Homeless residents want permission to camp at Echo Park Lake

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By Jenna Chandler

Camp residents are asking Mitch O’Farrell to relax enforcement of city rules that ban camping in public parks

Homeless residents camping in Echo Park Lake are attempting to broker a deal with Los Angeles City Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell that would allow them to stay there with fewer interactions with the police and interruptions from cleanup crews.

The group of approximately 60 residents secured a small victory when—after a tense standoff this morning that involved residents kneeling and chanting in front of their tents—city crews allowed them to keep their tents in the park as sanitation workers bagged trash around them.

“They’re trying to evict us,” said Davon Brown, 29, who’s been living at the park for about four months. “We’re here taking a stand.”

In the letter entitled “Dear Mitch, Please Don’t Evict Us,” the residents say they many of them have lived and worked in O’Farrell’s district for more than a decade.

“What we need and what we desire is to create a solution within this city council district, our home,” the letter reads. “We hope you understand what this lake means to us—this has become our home in what is one of the darkest times of most of our lives.”

Camp residents are asking O’Farrell to relax enforcement of city rules that ban camping in public parks. They want to be able to store their tents at the park, but are willing to take them down during the day between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. if they have permission to sleep in the park overnight.

Scheduled weekly cleanings are “clearly an attempt to evict us,” said Jed Parriott, an organizer with Street Watch LA.

In exchange for the city halting what residents call “frequent and unpredictable” cleanups, the residents say they will volunteer to participate in tasks like “trash collection, gardening, sweeping, beautification projects, maintenance, bathroom cleaning” to keep the park clean.

At one point during the protest, residents read a list of their demands to Los Angeles Police Department officers, who replied that enforcement of cleanup policies is up to the city’s sanitation department, not them.

“I can not commit to not enforcing the law… [but] I guarantee I will work with you, and will try to come up with some sort of solution. Next week, we’ll sit down and hear your grievances, but it’s going to be just us,” said deputy chief Vito Palazzolo. “I can’t guarantee park rangers or anyone else.”

Because Echo Park Lake is a city-owned park, cleanups are also conducted by the city’s recreation and parks department.

Earlier this week, a City Council committee confirmed that a cleanup program that was previously focused on outreach and services is now back under the jurisdiction of the sanitation department—with councilmembers making the call on when and where cleanups would happen.

O’Farrell was not present at this morning’s cleanup. After the protest, residents and activists marched up to his Sunset Boulevard office chanting “services, not sweeps.” Staffers were observed inside the office but did not open the door.

Signs placed on the windows by protesters read “Y’all know this is cruel” and “Where do we go.”

Asked if O’Farrell was willing to work with the camp residents to reach some sort of compromise about how the rules are enforced, a spokesperson for the councilmember did not comment.

But he did supply a statement from O’Farrell that says: “All city parks must be kept clean, safe, and accessible for people of all ages and income levels. People who are experiencing homelessness at Echo Park Lake will continue to be offered services while we work on securing temporary indoor shelter and ultimately permanent housing.”

Many homeless residents across the city say camping on the streets is their only option. The city doesn’t have enough shelter beds to house the over 36,300 people estimated to be experiencing homelessness. Earlier this week, the state of California promised 30 trailers to be used as shelter even though local laws severely restrict where people can people can sleep in them.

But Echo Park Lake camp residents, some of whom say they are on waiting lists for permanent housing that are two to three years long, say shelters and trailers aren’t a long-term solution to the problem.

Lloyd Edward, 35, started camping at Echo Park Lake two months ago. He’s been homeless for two years, and said it’s the safest place for him to be.

“Shelters are sporadic,” he says. “Some only allow you to stay a week at a time, or you were told there were two beds open, but there were none.”



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Old, pastel-colored homes and skinny palm trees line a wide street on a sunny day.

Train lines and kit houses made Jefferson Park the textbook streetcar suburb

Historic Jefferson Park is a throughly modern invention. The quaint neighborhood of bungalows and cottages in South LA, just west of the University of Southern California, was a 20th century bedroom community centered on street cars and trolley stations. Its homes were also the product of the steamships and the railways and affordable cookie cutter “kit-houses” purchased from a catalogue and assembled by the homeowner.

More than 100 years later, it’s a case of history repeating itself. A new wave of residents—lured by the quaint early 19th century bungalows, new transit lines, central locality, and relative affordability—are moving into this old streetcar suburb.

Before it was 50 square blocks of quaint streets and approximately 2,500 charming homes, the land that is now Jefferson Park was, during the Spanish and Mexican eras, both rancho and common public land used for raising cattle. In the second half of the 19th century, the area was populated with farms that grew corn, hay, grapes, and citrus.

