Fancy Erewhon market is headed to Downtown LA’s South Park

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Inside a landmarked parking structure once used by May Co.

The ground-floor space of a former May Company parking garage in Downtown Los Angeles is set to be transformed into the future home of a new Erewhon market, says a release from the health-food store chain.

The high-end store already has locations in Venice, Beverly Hills, and Calabasas.

Markwood Enterprises, which owns the building, plans to restore the roughly 9,500-square-foot ground-floor space and put the market inside.

“The original location of the space at Ninth and Hill was built as a drug store, and we’re [excited] to reinvent the building through Erewhon’s focus on healing and preserving the body through natural ingredients,” Tony Antoci, CEO of Erewhon Market, said in a statement.

The six-story structure was built in 1927 and designed by Beelman & Curlett, the architects of the Park Plaza Hotel in Westlake and Downtown’s Garfield Building. The garage was built so that May Company customers could park close to the store near Eighth and Hill, now known as the Broadway Trade Center.

The Broadway Trade Center is in the midst of a major renovation and is slated to become a massive mixed-use project that will bring a hotel, a Grand Central Market-style food hall, a private club, multiple bars, and retail to the neighborhood.

 Courtesy of UCLA Library Archives

The old May Company garage was “one of the first of its kind to be constructed in Los Angeles at a time when the Auto culture was booming,” according to the structure’s application for historic-cultural landmark status.

There’s no official timeline for the project yet, though a spokesperson for Erewhon tells Curbed that the new Erewhon location in Santa Monica, announced in July, would open before this one.

Is the Los Angeles Times moving to this horribly outdated vision of a newsroom?

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Tronc commissioned a bizarre design proposal to relocate to Aon Center and is also considering Playa Vista

After the acquisition of the Los Angeles Times by media conglomerate Tronc in 2016, the iconic Los Angeles Times Building was sold to Canadian developers Onni, who will likely turn it into condos and retail space. So what will happen to the LA Times’ newsroom?

LA Times reporters have uncovered two potential scenarios that Tronc is entertaining, neither of which sound particularly appealing.

In a blog post by the Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee, a group of employees working to unionize, a group of unnamed LA Times reporters says Tronc is “actively looking at the Westside as a possible future location,” with potential sites being considered in Santa Monica or Playa del Rey, including Playa Vista.

The reporters also uncovered that Tronc had commissioned an interior design proposal for moving to the 62-story Aon Center in Downtown.

An LA Times spokesperson denied a deal had been made for a move to the Aon Center in July, but reporters are still worried. They recently dug up a concept study prepared in May by Culver City-based Wolcott Architecture to convert floors 11, 12, 13, 55, and 56 into LA Times office space. (Tronc has a deal to lease two floors of space in the Times Building back from Onni through June 2018.)

In a letter to Ross Levinsohn, the publisher of the LA Times, the Guild’s organizers explain why both moves would be problematic.

The 28-page Aon Center proposal is deemed “alarming” in the Guild’s letter, namely because it was prepared without the input of journalists. Executives would have private offices in “lavish penthouse accommodations” which include a “game room and tricked-out helipad” while journalists are relegated to lower floors and cramped communal work tables with lockers for personal belongings.

That helipad would actually be functional, according to the proposal, which says that people will arrive at the building via the roof: “After landing in the helicopter, people have the choice of staying on the roof to mingle or progressing down the stairs to the concierge area.”

Other features of the proposal are not as much alarming as they are dated, like graffiti murals, signature coffee cups, an Apple store-esque Genius Bar, and branded uniforms. Wait—uniforms!?

Reached by phone, Jenniffer Haberlin, who is listed on the proposal as senior project manager, said, “I don’t know anything about it.”

In the same letter, the Guild’s organizing committee builds a case against a move to the Westside, which would not only make it more difficult for journalists to report on City Hall and other government agencies headquartered Downtown, it would also have a significant impact on employees’ housing costs and commute times.

LA Times journalists calculated how many hours per day would be devoted to traveling to the new office if it were hypothetically moved to Santa Monica:

We did a detailed analysis of commute times for newsroom staffers, based on their home addresses and Google traffic data. It determined that nearly 90% of the staff would spend more time driving to and from work if The Times moved to, for example, Santa Monica. In the morning, the average drive beginning at 9:15 a.m. would jump from the current 37 minutes to more than an hour. Roughly the same would occur for the evening drive, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Employees whose commutes start closer to the thick of the rush would be in traffic even longer. And for staffers who use mass transit, daily round-trip commutes would shoot up from 2 hours and 35 minutes to more than four hours.

Maybe a helipad for commuting journalists would come in handy there.

