Free Wi-Fi service coming to 150 Metro buses around LA

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The pilot program launches over the next two weeks

As Metro (slowly) rolls out cell service along its subway network, the transit agency is also working to install wireless internet on its vast fleet of buses. Last week, Metro announced a pilot program under which 150 Wi-Fi-equipped buses will be brought into service over the next two weeks.

If all goes well, an additional 150 buses will be equipped with Wi-Fi later this year. After that, all new buses added to the 2,200 vehicle fleet will offer internet access, allowing for the gradual expansion of Wi-Fi to the entire bus network.

The buses will be distributed throughout the system at random, so unfortunately there won’t be much way to tell in advance whether or not you’ll be able to catch up on some emails during your next ride. But the buses with wireless service will be marked with green decals to alert riders that they can connect to the internet once on board.

The wireless network will be called “Free Metro WiFi,” and will provide riders with access to a security page, service updates, and a customer relations chat box as soon as they log on.

According to Metro, the internet will be free to all users with no limit on time usage. The signal is expected to be about as fast as a 4G LTE signal, allowing for basic web surfing (but probably not large downloads or high definition video streaming).

Walt Disney’s former home in Palm Springs finds a buyer

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The midcentury ranch house sold for $865,000

After nearly seven months on the market, a Palm Springs home that once served as a desert retreat for Walt Disney has found a new owner, as the Orange County Register reports.

Property records show that the sale closed Friday. The final sale price of $865,000 was just under $35,000 below its initial asking price of $899,000.

The 2,443-square-foot residence was constructed in 1962 for Disney and his wife, Lillian. It was the second property that Disney owned in Palm Springs (he sold the first place to help fund construction of Disneyland).

Though Disney died just four years after the home was constructed, it seems to have held a special place in his heart; in interviews, he referred to it as his “laughing place.”

According to the listing, the ranch house remained in the Disney family until 2015, when it sold for $650,000. Following that sale, the house has received a makeover playing up its association with the animator. New features include a bright color scheme and various Disney quotes speckled across the walls and closets.

Living room with sliding door open
Bedroom with twin beds and blue carpeting
Yellow bathroom

Other highlights include a gas fireplace in the family room, sliding glass doors, a two-car garage, and a backyard pool and spa. The home sits on a quarter-acre lot next to the second fairway at Indian Canyons North Golf Course.

View from front lawn of ranch-style home

Sunny 1940s traditional asks $1.4M in Beachwood Canyon

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Vintage charm along with modern touches

Now available in a pocket listing is this cheerful traditional in Beachwood Canyon. Located on curvy Belden Drive, midway between a 1920s Mediterranean by Elmer Grey and a glassy ‘60s modern by Ed Niles, the hillside home was built in 1941.

Measuring 1,586 square feet, the two-story house has two bedrooms, one bath, living room, formal dining room, kitchen, and laundry room on its top level. A set of French doors in the living room opens out to a private patio with hot tub. On the lower level is a third bedroom or office suite with its own separate entrance, and a two-car garage.

While the kitchen and baths have all been updated, the home still retains old-fashioned charm, thanks to such features as hardwood floors, two fireplaces, wainscoting, crown molding, wood-frame windows, and built-ins.

Asking price is $1.395 million.

2821 Belden Dr [The Agency]

Developer plans 53 live/work units next to the LA River

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And across from what will become a giant park

Los Angeles-based Uncommon Developers filed plans Thursday to build 53 live/work units on Blake Avenue, right next to the LA River in flourishing Frogtown.

The new building would measure 54,000 square feet, and 11 percent of the units would be reserved for tenants with very low incomes. In exchange, the developer is seeking permission from the city to build to a height of 41 feet. (That’s 11 feet taller than the height limit for the site at 1901 West Blake Avenue.)

The property is located on the other side of the river from the Taylor Yard, a city-owned site that will eventually be turned into a big park.

As efforts to clean up and revitalize the LA River have heated up, so has interest in Frogtown, which is sandwiched between the waterway and the the 5 freeway, with the 110 to the south and 2 to the north.