Most well-known of these early post-statehood pioneers is the Texas-born Joseph L. Starr, who owned Estrella Dairy. The Starr home still stands, built in 1887 in the folk vernacular Victorian style, at 2801 Arlington Avenue. There was also a popular beer garden and the sprawling Vienna Park, which was later subdivided and sold as part of the Hopper and Sons Western Avenue Tract in 1905, according to the highly informative Jefferson Park: Historic Resources Survey Report, which was prepared for the city of Los Angeles by Architectural Resources Group Inc.

During the boomtime 1880s, there were attempts to develop a residential subdivision in the area, but due to lack of public transportation it didn’t meet with much success. As the century turned, however, grand suburban mansions began to rise on Adams Boulevard, which constitutes the northern border of Jefferson Park, surrounded by lush green lawns with stately carriage houses in the back.

As transportation improved across the country, working and middle-class residential neighborhoods began to develop around trolley and train stations. These “streetcar suburbs” adapted upper-class country living to middle-class environments, affording modest Americans fresh air, green space, and private homes away from congested and crowded city centers. By 1903, streetcars were running south from Downtown Los Angeles along Adams and Jefferson boulevards, and development in what is now know as Jefferson Park began in earnest. According to the historic resources report:

By 1913… service along Santa Monica [Red Car] Air Line between downtown and the Jefferson Park area had increased to every 60 minutes. Even the Red Car, however, played only a minor role in Jefferson Park’s development. It took the arrival of the streetcar to jumpstart residential development in Jefferson Park. The Los Angeles Railway Company provided streetcar service along Adams Street west to Arlington as early as 1899. By 1905, the Los Angeles Traction Company was running a streetcar along Jefferson Street, also as far west as Arlington.

In the Jefferson Park area, a variety of developers began selling former ranchland in relatively uniform residential lots, with an average frontage of 45 feet and a depth of 125 feet, according to the historic resources report. Deed restrictions prohibiting non-white residents were placed on some real estate tracts in the area, but not on all.

Old, pastel-colored homes and skinny palm trees line a wide street on a sunny day.
Most of Jefferson Park was built out by 1930.

From the start, these small lots were promoted as affordable for the average working family. The West Adams and Jefferson Street Tract was registered in 1903, and owned by Joseph L. Starr, Joseph Burkhard, W.R. Brady, and A.S. Bixby. The syndicate pointedly touted the cheapness of their lots, the plethora of available public transportation, and the tract’s proximity to the upper-class neighborhood of West Adams (“right near Adams Street Mansions!” read one ad). Mod-cons including concrete walks, concrete curbs, and mountain water piped to each lot were also touted. The ads appear to have been highly effective. By March 1903, the syndicate had sold almost $40,000 worth of lots costing as little as $385 each.

The largest tract was the Jefferson Street Park Tract, registered in 1906 by the Artesian Water Co., owned by May Knight Rindge, the indomitable “Queen of Malibu.” The company mounted an aggressive advertising campaign in the local papers praising the tract location by calling it “Jefferson St. Park on the Great Boulevard to the Sea.”

Ads also touted the Jefferson Street Park Tract as “the ideal Bungalowland.” But what ads didn’t say was that lot owners were usually required to build their own family bungalow on their newly bought land.

“Almost 1,500 different people are identified on a building permit as Jefferson Park owners. Many building permits listed only an owner with no architect or builder identified,” write the authors of the historic resources report. “The likeliest explanation for the consistency and quality of Jefferson Park’s housing stock is the use of plan books, also known as pattern books, and kit houses.”

The early 20th century was the golden age of the fabled kit house. Also known as “ready-cut” and “cut-to-fit” homes, mail-order houses were the result of the transportation revolution that brought Americans the streetcar suburb. Trains could bring building materials across the country at a great speed, and at a rate much cheaper than had previously been available. Because of this, the historian Mike Davis has called these structures “democracy bungalows.” Plan books, which included detailed architectural house plans and instructions for as low as $10 each, were also popular at the time.

Rebecca Hunter, author of Mail-Order Homes: Sears Homes and Other Kit Houses, explains that the lot owner who bought a kit-house from a catalog could expect to receive complete architectural plans and thousands of building materials, including paint, trim, screens, and every nail needed. Walls were most often of yellow pine, with oak floors for the formal rooms and fir and maple for the others. Add-on built-in cabinets and shelves were extremely popular, and plumbing upgrades were extra.

Although Sears, Roebuck and Co. is the name most associated with kit-houses today, most of the mail-order homes in Jefferson Park came from Pacific Ready Cut Homes, Inc., originally incorporated in Los Angeles in 1908 as the Pacific Portable Construction Co. According to the Los Angeles Times:

From 1908 to 1940, Pacific Ready-Cut sold 37,000 ready-to-assemble homes based on 1,800 plans, plus some custom-designed ones, as practical California bungalows replaced fancy Victorians. Although most of the company’s houses were one story, it also produced two-story homes, duplexes, bungalow court apartments, hotels, gas stations and offices.