If a move makes reporting on local government harder for LA Times journalists, everyone in Los Angeles should care. There is a dearth of LA news right now in the wake of layoffs at the LA Times, the shuttering of LAist, and the gutting of the masthead at the LA Weekly.

Levinsohn did not confirm any decisions being made by the Los Angeles Times but he responded to the Guild’s request for comment. “Thanks for taking the time and effort to research and write the note regarding your concerns about our business going forward,” he wrote in a statement. “When the time is right for the company to communicate our go-forward strategy, including our current lease situation, I will do my best to do so in the right setting.”

In June of 2016, Levinsohn purchased a $3.35 million home in Brentwood.

Results from the Los Angeles Times Guild’s vote to unionize are expected next week.

State committee rejects bill to expand rent control options for California cities

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Opponents said it would discourage development

A state assembly committee voted Thursday to reject a bill with broad implications for the ability of California cities to impose rent control restrictions on local landlords.

The bill would have repealed the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which exempts newly constructed housing from rent control laws and prevents cities from limiting a landlord’s ability to raise rents on a unit after a tenant moves out.

Hundreds of residents from across California packed the Capitol building to speak for and against the measure—so many that the committee had to restrict public comment to a simple yes or no statement.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica, who authored the bill, told the committee that a repeal would not create “statewide rent control,” but would simply provide local governments with the power to make their own rules.

But opponents of the bill argued that cities would use this freedom to impose legislation that would hurt landlords and steer developers away from markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles, where the housing supply is slim.

“Repealing Costa Hawkins does not help the housing crisis,” said Assemblymember Marc Steinorth of Rancho Cucamonga, “it perhaps exacerbates it.”

Bloom acknowledged concerns of other assemblymembers, but he said the bill was simply one step toward addressing a statewide shortage of affordable housing.

“I don’t think there’s one bill that eliminates the problem,” he said.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta of Oakland, a co-author of the bill, agreed, adding that cities should be allowed to preserve affordable housing however they see fit.

“We ought not to deprive our local leaders with a tool that they can use to protect their tenants,” he said.

But Assemblymember Ed Chau of Monterey Park said a repeal was “too risky” and abstained from voting (the bill received was one vote shy of the four votes it needed to clear the committee).

The bill was introduced in February of last year, but Bloom put it on hold after landlords cried foul. In October, tenant advocate groups, along with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, brought the issue back into the public spotlight when they proposed a ballot initiative that would repeal Costa Hawkins without the help of state lawmakers.

That measure may now be the best chance to reverse the restrictions imposed by the law, despite assurances by Committee Chair David Chiu that debate over statewide rent control policies would continue regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Chiu, another co-author of the bill, argued that California’s housing crisis had become so severe that new construction alone could not address the immediate concerns of the people affected by it.

“We have a crisis today,” he said.

First look at planned redevelopment of William Pereira’s former MWD complex on Sunset

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The 5.5-acre Echo Park site would hold residential, retail, offices, and a boutique hotel

Developer Palisades Capital Partners released its first renderings today of a big mixed-user planned for the eastern edge of Echo Park, on Sunset and Beaudry.

The new project—a mix of open space, a hotel, and hundreds of new apartments—will replace the former headquarters of Metropolitan Water District, designed by modernist William Pereira, the architect also responsible for the original LACMA buildings.

One of the low-rise buildings will look pretty similar the original Pereira architecture, with groovy screens that mimic those that once covered Pereira’s buildings. Another nod to Pereira is water features. His original MWD buildings floated above fountains and pools, symbols of the water district’s role in the growth of Los Angeles.

Periera’s buildings and the Holy Hill Community Church sanctuary that was added to the site after MWD moved out will all be torn down to make way for Palisades’s development.

It will hold a 17-story boutique hotel and 778 apartments (“a mix of market-rate and affordable”) in new low-rise buildings and two new high-rises that reach heights of 49 stories and 31 stories, respectively. The project design team includes Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, and Natoma Architects.

Palisades’s 5.5-acre project would also bring over two acres of open space to the site, including terraces, courtyards, water features, and gardens designed by James Corner Field Operations, the landscape architect behind the High Line in New York.

Those two towers will be raised up on podiums, “allowing pedestrians at eye-level to enjoy views of the Downtown skyline,” says an announcement from Palisades. “Neighborhood-serving retail” will face Sunset, while “new pedestrian access points along the perimeter of the site.”

The developers submitted an application for the project to the city today.

The back of the project, off Sunset.

1912 apartment building on Venice Boardwalk up for landmark status

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It’s one of the oldest complexes in Venice

Among the souvenir shops, cannabis “clinics,” and tech startups that line the Venice Beach Boardwalk are a handful of century-old structures dating back to the neighborhood’s beginnings as a resort community dubbed Venice of America by entrepreneurial developer Abbot Kinney.