Flippers have come in alongside, developers, brewers, and restaurateurs capitalizing not only on Frogtown’s location along the river but also its proximity to DTLA. Also called Elysian Valley, the neighborhood had been a blue-collar community peppered with warehouses and manufacturers.

Updated Hollywood Community Plan unveiled

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The last update didn’t go so well

Los Angeles planners are taking a second stab at an update of the aging Hollywood Community Plan that sets standards for new buildings, transit, and parks in Hollywood, a neighborhood that has seen explosive growth since the plan was last updated 29 years ago.

As the Los Angeles Business Journal notes, the new plan relies on an updated population estimate of 226,000 residents by 2040—down from the 250,000 residents projected in a 2012 update that was shot down in court.

It also puts a bigger emphasis on historic preservation and stricter limitations on building height in lower-slung parts of the neighborhood. Right now, nearly 50 percent of Hollywood is zoned and planned for housing, both single-family and apartment and condo buildings—and that won’t change, senior city planner Conni Pallini-Tipton tells Curbed.

“Where we’re directing change is not in that 50 percent,” she says. In residential areas, she says, “We’re maintaining or adding new rules for historic preservation and height limits. We’re really trying to accommodate most of the change in the core of Hollywood.”

These are the proposed land use zones in the draft update of the Hollywood Community Plan.

In 2012, the City Council approved an updated version of the plan that allowed for greater residential density in the Downtown Hollywood area, particularly in close proximity to the Red Line—which had yet to open when the plan was last updated in 1988.

But the La Mirada Neighborhood Association sued the city, arguing (among other things) that the plan relied on inaccurate population estimates. A judge agreed, striking down the new plan in December of 2013.

The 2012 plan, “was very focused on the part of the Hollywood that was growing. It was more silent on the things that we were preserving,” Conni Pallini-Tipton says.

“What we’ve tried to do is be more explicit about our goals to maintain our neighborhoods, preserve our historic resources, and really celebrate what’s great about Hollywood,” she says.

Given the added protections for Hollywood’s single-family neighborhoods, most new housing development under the new plan would occur around transit stops. The authors of the plan predict this will help prevent traffic congestion in the area simply by bringing more people within easy access of public transit.

New offices, mixed use developments, and affordable housing would also be encouraged around Central Hollywood, with office space being prioritized around the Hollywood/Highland and Hollywood/Vine Metro stops.

Alongside those overarching changes, the plan also calls for some detailed changes, including:

  • Supporting a proposal to build a park with pedestrian and bike paths over the 101 Freeway.
  • Linking bike paths by the Los Angeles River to bicycle hubs in central Hollywood.
  • Studying the closure of Hudson Avenue, between Hollywood Boulevard and Yucca Street, to create a public plaza.
  • Beautifying segments of Hollywood Boulevard (between Gower Avenue and the 101 Freeway), Western Avenue (between Franklin Avenue and Melrose Avenue), and Cahuenga Boulevard (between Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard), among others.
  • Discouraging peak hour parking restrictions on streets with high volumes of bicyclists.
  • Studying the garden apartments in the block bounded by Prospect Avenue on the north, Rodney Drive on the west, Lyman Place on the east, and the alley north of Hollywood Boulevard on the south for potential historic significance.
  • Studying new height limits on portions of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue that abut designated or eligible historic neighborhoods.

As a feature of the new plan, its authors have included an interactive map that residents can use to determine how zoning requirements for their properties (and the properties of others) might change, should the new plan pass muster with city officials and local residents.

Los Angeles City Hall lit with Bat-signal in memory of ‘Batman’ actor Adam West

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Here are a few of the best photos

A ceremonial Bat-signal lit up City Hall on Thursday in tribute to late Batman actor Adam West.

West, who died Friday, appeared in hundreds of films and television shows over the course of his long career, but was best known for his numerous appearances as the unflappable Caped Crusader.

The ceremony was organized by the city of Los Angeles in conjunction with DC Comics.