Wood for these homes was cut in the Pacific Northwest and shipped to the firm’s lumber mill in Huntington Park. Owners were responsible for constructing their new houses, and family and friends often banded together to raise a home. This kept labor costs down and gave new homeowners opportunities to customize their houses.

A blue home with wood siding is tucked behind a hedge.
Many of the homes in Jefferson Park were kit homes, which were remarkably cheap. But owners were responsible for constructing them theirselves.

Most of the kit-houses in the Jefferson Park area represent the most popular styles of the time but scaled smaller: Vernacular Victorian, American Foursquare, and especially the Craftsman bungalow inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement. During the 1920s, revival styles, particularly Spanish and Colonial, became very popular. Kits for these homes could be remarkably cheap. In 1911, a two-room Sears cottage kit cost $146.25.

By 1930, 90 percent of the homes in Jefferson Park had been constructed, according to Hunter. The neighborhood was a mix of working and middle class Angelenos, with 40 percent of households having at least one foreign born member. There was a large Jewish population and two synagogues.

Along Western Avenue, black-owned businesses flourished, including the original Fatburger (then Mr. Fatburger), opened by Lovie Yancey in 1947. The flagship Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Building opened two years later, designed in the late Moderne style by Paul Williams. Rising behind Golden State Mutual was the famous Sugar Hill, where black celebrities such as Hattie McDaniel lived in old Victorian mansions.

Black culture thrived in the neighborhood due in part to librarian Vassie Davis Wright, founder of “Our Authors Study Club” at the local library. According to the Los Angeles Sentinel, she was also a local real estate broker. The library was renamed in her honor in 1984.

Quite a few Louisiana transplants also moved to the small cottages of Jefferson Park in the ’50s. They included people like Leon Aubry, a larger-than-life barber who styled the hair of both Mayor Tom Bradley and Nat King Cole. In 1969, Belle and Harold Legaux, Sr. opened the legendary Harold and Belle’s Creole Restaurant, which serves New Orleans-style food in a fine dining setting to this day. This would lead to the area being known by some as “Little New Orleans.”

By the early 1960s, the trolley and streetcar system had been dismantled. By the 1970s and ’80s, the area was hit by lack of investment, poverty, and increasing gang crime. Many of the bungalows and cottages were in disrepair as the economy slumped into the worst recession since the Great Depression in the early 1970s.

In 1984, Jane Suren Harrington began selling real estate in the West Adams and Jefferson Park areas. Long aware of the beauty of the neighborhood, Harrington says she found herself selling former drug houses and homes that families could no longer afford after decades of ownership.

“When I first started talking to homeowners, they were skeptical that their home was actually historic,” she says. “They considered that upgrading them would be to stucco the wooden siding and rip out the woodwork or paint it and remove claw foot tubs.”

A large old home painted brown and cream with a red front porch is fronted by a grass lawn and leafy trees.
The neighborhood used to be called “Little New Orleans.”

Harrington and fellow realtors worked hard to help homeowners realize the importance of preserving architectural details that made the structures so unique.

Many of her early buyers were in the artistic and LBGTQI communities. “Saving an old house doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Harrington says. “Saving a neighborhood has to happen at the same time. As people moved in to save these houses, they became activists starting block clubs and removing drug houses and abandoned buildings. Involving the whole community has been a big part of maintaining a diverse and engaged neighborhood.”

During the past decade, the neighborhood’s popularity with middle and upper-middle class Angelenos has exploded, due to its relatively lower priced homes. Prices have doubled, jumping from a median of $272,256 in 2010 to $772,500 in 2019. In 2011, a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone ordinance (commonly called an HPOZ) was adopted for Jefferson Park. A year later the Expo lines arrived, and more realtors came in. “The Expo line has been a game changer in many ways,” says Natalie Neith, who has sold hundreds of homes in the West Adams/Jefferson Park area over the past three decades.

“Many of the Bungalows are being snapped up by flippers and totally redone… as a historic preservationist, I have mixed feelings about that,” she says.

Tyler and Thea Golden, both film industry professionals, had a hunch that Jefferson Park, was the family-friendly community they had been dreaming of. The 1,135-square-foot cottage they moved into in the spring of 2019 sealed the deal. “When we first pulled up to our house we fell in love with its classic ‘California bungalow’ style,” Tyler says. “The fact that all the houses on our street have a similar architectural style, but at the same time are unique, is what by far excites us about our street.”

The Goldens have worked to become part of the Jefferson Park community, starting a Buy Nothing Group for the neighborhood on Facebook, and getting to know their neighbors. According to Harrington, Jefferson Park homeowners have mostly embraced new arrivals. “One the best parts about selling in this area has been how long-time residents have welcomed newcomers, and how newcomers have integrated into the existing community,” she says.