One of those buildings may now be on its way to landmark status.

A four-story apartment complex-turned-hotel, the Potter building (now doing business as Venice Beach Suites & Hotel) is up for review next week by Los Angeles’s Cultural Heritage Commission.

Built in 1912, the structure is one of the oldest remaining apartment buildings in Venice, according to a staff report on the nomination.

Constructed in a Neoclassical style, with a brick exterior covered over with stucco siding, it’s also one of a small number of buildings remaining from the neighborhood’s early days as a popular tourist destination. (The report notes that many of these structures were demolished during the redevelopment efforts of the 1960s.)

potter building exteriorVia Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission
The building seen in 2017.

The complex was renovated in 2014, but it retains many vintage details, such as brick walls, original moldings, and hardwood floors. The building’s original elevator is also still intact, complete with a birdcage-style sliding metal gate and planked flooring.

According to the landmark application, submitted by the building’s owner, the Los Angeles Times described the structure upon its completion as “modern and substantial,” further declaring it a “substantial improvement for the Venice shorefront.”

The Cultural Heritage Commission will decide whether to recommend the property for landmark status at its January 18 meeting.

Potter elevatorVia Los Angeles Cultural Heritage Commission
Original Otis elevator.

846-square-foot Mt. Washington cottage asks $639K

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Transit-friendly and charming

Here’s a sweet, albeit tiny, spot in marvelous Mt. Washington. The character-rich, Spanish Colonial-style home was built in 1932 and features wood floors, a decorative fireplace, wood-beamed ceilings, and board-and-batten molding.

In its sunny 847 square feet, it packs two bedrooms, one bathroom, and a sun room. Its small kitchen sports butcher block countertops and a petite breakfast nook.

The property also comes with a wood deck shaded by a Chinese elm, and it’s just a .2-mile walk from the Gold Line’s Southwest Museum Station.

Last sold in 2007 for $405,004, it’s now asking $639,000.

Airy Atwater Village bungalow seeking a buyer for $1M

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Featuring hardwood floors and vaulted ceilings

This Atwater Village bungalow is surprisingly spacious, with four bedrooms and four bathrooms spread across 2,214 square feet of living space. A tall, vaulted ceiling in the living room makes the place look even roomier.

Built in 1924, the house was updated in 2012, after selling for just $410,000. It’s changed hands twice since then and is now returning to the market with a bit of fresh paint and new appliances.

Interior features of the home include hardwood floors, built-in shelving, a breakfast bar, and French doors leading out to a very pleasant-looking, pergola-shaded patio currently equipped with a grill and outdoor seating.

The house is fronted with a large, shaded porch bounded by a neatly landscaped garden. It sits on a 6,998-square-foot lot, with an attached two-car garage and tall privacy hedges bordering a small outdoor space with a fire pit.

Asking price is $999,000.

Living room with vaulted ceiling
Kitchen
Breakfast bar with French doors beyond
Bedroom with view down hall
Office with bookshelves
Patio space

New Hollywood Boulevard crosswalk proposed in Los Feliz

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Right in the heart of the neighborhood’s burgeoning restaurant row

A new crosswalk may be on the way to a busy stretch of Hollywood Boulevard as it bends through Los Feliz.

Proposed for the intersection of Hollywood and Rodney Drive, the crosswalk was requested by business owners around the site, according to Tony Arranaga, spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell.

That’s a surprising turn of events, given that just two years ago, the East Hollywood Business Improvement District actually proposed removing the crosswalks around Vermont Triangle—just a block to the west.

Since then, much-hyped eateries Go Get Em Tiger and McConnell’s Ice Cream have joined popular breakfast taco spot HomeState on the south side of the intersection. Arranaga says the goal of the crossing would be to provide safe access for pedestrians crossing to and from the opposite side of Hollywood Boulevard, which houses a familiar Goodwill and the venerable La Luz de Jesus art gallery.

In 2016, the Los Feliz Neighborhood Council requested five new crosswalks in the area, including one at Hollywood and Rodney, where the council wrote it was “becoming common to see people running across the street at unmarked crossings.”

The council also requested that the crosswalk be supplemented with a HAWK beacon, which would alert motorists during pedestrian crossings.

It’s not clear whether that’s still on the table, but a meeting to discuss the potential change will be held at 6 p.m. today—though we’re told space will be limited.

Arranaga says O’Farrell “supports improving pedestrian safety” in the area and is now seeking funds to make that happen.