Los Angeles isn’t as cloudy as Gotham, so the signal was projected onto the side of City Hall, as opposed to the night sky, where it’s usually found in filmed adaptations. Parked outside of the historic building were two replicas of the 1960s-era Batmobile that West and Burt Ward, who played Robin, rode around in during production of Batman: The Movie and the popular TV series that followed.

This isn’t the first time that city officials have used City Hall to memorialize an influential entertainer. Most recently, the building was illuminated in purple light to mark the passing of Prince.


A post shared by James Boys (@j_boys) on Jun 15, 2017 at 9:21pm PDT


A post shared by Michael Madison (@themichaelmadison) on Jun 15, 2017 at 9:20pm PDT

A post shared by Eric Carrasco (@etcarrasco) on Jun 15, 2017 at 9:22pm PDT

One of two Batmobiles parked at Los Angeles City Hall for the city’s Tribute to Adam West

A post shared by CCW (@ccwnow) on Jun 15, 2017 at 7:54pm PDT

Ready to fire up the #batsignal for #adamwest one more time. #adamwesttribute #brightknight

A post shared by Scott Huver (@thehuve) on Jun 15, 2017 at 8:30pm PDT

The James West Hollywood backs out of the Sunset Strip

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The hotel is “embarking on a new path”—away from WeHo

The much-anticipated The James West Hollywood will not open on the Sunset Strip after all. Just two months ago, the hotel announced it would open May 1 in one of the towers in CIM Group’s huge new development called Sunset|LaCienega. But that didn’t happen.

A message posted on the hotel’s website with the title “Embarking on a new path” (and the word “farewell” in the URL) reads, in part:

While all of us at The James continue to maintain our commitment to community, personal wellness, art and design, we will not be introducing The James Hotels to Los Angeles at this time. It has been an honor to be a part of this endeavor, and we have an endless amount of gratitude for our partners and especially to you, our guests.

Representatives of the James Hotel have not returned messages seeking comment. The 10-story hotel was designed to offer guests 286 rooms, including 35 suites and penthouses, plus a glamorous pool.

It’s unclear who’s going to take over as operator of the hotel now that The James is out of the picture.

Fully renovated—and possibly haunted—Hollywood Hills home asks $2.1M

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Built in 1925, it was in bad shape when it last sold four years ago

When last we saw this 1925 Spanish-style residence in the Hollywood Hills, it was being sold in a state of significant disrepair—so much so that we wondered at the time if it could find a new owner willing to commit the time and expense necessary to restore it to its former glory.

Well, we’re pleased to say that four years later, the house is still standing—though the interior is barely recognizable. The current owner has thoroughly remodeled the place, leaving a few vintage windows and a handsome beamed ceiling in the living room as reminders of what once was.

View of living rooms with sliding glass door
Office with fireplace
Couch with skylights and clerestory windows overhead

Speaking of what once was, we should mention the house may be haunted.

Various reports of ghostly apparitions spotted at the residence throughout the years can be found in a few dark corners of the internet, and parapsychologist Barry Taff tells a documentary crew that he was once pelted with pennies that mysteriously fell from the ceiling when he visited the house in the 1970s.

Outfitted with plenty of wide windows that give the place a light and airy feel, it doesn’t look very haunted in listing photos, but one never can tell.

Front entry with winding staircase

The house has four bedrooms and four bathrooms. Features include a fully renovated kitchen, fireplaces in the living room and office, three separate bedroom suites, and a tall entryway with an elegant, winding master stairwell.

Updated kitchen

The home sits on a 5,970-square-foot lot and includes numerous patios and decks that provide excellent views around the surrounding hills. It last sold in 2013 for just $700,000. Now, it’s listed for $2.095 million.

Restoration begins on Title Insurance Building’s gorgeous Art Deco facade

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Passersby will be able to see progress soon

Work to restore the the gorgeous facade of the Title Insurance and Trust Building in Downtown’s Historic Core is underway. The Art Deco building, newly rechristened the Trust Building by owners Rising Realty Partners and Lionstone Investments, has been somewhat neglected over the years, though it’s been used often as a filming location.

Preservation architect Architectural Resources Group has begun the painstaking process of cleaning the delicate terra cotta that cover the outside of the 1928 building, located at 433 South Spring. A plaque marking its status as a city Historic-Cultural Monument, thought to be stolen, will be replaced.