But the influx of newcomers to the neighborhood is a mixed bag for longtime residents. “I like the recent changes,” says Tonette Lansdowne, who lives in a 1920s bungalow. “I’m quite happy about it, especially the walkability.” Ganine Arnold, who lives in the home she grew up in, worries that “the prices of the houses are so out of range for middle-class African American families.”

Arnold remembers her childhood in the 1960s, when Cimarron Street was filled with kids playing, and women from the neighborhood baby-sitting the younger children while their parents worked or did errands. “Some of the families moved. Some of the children sold the homes,” she says. “But there are some of us left.”


Western novelist’s former Altadena estate for sale $4M

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The Mediterranean Revival-style residence sits on a 1.19-acre lot. | Photos by Quoc Quan Le, courtesy of Wayne Saks/Rodeo Realty Beverly Hills

It has a library larger than most peoples’ homes

Now up for grabs in Altadena is one of the town’s most notable landmarks, the Zane Grey Estate. Sited behind iron gates on a 1.2-acre lot west of Lake Avenue, the Mediterranean Revival-style home was designed in 1907 for Chicago inventor and businessman Arthur Woodward by renowned Pasadena architects Myron Hunt and Elmer Grey. Constructed with reinforced concrete, it was touted as the town’s first fireproof home.

In 1920, Woodward sold the estate to Zane Grey, best-selling author of what’s been called “the most popular Western novel of all time,” Riders of the Purple Sage. The novelist subsequently added a second story to the house, which included a 3,000-square-foot library and office where he did most of his writing.

The property remained in the Grey family for decades, last trading hands in 1970. In recent years, it’s been the site of an underground farmers’ market as well as a popular Airbnb rental, but now it’s ready for a new chapter.

Per the listing, the 7,240-square-foot home has eight bedrooms, four bathrooms, a “commercial kitchen with fifteen-foot ceilings” in addition to the main kitchen, a wine cellar, and a “roaming basement of rare proportion.”

Original architectural elements include lofty beamed ceilings, hardwood and concrete floors, custom cast iron sconces and chandeliers, built-in shelving and furniture, and two sizable fireplaces. The sprawling grounds contain mature trees, numerous planter boxes, and a hen house.

On the National Register of Historic Places, the property is listed with Wayne Saks of Rodeo Realty an an asking price of $3.995 million.

The front parlor features hardwood floors and a sizable fireplace.
Massive wood beams and two cast iron chandeliers are among the great room’s impressive traits.
The dining room is lined with wood-framed windows and illuminated by period light fixtures.
The home has two kitchens. This is the everyday one, updated with modern appliances.
Here’s the vast commercial kitchen, suitable for hosting major events.
There’s also a spacious workshop.
Best-selling novelist Zane Grey and his family pose for a photo outside the Grey’s Altadena home, circa 1920.

California sending 30 trailers to LA to shelter the homeless

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The side of a large white vehicle with black and blue lettering that says “Freedom Select.” Two similar vehicles can be seen in the backgroundSome of the trailers being deployed to California cities were on display in Oakland last week. | Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Coming February

California Gov. Gavin Newsom promised earlier this month to step up efforts to address soaring rates of homelessness in Los Angeles and beyond.

The first symbol of that commitment? Thirty travel trailers, scheduled to putter into LA County next month.

The mobile living spaces, accompanied by medical service tents, will be made available to families living without shelter, Newsom announced yesterday.

“This is one of the many tools in the toolbox we are using to address the crisis head-on,” he said in a statement.

In an executive order issued two weeks ago, Newsom directed the state’s Department of General Services to make 100 trailers used by emergency response workers available to homeless Californians. The first 15 will be delivered to the city of Oakland. Los Angeles will get twice that number on February 7.

Newsom also ordered that excess state land, vacant hospitals, and parcels alongside freeways be made available to California cities for construction of shelter housing.

The trailers are a surprising form of assistance. More than 16,000 people already live in cars, vans, and RVs countywide, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2019 homelessness count, but local laws in cities like Los Angeles severely restrict when and where people can sleep in vehicles.

Local leaders haven’t yet determined where the trailers deployed by the governor will be parked. But a motion approved by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors lists four potential sites, all in South LA.

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, who authored the motion, said in a statement that the county will continue to identify other sites for more temporary housing, even after the trailers find a home.

The financial resources California cities stand to receive could go further toward addressing the state’s homeless crisis. In a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year, Newsom suggests setting aside more than $1 billion to combat homelessness, including $750 million for a new fund directly available to service providers.

That money could be used to subsidize rents, fund affordable housing initiatives, and improve care facilities.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted to develop a legal framework and strategy to ensure services and housing are available for those “ready and willing to receive such services.”