Santa Monica moving forward with plan to cap 10 freeway near downtown area

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Capping the freeway would create a new link between the downtown and civic center areas

A years-old proposal to cap the 10 freeway near its Santa Monica terminus is part of a plan that will soon be considered by the city of Santa Monica, reports the Santa Monica Lookout.

According to a report prepared for the Santa Monica City Council, the Gateway Master Plan will address planning in the area “adjacent to the I-10 Freeway that links Downtown to the Civic Center” and to Santa Monica High School, and it could include covering the freeway with decking that could create new space for a park.

“This key location should become an experience that reflects the city’s values of community, sustainability and pride of place,” the report says.

Previous reports on capping the park had explored extending the McClure Tunnel and covering the 10 freeway from Fourth Street to Ocean Avenue.

The new staff report says the Gateway Master Plan offers “a unique opportunity for strengthening connections over the freeway right of way.” It also says the cap park would be a way to offer “an enlarged green space for outdoor enjoyment” where there previously was none.

By removing the visual and physical barrier between the city’s downtown and its civic center area, the park could create a new link between the two sections of the city. The report also notes that by providing access to “peripheral parking opportunities,” the park might be able to reduce car congestion in the city’s downtown.

The process of realizing the Gateway Master Plan would be “an open process facilitated by staff, and include participation from the community, land owners and decision-makers as priorities for the area are refined.” The report indicates city staff would like to get moving on the plan in the first half of this year.

The idea to top the freeway with a park was first proposed in 1996, says the Lookout.

The Gateway Master Plan is one of seven projects that city staff recommends prioritizing, including a neighborhood plan for development in the area around Memorial Park and a similar plan for the Pico neighborhood.

Kagel Canyon: Tight-knit before and after the Creek Fire

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How a tiny town fought a wildfire without fire hydrants

The Hideaway Bar and Grill, a century-old Western-themed watering hole tucked into the base of Angeles National Forest, is packed from wall to wall with locals.

It’s a Saturday night in December, and a rockabilly band plays in the front room, where couples twirl and head-bang under twinkling Christmas lights and paper icicles and a crowd gathers around the pool table in the back room over heaping plates of ribs and coleslaw. Every seat is filled at the wood-paneled bar, which is adorned with horseshoes, antique pistols, and signs, including one that reads: “Gun safety rule #1: carry one.”


The mood is so jovial that if it weren’t for the volunteers collecting cash donations at the door and new or gently used clothing in the motorcycle-lined parking lot, you might never guess that tonight is a relief fundraiser for the Creek Fire. The blaze devastated the neighborhood less than two weeks ago, burning more than 15,000 acres and destroying dozens of homes.

Even to many people in Los Angeles, Kagel Canyon and the surrounding mountain communities of Lopez Canyon and Little Tujunga were unknown neighborhoods before the Creek Fire thrust them into the national spotlight.

“We were always happy that nobody knew where Kagel Canyon was,” says Barbara Hansen, a retired recruiter. Since 2003, she and her husband, Jim Vincent, a former creative director at NBC, have lived in a Depression-era house built around an oak tree that pokes through the roof.

“It’s quiet. People love it. It’s a very small town,” she says. “You either have a horse or a Harley.” She pauses and points to a friend in the parking lot of The Hideaway. “He’s our handyman, in the leather jacket.”

Everyone knows each other at The Hideaway, a former general store with a wooden exterior lined with wagon wheels and towering San Pedro cacti.

The Hideaway Bar and Grill.

Rumored to have been a hangout for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club, it served as the backdrop for film shoots for everything from Dukes of Hazzard to Willie Nelson music videos to episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. The bar hosts live music or karaoke four nights a week. It feels like the kind of place that only exists in rural mountain communities—not one located just outside the Los Angeles city boundary, about a mile east of the 210 freeway.

The surrounding neighborhood is just as tight-knit. Outsiders are often viewed with skepticism. Some disdain the “Eagle Rock hipsters” who have been known to crash the neighborhood’s square-dancing events or show up to The Hideaway wearing cowboy costumes.

Eddie Conna, a former Hollywood stuntman, sits at a picnic table on the back patio nursing a drink. Like many of his neighbors, a number of whom are likewise anchored to Los Angeles because of their jobs in the entertainment industry, Conna spent years bouncing around the San Fernando Valley—first in Chatsworth, home to boulder-covered Stoney Point park, and later in North Hollywood, which he says was far too suburban for his taste—before discovering Kagel Canyon.

Seven years ago, he stumbled upon a ramshackle 418-square-foot cottage located on 266 acres. It was for sale at “a ridiculously insanely stupid price,” he says, and he snatched up the property, which he shares today with his girlfriend and five dogs.

“We’re never in the house,” he says. “We sleep and eat in the house, and the rest of the time we’re hiking in the national forest or we’re off doing stuff.”

