home’s appreciated value).

The bad news is that loans are only being offered right now to low-income buyers, as the moderate income program is out of funds. Fortunately, the City Council approved an additional $2.3 million for the program in August, which is not yet available but is expected to fund an additional 33 loans to middle-income buyers.

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Inglewood homebuyer assistance

The city of Inglewood has also set aside a limited amount of money to help first-time buyers. In August, the city approved $2 million in funding for a program that will provide borrowers with up to $350,000 in financial assistance.

Not only will loans from the city cover a buyer’s down payment, they’ll also significantly lower monthly mortgage costs, making homes significantly more affordable to participating residents (to qualify for the program, participants must have lived in Inglewood for three of the last five years).

The program’s benefits are enticing, but get in line soon—the city estimates that only five or six buyers will be able to get assistance through the program.

Aug20

Kofi Nartey appears on The American Dream Show

The Nartey Group's Kofi Nartey recently appeared on the nationally-syndicated American Dream Show. Interviewed by creator and host Craig Sewing, Kofi discussed the experience of working in the celebrity & luxury real estate spheres, the process of marketing luxury homes and his best-selling book Sellebrity: How to Build a Successful Sports & Entertainment Based Business.

Aug13

Car-free, pedestrian-only street coming to ‘downtown’ Playa Vista

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The mixed-use Runway at Playa Vista was planned to be a kind of downtown for master-planned neighborhood Playa Vista. Now, it’s about to get more walkable.

Runway’s owners, Invesco Real Estate, and management DJM announced today that car space will be taken away from a portion of that unofficial downtown to create a street dedicated solely to people on foot.

They have hired Los Angeles-based firm Design, Bitches to give the development a refresh that will include closing a central street, Millennium Drive, to car traffic.

The plan also includes lots of outdoor seating, new common area amenities, scaling back on advertising panels, adding landscaping, and “aesthetic” upgrades, with the overall goal of transforming Runway “from a ‘vehicle-dominated’ environment to a ‘pedestrian-dominated’ landscape.”

The $9.1-million makeover is expected to be complete in early 2019.

The change is exciting, but it’s probably not the start of a sea change. Playa Vista is not exactly a transit-friendly neighborhood; don’t count residents abandoning their cars anytime soon.

Aug7

HGTV buys the Brady Bunch House with plans to ‘restore it to its 1970s glory’

By Jenna Chandler / Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

Will the Brady Bunch House return to the small screen? The famous home has sold to make-over powerhouse HGTV—which plans to “restore it to its 1970s glory.”

David Zaslav, CEO of HGTV’s parent company Discovery, made the announcement to investors on a conference call early Tuesday morning.

“I am excited to share that HGTV is the winning bidder,” he said. “More detail to come over the next few months, but we’ll bring all the resources to bear to tell safe, fun stories about this beloved piece of American TV history.”

Zaslav did not disclose how much the network paid for the property—or how much shiplapthey’ll put in.

Built in 1959, the exterior of the pink ranch-style home in Studio City appeared in every episode of the Brady Bunch except the first. (All interior scenes were shot on a Paramount Studios soundstage.)

The house appeared on the market this month—for the first time since 1973—with an asking price of $1.885 million.

“This iconic residence is reportedly the second most photographed home in the United States after the White House,” the listing reads.

The buyer had remained somewhat of a mystery over the past couple of days after NSYNC’s Lance Bass announced on social media that he put in an offer—only to be outbid by a Hollywood studio.

He said his offer was “way over the asking price.” But, he lamented: “How can I compete with a billion dollar corporate entity?”

Aug1

21-story hotel across from Amoeba moves ahead

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

The Ivar Gardens, a 21-story hotel planned to replace the Jack in the Box on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, is still kickin’.

Urbanize LA noticed the hotel project from developer R.D. Olson is set to be discussed by the governing board of the successor entity to the defunct community redevelopment agency. (The project is located in a redevelopment area.)

The Art Deco-inspired tower, designed by architecture firm WATG, would hold 275 rooms, a gym, a rooftop deck, and parking for 135 cars.

In documents provided to the governing board, the hotel is described as an improvement on the “currently underutilized site” that would “upgrade the site and the immediate surrounding area along Sunset Boulevard.”

A number of hotels have recently opened or are in the works for the blocks surrounding the property on Sunset between Cahuenga and Ivar. Across the street, the Amoeba Records is set to be replaced by a 28-story tower with over 200 residential units. Their lease runs out in early 2019.

Jul23

Redondo Beach pulls plans for big waterfront redevelopment from California Coastal Commission

By Bianca Barragan for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

A huge plan to redevelop the Redondo Beach waterfront with new shops and restaurants has derailed.

The Redondo Beach City Council has withdrawn its part of the joint application for the project with the California Coastal Commission, the Daily Breeze reports. The move prompted Redondo Beach Mayor Bill Brand to declare the project “dead.”

The city was teaming up with the developer, CenterCal, via a public-private partnership to redevelop the site. CenterCal pulled its portion of the application out this month too.

This is just the latest in a string of huge hurdles for the development, which is unpopular with many residents.

In May, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge ruled that the project’s environmental impact report—a vital planning document—had to be altered and redistributed to the community.

Last year, a ballot measure aimed at halting waterfront development passed with the support of 57 percent of Redondo Beach voters. It’s unclear what impact that vote had on the city’s decision to withdraw its application.

Many city residents supported some kind of revitalization for the pier, but differed on what form that rehabilitation should take.

With the withdrawal of the project’s applications before the coastal commission, it’s unclear what the next steps for the project are and when they will happen. “Things are up in the air for now,” Brand told the Breeze.

Jul16

Warner Brothers pitches LA on an aerial tram to the Hollywood Sign

By Elijah Chiland for Curbed Los Angeles | Read the original article here

One of entertainment industry’s largest and most recognizable movie studios wants to get into the transportation business.

Warner Brothers announced plans Tuesday for an aerial tram that would ferry visitors to and from the Hollywood Sign. The company would pay for the tram’s construction and would operate it from a parking lot just south of its Burbank backlot.

In a letter sent Monday to Los Angeles parks and legislative officials, the studio offers the tram as a potential solution to issues of access to the landmark.

In 2017, the city closed a popular Beachwood Canyon access point to the Hollyridge Trail, which provides some of the best views of the sign. Soon after, Councilmember David Ryu commissioned a study examining ways to alleviate traffic in neighborhoods around the sign while ensuring it remains accessible to residents and visitors.

The study included several outside-the-box recommendations, including an aerial tram or gondola and even a replica sign that would be easier for hikers to get to.

In December, Variety reported that media mogul Barry Diller, along with his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, and her son, Alexander von Furstenberg, were considering their own plans for a tram that would take riders to and from the sign.

Now, the city has a more concrete proposal for such a system.

The Warner Brothers tram would take riders up the back of Mount Lee to an education center about the sign that the company also plans to build. Warner Brothers would charge visitors to ride the ferry and would split the revenue with the city.

The company would also pay for a new transit hub on the north side of Griffith Park from which passengers could access buses, shuttles, and the tram itself.

If city officials should pursue the proposal further, it would still need to go through an extensive environmental review process—and any related legal challenges.

Any privately funded development within Griffith Park is bound to draw plenty of public scrutiny, but Warner Brothers argues its solution is one that makes sense for the city and visitors alike.

In a statement, the company says its tram proposal would have the “least impact on the surrounding environment” and would allow easy access to the park “at no cost to the taxpayer.”

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