Light-filled post and beam asks $2.3M in South Pasadena

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A room with vaulted ceilings and glass walls, furnished with a large wooden table and chairs. Kitchen counter space is visible int the background.

Built in 1967, the newly renovated home was designed by architect James Allen Walter

This unconventional post-and-beam residence in South Pasadena is fresh off of a thorough renovation and looking for its third-ever owner.

The house was built in 1967 by exacting architect James Allen Walter, who experimented with a host of offbeat design techniques in the 32 homes he designed in California. This one has a U-shaped floor plan, which allows occupants to access a large outdoor deck space from nearly every room in the house.

The 2,252-square-foot home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Walls of glass and vaulted ceilings add to the openness of the interior spaces, while tall trees surrounding the home keep it relatively private. Skylights and clerestory windows contribute further to the light-filled atmosphere.

The house sold in 2018 for $1.5 million, and since then it’s been updated with new kitchen cabinetry, appliances, and a large center island. The bathroom fixtures are also new, along with the electrical wiring and plumbing.

Located at 2050 La Fremontia Street, the home sits on a half-acre lot at the end of a cul de sac. It’s surrounded by a large grassy yard and has an attached two-car garage. The asking price is $2.25 million.

A room with white walls and glass doors. It’s furnished with a bed and a wooden dresser.
Nearly every room in the house offers easy outdoor access.
A room with wood floors, glass doors, and a brick fireplace against the far wall. It’s furnished with a sofa and an armchair.
The living room is framed around a tall brick fireplace.
A room with vaulted ceilings and glass walls, furnished with a large wooden table and chairs. Kitchen counter space is visible int the background.
A huge center island with bar seating is at the center of a remodeled kitchen space.
Deck space with the glass-walled wings of a house on either side. Outdoor furniture, including blue chairs and a large gray sectional can be seen on the deck.
The U-shaped house surrounds a large wooden deck.

LA’s new NFL stadium is 85 percent complete

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A stadium with an open roof, seen from inside the stadium.The SoFi Stadium’s roof will hold an enormous video display screen, which is being assembled on the floor of the stadium now. | MediaNews Group via Getty Images

The $2.6 billion venue in Inglewood is on track to open this summer

The spacey, curving roof over Inglewood’s NFL stadium is coming together as the venue closes on completion.

The future home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers—officially, the SoFi Stadium—is now about 85 percent finished, stadium owner the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District at Hollywood Park announced Wednesday.

The stadium’s roof sports sections of the clear plastic cover made of a transparent material called ETFE that will eventually cover the entire canopy. Underneath, there will be a 70,000-square-foot “Oculus” display hanging from the rafters.

Photos taken Wednesday on a tour of the stadium show the enormous Oculus being assembled on the floor. The dual-sided video display will be the first of its kind, according to the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District.

The curving roof will also hang over a 2.5-acre open air plaza, a 6,000-seat performance venue, and a kind of reception plaza in front of the stadium entrance.

The clear plastic panels that will make up the roof of the stadium are being put into place. Some gaps are visible, showing that work is still in progress.MediaNews Group via Getty Images
The EFTE roof coming together.

The $2.6 billion stadium was originally slated to be complete in time for the 2019 football season, but a rainy year pushed the opening date. The venue is now on track to open in July. There are about 3,200 workers on the site every day, working to ensure the summertime deadline is met, says the Los Angeles Stadium and Entertainment District.

The stadium is rising out of a giant 300-acre property that once housed the Hollywood Park racetrack. Also planned for the project site is a whole new neighborhood that will hold shops, restaurants, a hotel, parks, an artificial lake, and 2,500 housing units.

That component will open in phases, with the first phase scheduled to open by February 2022, when the stadium will host Super Bowl LVI.

Many locals are already feeling crunched by rising retail and residential rents and home prices in the neighborhood. In March 2019, the city moved to enact a temporary freeze on evictions, but the question remains what will happen in the long-term to the historically black enclave once the stadium is complete and a new light rail stop opens in Inglewood’s downtown.

A ground shot of cranes on pavement in front of the stadium. MediaNews Group via Getty Images
Cranes outside the under-construction stadium.
An aerial photo of the in-progress stadium, with cranes around it and the shell of the roof showing less progress than it does in current photos. AFP via Getty Images
An October photo of the work on the stadium.
Inglewood NFL stadium plaza
Here’s what the stadium is expected to look like when it opens.


LA is encouraging developers to put denser housing near transit. Here’s how.

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In the city of Los Angeles, developers are allowed to stray from local zoning codes. In exchange, they must put affordable housing in their projects. | Getty Images/iStockphoto

In less than three years, the program has spurred plans for 20,000 new apartments

A proposal out of Sacramento to put denser housing near transit has divided Californians. But a similar program is already underway in the city of Los Angeles.