The best way to understand Kagel Canyon is to read the fliers hanging on the giant bulletin board posted at its entrance.

Residents air concerns, share information about community meetings and services, and send messages to one another that range from passive aggressive to compassionate and helpful: “Whoever borrowed my two heavy duty four foot hoses, I understand it was an emergency, but now that the worst is over, it would be really nice if you could return it. Thank you.” Another advertises a 2018 calendar designed by a local artist, and several more show photos of lost and found cats and dogs (“Found at 7-11: Sweet pit bull mix”). One massive sign thanks the firefighters for their work.

“We’re like a dysfunctional family,” says Conna. “When things are going fine we all tear into each other, but when shit hits the fan, and we all have to cover each other, we all look out for each other.”

Deer congregate at a local cemetery.

In a neighborhood where cell service is scarce, the bulletin board functions like a physical version of a private Facebook community, although there’s one of those, too. It’s maintained by neighbors who use it to share moment-by-moment news and gossip with each other.

The only rule in the Facebook community, Conna says, is that members keep their political views to themselves. They tend to be divisive, in a place with multiple shooting ranges, minimal government oversight, Bernie Sanders signs on front lawns, and Donald Trump stickers on pick-up trucks.

“There’s a chunk of libertarians up here, and we have our people who are Hillary types,” says Conna.

But the defining characteristic of most residents, he says, is that they all want to live near nature. Or, at least, “they think they want to live near nature until they start living near nature, and then they start freaking out about what living near nature really means: coyotes, peacocks, mountain lions, bobcats, deer, and fires that rage through and periodically burn half the fucking canyon down.”

The Creek Fire reduced homes in Kagle Canyon to rubble.

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, Kagel Canyon has always been home to an insular community, one in which far-flung, individualist neighbors often had to prove themselves before earning each other’s friendship.

Henry Kagel, a settler for whom the canyon was named, constructed its first residential home—which is still inhabited today—out of adobe in roughly 1900. Another founding member of the neighborhood, a beekeeper and guitarist named Nathaniel Wheaton Dexter, moved there in 1909, when his brother Anthony purchased a lemon grove.

In a typewritten Los Angeles County document now framed on the wall of the Dexter Park recreation center, Dexter recalled his first impression of the neighborhood: “There was no road or entrance to the canyon, nothing in sight all over the valley except a few ranches miles apart and extremely large. Just a wild country anyway you looked. Quiet, beautiful hills, wonderful air, and only a half dozen or so homes.”

Dexter’s first encounter with Kagel wasn’t exactly neighborly:

One day, my brother and I decided we would walk up the canyon and see what was near us. We had only started up when Mr. Kegel [sic] came out of his small adobe cabin and stood with a long rifle in his hand, saying nothing. We had heard he would stop anyone going up his canyon because of his fear of fire…

When we returned down the canyon there was Mr. Kegel [sic] with a rifle, waiting. Finally he said, ‘Would you boys like some fruit?’ We had made a friend and he invited us to return at any time,” The more Dexter explored beyond its tall grass, the more the area materialized as a “a dreamland of oak trees, each with a woodrat net around the base and with their burnt black, drooping branches that reached to the ground.” He also wrote that he believed there was a Native American burial ground located just below the park, “as I one time found part of a stone pestle… and also a three-pronged wisdom tooth—Indian according to my dentist.

The next several years marked a period of slow growth. The first water rights were claimed in 1915, the discovery of graphite in the canyon led to the production of a mining company in 1918, and, that same year, a forest fire burned much of the canyon and destroyed its Douglas firs.

When Kagel and the few other residents in the area weren’t fearing fires, they had to worry about rain, which created massive mudslides that washed out the clearings. By 1928, the canyon still only had about 15 permanent residents, many of whom were lured to the area by jobs in forestry and agriculture, according to a history written by resident Ralph Vradenburg in 1969.

The 1930s saw the formation of the Kagel Canyon Civic Association, the installation of a water system of wells purchased with a Works Progress Administration bond, the founding of a nondenominational church, and the dedication of Dexter Park, the land for which was donated to the county by its namesake. In the 1950s and ’60s, Kagel Canyon was marketed to city dwellers as a pastoral resort community; one advertisement billed it as “one of the most beautiful and romantic spots in Southern California.”

That may be true, but Kagel Canyon has also been badly hit by a number of natural disasters, including the deadly 1971 Sylmar-San Fernando Earthquake, which leveled dozens of homes.

By 2010, its ZIP code—which includes Sylmar, Lake View Terrace, swaths of the Angeles National Forest, and parts of Santa Clarita—boasted more than 91,000 residents, according to federal census data, but the population of just the canyons alone is considerably smaller. (A 2000 estimate put the population of Kagel and Lopez canyons at roughly 700.)