The Trust Building’s “interiors and facade can’t be recreated today,” and that makes the building desirable, Rising’s vice president Adam Lev tells Curbed.

Designed by the Downtown powerhouse Parkinson and Parkinson, the building is an example of the Zig Zag Moderne style, and, along Spring Street, it features murals by Hugo Ballin along Spring Street that will be restored. Ballin’s work appears at the Griffith Observatory and in the Los Angeles Times building.

The restoration is part of a bigger makeover. The interior is being reworked to host creative offices.

 Kansas Sebastian via Flickr creative commons
Hugo Ballin’s murals on the Spring Street side of the Title Insurance and Trust Building in DTLA will be restored.

“Spring Street is one of [Downtown’s] great streets, and it’s largely restored, but it isn’t there in terms of workplace,” Lev says. The street already has a lot to offer in terms of retail, nightlife, and restaurants, but bringing offices into the mix will fill a void, Lev says.

All the work on the Trust Building is slated to be completed by the end of next summer. At that point, the edifice will be ready to be occupied. Lev says Industry Partners, which is managing the leasing for the building, is already talking to a few larger tenants, mostly media and tech companies, that are interested in the space.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated work on the Trust Building would be finished this summer. It will be complete in the summer of 2018.

Santa Monica imposing strict water requirements on new developments

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Builders will have to stick to historic water usage levels or pay for new water-saving devices

The city of Santa Monica is rolling out an ambitious new plan to conserve water as the city continues to develop and expand.

Under the plan, property owners looking to develop or remodel their properties will have to ensure that the finished project won’t require more water than what the property has required on average over the previous five years. That means that installing a new pool, for instance, could get a lot trickier once the new ordinance goes into effect on July 1.

According to city officials, water usage in the city is now at its lowest level since the 1990s. The new rules are meant to keep consumption down in light of “limited groundwater supplies and the uncertain effects of climate change,” according to a city announcement.

The new requirements won’t apply to every bathroom update or small renovation project. Instead, they’ll only be enforced for major remodels and new construction. According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, about 75 percent of projects affected by the new rules will be new single-family residences and large-scale renovation projects.

Property owners with plans that would require an increase in water use can still go forward with those projects under the new rules, but will have to offset the new level of consumption—either by installing water-saving devices at the property or paying into a city program to install such fixtures and appliances at other properties. As the Daily Press reports, the city has already created a waitlist of properties where the water-saving devices can be installed.

City Council makes it easier to farm in LA

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Property owners can save on taxes if they lease their land to growers

Los Angeles may not be known for its agriculture (these days), but a new program could change that—encouraging the growth of fresh produce on vacant lots around the city.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a measure providing tax breaks to property owners who lease their land to farmers.

The new ordinance sets up a local framework for the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone program passed by state lawmakers in 2014. It allows property owners to enter into agreements with the city under which they will make land available for “small-scale agricultural purposes” in exchange for reduced property taxes.

According to Councilmember Curren Price, the measure is designed both to put LA’s many vacant lots to better use and to provide residents with healthy food options.

Breanna Hawkins, who is the policy director for the Los Angeles Food Policy Council, says the program will help to end what she calls the “food apartheid conditions” found in “low-income areas and communities of color that have been divested and under-resourced for decades.”

Back in March, we caught up with Emily Gleicher and Arlan J. Wood, who founded the nonprofit organization Farm LA to advocate for more urban gardens across the city. The couple has already planted 12 sidewalk gardens and helped advocate for implementation of the new program.

“There are plots everywhere, plots that are empty,” Wood told Curbed. “For the Average Joe homeowner, they’re not really usable. So this would give an awesome incentive for them to go, ‘Oh my gosh, yes, take my hillside for blank number of years.’ It saves them a lot on property taxes, and it’s a win-win for everybody.”

To be eligible for the program, parcels must be less than three acres in size and be free of exposure to toxic substances. Fortunately for aspiring farmers, city officials estimate that around 57,000 lots in LA fit this description.