It’s an incentive program called “Transit-Oriented Communities,” and it’s encouraging developers to build more housing units—including affordable ones available to tenants with qualifying incomes—near major public transportation stops.

Experts agree that to combat a housing shortage, one that has fueled rising rents and real estate prices, Los Angeles needs to build, build, build. Affordable housing is in especially high demand, and is growing increasingly harder to find. More than 8,500 units that are income-restricted now are expected to become market-rate over the next five or so years, and it’s estimated that LA County would need to add 517,000 income-restricted units to meet existing demand.

The strategy behind TOC is also to reduce car trips by putting people near public transportation options, meeting the city’s goal of reducing the number of miles that Angelenos drive.

The TOC program has been around for less than three years. In that time it’s generated plans for nearly 20,000 housing units, infuriated preservationists, and been the subject of a lawsuit.

It could leave an even bigger mark on LA in the future. The program could potentially be expanded under Senate Bill 50. The proposed legislation would require California cities to allow more multi-family housing, especially duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, near transit stops.

Here’s background on how LA’s program came about—and its impact.

What TOC does

The TOC program gives incentives to developers to build multi-family projects within a half-mile of major transit stops. In exchange for those incentives—which include the ability to stray from local zoning codes—developers must put affordable housing in their projects.

Some TOC projects are “by right,” meaning developers get fewer breaks. If a project site is is close to the intersection of a Metro rail and a rapid bus line, for example, the city lets a developer increase a building’s density by as much 80 percent more than what is normally allowed (with some exceptions) and lift its requirement to build parking, which usually is expensive. In exchange, the developer has to set aside 25 percent of its housing units for low-income households.

In the case of TOC, “density” typically means that the developer can build more housing units.

These “by right” projects are the most cut and dry, because there’s less gray area about whether a project will be approved. These account for about one-third of the TOC projects that pass through the department, planners say.

Things get a lot more complicated for developers who want to build projects that go beyond the minimum incentives, for example, by building taller or reducing the open space that would otherwise be required.

But what all TOC projects have in common is that they must include affordable housing, meaning tenants qualify to live in the units based on their incomes. The number of units and the level of affordability that the city requires are based on how close the site is to local bus lines, rapid bus lines, or rail lines and the types of incentives a developer wants to use.

The types of affordable housing range from low-income to extremely low-income. Low-income housing is reserved for households of four making $83,500 or less, and extremely low-income is aimed at households of four making $31,300 or less.

What’s the goal?

The goal is to spur more housing near transit, which is where it makes the most sense, planners say. By building more places for people to live, including affordable housing, near public transportation, the city is putting residents near non-car transportation options and (hopefully) making a dent in goals to reduce emissions.

“The idea is that people will take transit if it’s close,” says Ryan Leaderman, an environmental attorney who has worked on a number of TOC projects. “And denser areas mean walking and biking [to destinations] are easier.”

How does it work?

Developers fill out an application, including which “tier” of incentives their property qualifies for. The tiers are calculated based on how close to a major transit stop a project is and what kind of transit a project is close to. The tiers, along with the application, have to be verified by the planning department.

The tiers go from Tier 1 (low) to Tier 4 (regional). A first tier project could be one that is under a half mile away from two non-rapid bus lines that arrive every 15 minutes or more frequently.

A fourth tier project is close to two intersecting Metro rail stations, or a rapid bus line and a Metro rail station. Future rail stations count too, if they are funded and the location of the stations are known. (The rundown of all the tiers can be found in the guidelines on the planning department’s website.)

There are some exceptions to the allowable density increases, for example if the project site is in a community where planning guidelines have been recently updated. But the program still applies—just with added requirements or restrictions.

It’s important to note that the TOC program can only be used on a site where the property owner could already build five or more units. So if you couldn’t already build a five-unit building on your property, you can’t with TOC—no matter how close to a major transit stop you are.

The house-like structure that holds Tom Bergin’s is sandwiched between two apartment buildings.Rendering by Reed Architectural Group, courtesy of Department of City Planning
The apartment complex planned next to Tom Bergin’s is a TOC project.
What does a TOC project look like?

Are you curious about how all of this plays out in real life? To get a feel for what a TOC project looks like, take a gander at renderings for a 209-unit apartment complex planned next to Tom Bergin’s in Miracle Mile. The eight-story building would set aside 28 units for tenants with extremely low-incomes.

The property falls under the fourth tier, the highest tier in the program, and is close to a future Purple Line station at Fairfax and the rapid buses that pass through Wilshire and Fairfax.

Has it been successful?

“TOC has been a really contentious program in the city, but if you look at our numbers, the raw data of housing production, it’s also been one of the most successful,” planning department spokesperson Steve Garcia has said.

City planners say the program has been popular with developers in part because it reduces some of the uncertainty of the approval process—the tiers are set up to clearly lay out how much affordability a project needs to get certain benefits, and if a project meets those thresholds, it gets to move forward.