The Kagel Canyon Civic Association last year, for example, claimed just over 150 members. Its central meeting place is Dexter Park, which still serves as a site for community dances and sporting events, civic meetings, and, the Sunday after the fundraiser at The Hideaway, a clothing drive for victims of the Creek Fire.

There are no sidewalks or or sewers in Kagel Canyon, and residents rely on well water.

At 3:09 a.m. on December 5, Susan Friend-Letourneur and her husband Nelson Letourneur were wakened by a phone call. Letourneur worried it could be his family calling with urgent news from South Africa. But when he picked up the phone, there was nobody on the other line. No number was listed.

The couple—who had met in Kagel Canyon, when they moved in across the street from one another nearly 20 years earlier—went back to bed. Neither could fall asleep.

Thirty minutes later, Friend-Letourneur smelled smoke. She and Letourneur walked outside to find the bright orange glow of flames racing toward their property, an 11-acre horse ranch called Goldspirit Farms.

They rushed inside to call their neighbors using an emergency one-call system set up by the Kagel Canyon Civic Association, then packed up their nine cats and secured the house. They turned on all the lights so firefighters could spot the home. They opened up their front gate so emergency vehicles could pass through. They placed wet towels along the doorways to keep the smoke out.

It was a routine they’d already mastered. They had done it during the deadly Sand Fire, which scorched parts of Kagel Canyon the summer before, and the destructive Marek Fire, which ravaged nearly 5,000 acres in 2008.

The Creek Fire was worse. Exacerbated by dry Santa Ana winds that reached speeds of 80 miles per hour in some parts of the mountains, the blaze burned rapidly and took more than 2.5 weeks to fully contain.

“If we hadn’t woken up, I mean, I don’t know what would’ve happened,” says Friend-Letourneur.

Left: Susan Friend-Letourneur. Center: The Hideaway. Right: “Trash.”

Ron Haley, a white-bearded Vietnam War veteran better known to friends and neighbors as Trash—a nickname he gave to himself back when he frequently got into bar fights—moved to Kagel Canyon after his release from prison “for this, that, and the other thing” in 1989, drawn to its mountains and its quiet.

Among the locals, he’s best known for playing Santa Claus at the neighborhood’s annual Christmas party. When the Creek Fire erupted, Trash jumped on his motorcycle and started “honking my horn like a fool and screaming at people” to get them out of the house.

He thought for sure his own “little shanty” would be turned to rubble. When he found out it was spared, “the euphoria that just poured over me, it was mind-boggling,” he says. “Because my wife’s ashes are in there. Not really much else I cared about.”

Conna, meanwhile, woke up to the smell of smoke. He threw on his respirator, goggles, and the fire-resistant Nomex suit he wore to drive racecars and sprang into action, working to hook up a neighbor’s garden hose to help spray down the flames in the lower canyon.

“Everybody was playing a different part. The people on East Trail and West Trail, they have a great view of everything, so a lot of these people were basically calling in spot fires [to the fire department],” he says. “They’d look over and say, ‘Hey, we see a spot smoking.’ Or they’d relay a message and go, ‘Hey, Eddie, what’s the house two houses down from you, what’s the street number?’”

Because the Los Angeles firefighters were already stretched thin battling other wildfires in the area, many of the crews who responded to the Creek Fire were from other cities and had no familiarity with the rugged terrain. It’s dotted with hairpin turns on two-lane dirt roads and winding mountain routes tiny enough for only motorcycles or dirt bikes to pass through.

“They didn’t know where addresses were. They didn’t know where streets were,” Conna says.

Then there was the challenge of infrastructure. “When these guys got to Upper Kagel, they said, ‘Where are the fire hydrants?’” Conna recalls. “My neighbors up there who stayed were like, ‘We don’t have fire hydrants. We’re all on wells or trucked water.’ And they’re like, ‘What?’”

The neighborhood’s reliance on well water is far from its only idiosyncratic, seemingly anachronistic quirk. There are no sidewalks or sewers, and because it’s located just outside the Los Angeles city limits, the community relies on a family-run trash service that operates out of a converted pick-up truck.

“There was one point when the county was trying to get the big automated trash trucks [up here] and we were like, ‘It would be a disaster. You can barely get fire trucks around here.’ So there was a big letter-writing campaign, and it was defeated,” says Chris Ahern, a director at the Kagel Canyon Civic Association. Ahern, who on a recent Sunday volunteered at the clothing drive at Dexter Park, works as a gaffer in the entertainment industry and has lived in Kagel Canyon with his wife and kids since 2004.