See the evolution of Downtown LA’s skyline in a new flyover video

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The animation shows the growth of all those high-rises

Drive through Downtown LA and you can’t help notice construction cranes everywhere, not to mention a bunch of new buildings (including the almost-complete Wilshire Grand Center, the tallest building west of the Mississippi River).

So how did Downtown evolve from a sleepy low-rise town in the 1920s to the Manhattan-like warren of high-rises and skyscrapers of today?

Commercial Cafe created a 3D animated flyover of the central city showing the development of LA’s towers, starting with City Hall in 1928. (Commercial Cafe is a commercial real estate information service owned by Yardi Systems.)

The video shows skyscrapers sprouting like mushrooms, though curiously not in chronological order, and takes note of key milestones:

  • City Hall, at 453 feet, became the first “skyscraper” in 1928 after decades of height restrictions that kept buildings under 150 feet.
  • The 40-story Union Bank Plaza went up on Bunker Hill in 1964, after height restrictions were lifted. It was the beginning of the 1960s-era development that replaced a residential neighborhood of stately Victorian houses, which were razed in the 1950s.
  • The 52-story Arco Towers rose in 1972 and were the tallest twin towers in the world until the completion of New York’s World Trade Center. Now called the City National Plaza North and South towers, they remain the tallest twin towers in the U.S. outside of New York.
  • The 73-story U.S. Bank Tower became the tallest building in California upon its completion in 1990.
  • The 73-story Wilshire Grand topped out earlier this year to take the crown from the U.S. Bank Tower (because of its spire). It has the distinction of being the only LA tower without a flat roof, now that tall buildings are no longer required to have rooftop helipads.
 Courtesy of Visualhouse and Jon Wilson
This rendering shows which projects have been recently added to the current skyline.

“We wanted to see how DTLA’s development history would look like visually,” Commercial Cafe’s Diana Sabau told Curbed. “There are bound to be decades of effervescence on the market that will lead to more vigorous construction, and as the types of tenants change and diversify, so do their needs and taste—both of these prompting new design ideas. We thought a video would be a great addition in terms of highlighting this constant evolution.”

As for the future? Curbed previously posted a rendering by the creative agency Visualhouse showing the skyline of LA as it might appear in 2030.

The map below shows all of the buildings featured in the video at the top of the story.

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.overlay {

Mayor Eric Garcetti proposes a monorail to ease traffic on 405 freeway

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A monorail has a small footprint and it would be safe in earthquakes, he says

Solving the 405 traffic conundrum is a holy grail for transit planners. Whether it’s by light rail, underground tunnel, or just plain making roads wider, city officials want to clear the perpetual gridlock any way possible.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, LA’s mayor is throwing yet another transit option on the table, one familiar to many in Southern California—a monorail.

In a radio interview with KNX-1070, Mayor Eric Garcetti laid out his case for bringing a little bit of Disneyland to the Sepulveda Pass by building a monorail over the freeway to connect The Valley with the Westside. “With a small footprint, with electric motors, safety for both earthquakes and access, it could be on the table,” he said.

Garcetti threw some cold water on an above-ground rail option for the 405, saying trains couldn’t get up the steep Sepulveda Pass inclines. But, he said, a monorail could—and at speeds similar to conventional trains.

During the interview, Garcetti brought up new monorail technology developed by the Chinese automotive company BYD Motors. According to Garcetti, the BYD monorail system is both cheaper and better suited to endure potential earthquakes.

 Los Angeles Public Library photo collection
Walt Disney saw potential in monorails, installing one at Disneyland in 1959.

BYD Motors seems poised to swoop in if monorail plans gain traction. The company is already headquartered in Downtown Los Angeles, a move facilitated by $1.6 million in federal funds provided the city. BYD has also built several electric buses for Metro, the agency that will determine the transit future of the Sepulveda Pass.

This is the second fun idea Garcetti has floated this spring to solve traffic woes. Last month, he suggested the city could build a gondola to the Hollywood Sign.