Leaderman agrees, saying that in terms of ramping up housing production near transit, the program has been “a home run.” He attributes its success to “creating real, good incentives to produce housing,” especially affordable housing, which he says is costly for a developer to include in a project.

Why not everyone is a fan

Preservationists have also said that the TOC program incentivizes property owners to demolish older buildings that contain rent-controlled housing and replace them with new buildings.

Similarly, anti-displacement activists such as the Crenshaw Subway Coalition fear the program will push out existing residents as property owners turn older properties into larger and more profitable ones. While TOC buildings do include income-restricted units, there’s no guarantee that existing tenants will qualify to live in them.

In September, a group called Fix the City sued Los Angeles over a TOC project. Its lawsuit seeks not only to overturn approvals for that residential building but also to undo the entire TOC program.

Fix the City says the TOC incentives go far beyond what voters approved when they voted for Measure JJJ, and that the program fails to provide the well-paying jobs for locals that Measure JJJ was supposed to bring.

Asked if he thought the program had been successful, Fix the City spokesperson James O’Sullivan said that in order to answer, he’d need to know the cost of the program’s achievements. “Who benefits from that success?” he asked.

It’s unknown how many rent-controlled units have been demolished because of the TOC program.

Opponents of the program might be glad to learn that the TOC incentives aren’t meant to be around forever. Officials with the department of city planning say that the bonuses are designed to be replaced as new planning programs to build affordable housing near transit come into effect.

How the TOC program came to be

It was born out of Measure JJJ, which was approved by voters in 2016 and sought to create more affordable housing and jobs in LA by requiring projects that needed special city approval or zoning changes to get built to include low-income units and hire locally.

Measure JJJ also created a framework for a program focused on building more affordable units within a half mile of public transportation options—the TOC program. (Not everyone agrees that the TOC program is in line with the goals of Measure JJJ.)

The program went into effect in September 2017. From October 2017 to June 2019, nearly 19,928 units were proposed through the program—3,863 of them affordable. City planning department data show that 46 percent of all residential units proposed between April and June 2019 were submitted through the TOC program.


Here’s what $1.1M buys around LA

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Options include an English cottage in Mid-Wilshire and a stylishly-upgraded Spanish-style in View Park

Curbed LA comparisons header

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 and condos within about $20,000 of today’s price: $1.16 million.

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 Photos by by Charmaine David, courtesy of Tracy Do/Compass
Highland Park

This Spanish-style abode is cute inside and out. Gracing the exterior are a porch, turquoise garage door grille, and a matching front door. Adorning the interior are hardwood floors, arched entryways, vaulted beamed ceilings, and a fireplace. Measuring 1,485 square feet, the house holds three bedrooms, two bathrooms (including a master suite), and a family room that opens to a large backyard with a patio and drought-friendly landscaping. Walking distance the bars, shops, and restaurants on York Boulevard, the 4,200-square-foot property is listed at $1.175 million.

 Photos by Virtually Here Studios, courtesy of Allie Altschuler and Steve Clark/Compass

In the historic Garfield Heights district, this shingled Craftsman was built in 1910 but has been “reimagined with a contemporary eye.” Blessedly, it still has some charming character details, including a built-in hutch, exposed beams, and moldings. In 1,510 square feet, it holds three bedrooms and one and three quarter bathrooms. Its biggest selling point might be the size of the lot, which spans a generous 13,000 square feet with a new redwood deck, raised gardening beds, towering pines, and large swaths of grass. The asking price is $1.15 million.

 Photos by Creative Vision Studios, courtesy of Diane McDonald/Keller Williams Realty

This centrally-located, glammed-up English-style cottage has three bedrooms and one bathroom, plus a refinished attic with another bedroom and small bathroom. Downstairs, features include a master closet, a fireplace, a formal dining, and an updated kitchen with subway tiles, a farmhouse sink, and French doors that open to a grassy yard with a small shed and chicken coop. The 4,960-square-foot property has an asking price of $1.175 million.

 Courtesy of Redfin
South Pasadena

This three-bedroom, two-bathroom Craftsman is in an undeniably good location. It’s positioned about a half mile from the Gold Line and is walking distance to multiple bus stops, the Arroyo Seco, Trader Joe’s, the library, and Charlie’s Coffee House. Inside, flourishes include knotty pine paneling and a brick fireplace, and a restoration-minded buyer might see the 1,436-square-foot home’s potential to be returned to its 1910 glory. The 6,292-square-foot lot is populated with citrus and fig trees and is asking $1.18 million.