“It’s great because we know our trash men and we know our mailman, Carlos,” he says. “We just know all these people. Like, anywhere else in Los Angeles, you’re not going to know your trash man. It’s ridiculous, right?”

To many residents, that sense of community makes the looming threat of disaster—from fires to mudslides to earthquakes—well worth the risk of living in an isolated canyon.

“A lot of my friends, when they found out what was going on, they’re like, ‘Why do you even live there? You should move,’” says Ahern. “And more than ever, I love this canyon. The way this canyon came together and always does.”

Editor: Jenna Chandler

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West spent $20M renovating the home they just moved into

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The couple spent years on a thorough remodel

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West sure like to remodel. After spending years renovating a Bel Air mansion (it sold late last year for $17.8 million), the power couple has now sunk an astonishing $20 million into an overhaul of their Hidden Hills estate, reports TMZ.

That’s more or less equal to what West and Kardashian West paid for the house in 2014. At that time, it was a humble 15,000-square-foot mansion sitting on three acres with vineyards and a pair of swimming pools.

Since then, the grounds have been completely re-landscaped and several additions have been completed, giving the home a larger master bedroom and a recording studio.

It seems the work has paid off. Not only has the couple finally moved into the home, but a recent appraisal pegs its value at an impressive $60 million, according to TMZ.

Kardashian West and West also have a new neighbor; Kris Jenner, matriarch of the Kardashian clan, purchased the house across the street last month for $9.9 million.

Hollywood Palladium-adjacent mixed-user would bring 270 apartments to Sunset Boulevard

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Could be built by 2021

The Hollywood Palladium’s mixed-use neighbor is starting to take shape.

A draft environmental impact report published Thursday by the city’s planning department reveals new renderings of the project, which is slated to bring 270 apartments and about 12,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space to the site on Sunset Boulevard and El Centro—right across the street from the Palladium.

The development’s studio, one-, and two-bedroom apartments will range in size from 522 square feet to 1,206 square feet. Resident amenities would include a pool, a gym, a screening room, and a roof deck.

The project, designed by Steinberg Architects, also aims to promote pedestrian activity by adding wide sidewalks and “a 1,480 square foot retail plaza” at the halfway point of its Sunset Boulevard frontage.

The draft impact report projects a 26-month construction period for the project, with completion expected in 2021.

What will LA homebuyers face in 2018?

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Rising prices and plenty of competition

In 2017, Los Angeles housing prices shattered records, reaching previously unseen heights and eclipsing prices seen in the run-up to the 2007 mortgage crisis.

Does that mean we’re in a real estate bubble?

Not necessarily. A recent report from real estate tracker CoreLogic noted that prices across all of Southern California are still 13 percent below their pre-recession peak, when adjusted for inflation.

The company further predicts that prices in LA County will shoot up a hefty 6.4 percent before the end of the year.

Eric Sussman, adjunct professor of real estate and accounting at UCLA, finds that prediction “bullish,” but says there’s little reason to believe prices will bottom out anytime soon.

He says a lack of supply—rather than the risky lending practices that fueled the bubble of a decade ago—is keeping prices high.

“There are just not that many homes on the market,” Sussman says, noting that a strong rental market may be encouraging some owners to hang on to their properties.

So far, a countywide median sale price well over $500,000 doesn’t seem to be deterring buyers.

“Demand continues to be very high,” says realtor Tracy Do, with Compass. Do says that home shoppers looking for anything under $1 million should “be prepared for competition—be prepared for heartbreak.”

She mentions that, even during the holiday season, when buyers tend to be busy with family events, two of her clients received double digit offers on their properties.

Richard Haynes, a broker with Manhattan Pacific Realty, tells Curbed that buyer interest in higher-end properties has begun to cool, but that younger buyers are fueling a particularly hot market for more affordable properties.

“Lower quartile prices keep rising,” he says. “There’s just too much demand.”

Tom Lind, an agent with Nationwide Real Estate Executives who specializes in Mid-City real estate, expects the value of area homes to keep climbing in the coming year.

“A home on the market now may be selling for $50,000 more six months from now,” he says. “The sooner you can get into the game, the better off you are.”

How long will home values keep climbing? It’s a question that Sussman finds difficult to answer.

“Trees can only grow so high,” he says, noting that more and more residents are being priced out of the market.

“How does the middle class buy a house here?” he wonders.

Lind, however, insists the market isn’t as inaccessible as it may seem.

“Don’t assume you can’t afford anything,” he says, noting that clients are often unaware of what they can buy before sitting down with a lender.

“Once they see what their purchasing power is,” he says, “they’re often pleasantly surprised.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean first-time buyers should expect to land the home of their dreams. Lind says they’ll have to be ready to enter bidding wars and be willing to take on a bit of extra legwork—researching the market and being prepared to jump at the right opportunity.