This new Mid-City apartment building will replace pink houses that neighbors hate

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45 apartments with decks and vertical gardens

Three Mid-City houses painted neon pink will be razed in about three weeks to make way for a 45-unit apartment complex, a rep for M-Rad, the architecture firm designing the apartment project, tells Curbed. (Four of the units will be set aside for affordable housing.)

The project’s site is presently occupied by three houses painted bright pink by an artist that M-Rad reached out to. Some neighbors have complained that they were not asked or notified that the houses were going to be undergoing a vibrant transformation, but M-Rad principal Matthew Rosenberg tells Curbed that getting people’s attention was definitely the point.

The project, called Hello Saturn, is reminiscent of a honeycomb, and steps back from the corner to a height of four stories.

The layout of the modern structure “dumps light into every unit,” Rosenberg says. It also allows each resident to have a deck as well as a light-flooded unit. To capitalize on those sunny decks, M-Rad is in talks with a vertical garden company to add greenery to each unit’s open space.

The complex, developed by LI Investments, will offer a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units over underground parking. Residents will have access to a communal courtyard in the center of the complex and have access to the complex’s gym.

He says the pink houses were an attempt to start a dialogue with neighbors and the community about how long it takes to get city approvals to put in new residential buildings. Rosenberg says painting the houses was also an attempt to activate the houses so they didn’t invite squatters and homeless occupants while the developer waited to get approval for its demolition permits.

“We want neighborhoods to be safe while projects are in development, so [residents] don’t have to live across from homeless people” while projects are in progress, Rosenberg said.

Los Angeles home comparison: What $625K buys you around LA

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There’s a house in the Valley with a pool and white picket fence

Welcome to Curbed Comparisons, where we explore what you can rent or buy for a certain dollar amount in various LA ‘hoods. We’ve found five homes or condos within $10,000 of today’s price: $625,000.

White house with blue trim
Remodeled kitchen
Living room with window panels
Back patio with yardVia Debra Abeyesinhe, Keller Williams Realty Calabasas

↑ This little three-bedroom home in Van Nuys has been substantially remodeled since it last sold in January for $410,000. Now, the 1,334-square-foot residence offers new floors, fresh paint, a remodeled kitchen, new wiring, and a host of other updates. The house has two bathrooms and is situated on a 6,750-square-foot lot with a spacious backyard. Asking price is $630,000.

View of house from front lawn
Living room with fireplace
Remodeled kitchen
BedroomVia Max Armand, Helix Properties

↑ Here’s another recent flip in the Vermont Square neighborhood of South LA. Features of the three-bedroom, two-bath home include new floors, an updated kitchen and bathroom, and a brick-clad living room fireplace. Built in 1912, the house offers 1,385 square feet of living space on a 5,876-square-foot lot with a detached two car garage. Sold in May for $450,000, it’s already back on the market with a $625,000 asking price.

Green and purple-colored house
Purple living room
Tile kitchen
Bright blue bedroomVia Arlen Perla, Century 21 Allstars

↑ This two-bedroom home in Highland Park is looking ready for Mardi Gras. It’s in need of a few repairs, but offers 1,076 square feet of living space on a 4,001-square-foot lot with a long front porch and a detached garage in the rear of the house. The home last sold just six years ago for $260,000. It’s now listed for $630,000.

Front of house
Living room with carpet and fireplace
Small and plain kitchen
Back of home with poolVia Stephanie Vitacco, Keller Williams Encino-Sherman

↑ Over in Granada Hills, this three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home is looking very all-American—white picket fence included. The 1,710-square-foot home was built in 1955 and features a fireplace, step-down living room, and a covered back patio. The 7,432-square-foot lot includes an attached two-car garage and a swimming pool. Asking price is $619,500.

Brightly colored living room
Kitchen looking into dining area
Dark bedroom
Huge walk-in closetVia Rebekah Schwartz Sklar, Hilton & Hyland

↑ This West Hollywood condo offers two bedrooms and two full baths—in addition to some very bold interior design choices. The 1,193-square-foot unit has black hardwood floors, a mosaic tile bathroom, and a massive walk-in closet in the master bedroom. Building amenities include a pool and parking spot. Asking price is $619,000.