“You almost have to treat it as a second job,” Lind says.

Buyers “will get there,” says Do, but they may have to adjust their expectations.

“Your first home doesn’t have to be your last home,” she points out.

Handsome 1959 Buff and Hensman post and beam in Cahuenga Pass seeks $2.65M

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We’re digging the pool

In the Cahuenga Pass area of the Hollywood Hills, this wonderful midcentury modern house sits on a promontory overlooking the canyon and beyond.

Designed by Buff and Hensman, and built in 1959, it still has the open spaces, walls of glass, and gorgeous post and beam elements associated with the era.

It has been touched up since the ’50s, with its three bathrooms and kitchen sporting modern updates. A 2002 expansion of the the house stayed on brand: The addition was helmed by Buff, Hensman, and Smith.

Other standout features include an inner atrium and an outdoor pool, a serene spot behind the house, with landscaping that gives the spot a private and hidden look.

The property last sold in 2014 for $2.2 million. It’s listed now for $2.65 million.

Could rents in LA finally be coming down?

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Is that even an option?

Rents in Los Angeles County are likely to rise about 2.9 percent in 2018, to an average monthly price of $1,840, according to real estate company CoStar.

That’s less than the 3.2 percent bump in prices seen over the past year, and considerably below the 6 percent uptick in prices that LA renters weathered in 2015.

CoStar Senior Market Analyst Steve Basham tells Curbed that prices aren’t growing nearly as quickly as they have been, partly because construction of new housing has picked up.

Between 2009 and 2013, less than 11,000 units were built in LA County. In the four years since then, that number has grown to nearly 27,000. CoStar projects that close to 22,000 additional units will be completed over the next two years.

All that new supply should keep rent increases fairly manageable across the LA area.

But will it be enough to make rental prices drop? Quite possibly, says Eric Sussman, adjunct professor of real estate and accounting at UCLA.

“It would not surprise me if rents are flat or even begin decreasing by 2019,” Sussman says (CoStar predicts a modest 2.2 percent increase in that year).

Part of the reason for that, he explains, is that Los Angeles rents are already so high.

“You can’t have rental rates continuously outpacing inflation and wages. At some point something has to give,” says Sussman. “A huge number of people are spending 50 percent of their income on rent. That is not sustainable.”

Indeed, a recent analysis from Apartment List indicated that nearly 60 percent of renters in Los Angeles are cost-burdened, meaning that they devote more than 30 percent of their income toward housing. About one-third of renters spend half their income on rent, according to the study.

The city’s dire need for affordable housing may dampen the excitement over a potential drop in overall rental prices for many residents. Even if all the new housing being built causes rents to flatten out, it’s not likely to move the needle much for those struggling to make ends meet.

Part of that is because most new housing being built is aimed at higher earners.

In Downtown LA, for instance, where development is booming, average monthly rents are roughly $700 higher than they are countywide, according to CoStar.

“You need to be making $100,000 to afford what’s being built Downtown,” says Basham. “It’s all fancy gyms and swimming pools.”

A host of local policy changes aimed at bolstering LA’s supply of affordable housing could help—a little.

Recently approved fees on developers will fund future low-income housing, and new incentives meant to promote affordable housing construction near transit are already proving popular with builders.

But Sussman says such programs may just be a drop in the bucket.

“Those changes are so marginal,” he says. “You’re still going to have [the same] problems.”

We never said renting in LA was easy.

Echo Park mixed-user on Sunset Boulevard slowing inching forward

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The project at Sunset and Everett has been in the works for over four years

It’s been a while since we heard from an Echo Park project—a relatively large one for this neighborhood—that has been in the works for at least four years. But the silence is over.

Last week, the planning department published the development’s final environmental impact report, signaling some forward movement on what was once called Sunset Gateway.

The project, which is called Sunset Everett in planning documents, is slated to rise on a long, roughly 2.5-acre property along Sunset Boulevard at Everett Street.

It would replace the former Reliable Do It Center hardware store with 204 studio, one-, and two-bedrooms apartments across two buildings rising four and five stories, respectively.

The design by KTGY Architecture + Planning calls for rooftop terraces and balconies for residents, as well as shared open space.

The new development would hold over 11,300 square feet of retail space on its ground floor and six small-lot homes, set to rise along Everett Street. The small-lot homes would have a total of 12 parking spaces; the apartment building would have 294 parking spots, plus parking for 232 bicycles. This is more parking and considerably more retail space than the last version of the project we saw in 2014.

Though there’s no official start date in the report, Canadian developers Aragon Properties do anticipate a 21-month construction period.

 
 
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