 Photos by Virtually Here Studios, courtesy of Sam Wadieh and Dominique Madden/ACME Real Estate
View Park-Windsor Hills

Flipping to the market in South Los Angeles is this Spanish-style that’s looking very stylish after a thorough makeover. Period details from the home’s construction in the 1920s include barrel ceilings, arched entryways, and a picture window, while updates include marble counters, gold fixtures, new cabinetry, and in the master suite, a soaking tub. The 6,401-square-foot lot contains a backyard with a detached, two-car garage currently set up as additional living quarters. The home clocks in at 1,677 square feet, with a price tag of $1.149 million.


How to pick a neighborhood in Los Angeles

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Twelve things to consider before choosing a new ’hood

I live in a charming but worn 1940s garden apartment in East Hollywood, a diverse neighborhood that encompasses Thai Town and Little Armenia, touching bustling Hollywood to the west and Los Feliz to the east. There’s a subway station minutes away and Griffith Park is just up the hill. There’s a dentist, a family-owned deli, and a yoga studio on my block. It’s not a perfect neighborhood—discarded desks and old mattresses line the sidewalks, and Western Avenue has a long way to go before it’s an inviting place to walk—but it’s close.

Finding the perfect neighborhood is a delicate balance. It’s like putting a puzzle together, and it’s complicated by the soaring cost of housing. But even if you have the means to afford to live wherever you want, every neighborhood has its trade-offs. Below are some of the most important things to take into consideration before putting down roots in Los Angeles.

First, know LA’s regions.

Los Angeles is made up of more than a half dozen regions, and each of those regions contains many, many smaller neighborhoods and cities. There’s the Westside, Central Los Angeles, Northeast LA, San Fernando Valley (aka the Valley), the San Gabriel Valley, South Los Angeles, the South Bay, the Verdugos, and the Eastside.

There are others, but these are the predominant regions known informally as LA. They have their own distinct culture, terrain, and even, in some cases, weather. The boundaries are up for debate, but this map from the Los Angeles Times is solid.

Culver City.

Second, know the neighborhoods.

This is more difficult than memorizing the regions, because there are a lot—at least 472 according to this map, which is inarguably the most accurate (but still not comprehensive) map on the internet.

It’s important—for both your sanity and the health of the environment—to pick a ’hood that’s close to where you work.

Or close to your main hobbies. Do not fool yourself. You will not live a breezy life in Echo Park while working in Manhattan Beach. Unless you have a forgiving schedule, you will probably not surf every morning if you live in Glendale.

There’s no definitive figure for how close you should get, but a good rule is around 5 miles. Anything over that and your commute is bound to take more than 30 minutes.

Do you want to be near public transit?

You can pretty much always find a bus route, no matter where you live, but buses in LA can be slow and unreliable. LA’s other public transportation options—the subway and light rail—are more efficient. Living near one will make navigating LA much easier. But those lines and stations are fewer and farther between.

This official rail map from LA’s transit agency, Metro, should be your guiding light. The map also shows bus-rapid transit and rail lines that are under construction now, including the Crenshaw Line, which is scheduled to open this year.

In the foreground are trees. In the background is a large elevated bridge with train tracks.
The Arroyo Seco in Pasadena.

Do you want to live near the beach or trails?

LA can be a nature lover’s dream. Tapping into that is especially easy if you pick a neighborhood near the hills, canyons, mountains, or water.

If getting fresh air is at the top of your priority list, winnow your search to Atwater Village, which hugs the LA River; Pasadena and Altadena, which are at the base of the steep San Gabriel Mountains; or Los Feliz, which is nestled the bottom of the sprawling Griffith Park. Consider any beach city. Target Culver City, because it’s adjacent to beautiful Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area; Echo Park, which is close to hilly Elysian Park; and Topanga Canyon, Pacific Palisades, and Santa Monica, all of which offer convenient access to the beautiful Santa Monica Mountains.

If triple digit heat is your hell, stay clear of the Valley.

Without ocean breezes to cool it down, the Valley swelters in the summer. The mercury regularly climbs more than 10 degrees higher there than in other parts of LA. (In July, the hottest day at LAX was 87 degrees—compared to 100 degrees at Burbank Airport).

But if you relish steamy summer days and nights, the Valley has good things going for it: delicious but cheap eats, cool museums, diversity, a wildly successful bus line, and more transit projects in the pipeline. Plus, its known among locals as a region where you can get more square footage for your buck. That extra space will come in handy when you need to build a swimming pool to cool off.

Do you thrive in a buzzing, big city?

For tall buildings packed tightly together, bustling sidewalks, and an active night life, consider Hollywood, Koreatown, and Downtown Los Angeles, namely South Park, the Financial District, and Historic Core. These neighborhoods are also some of the most transit-friendly and most walkable in LA.

North Hollywood.

What are the most walkable neighborhoods?

Most LA neighborhoods (the Hollywood Hills not included) are at least semi-walkable; you’ll usually find a liquor store, a fruit vendor, and a taco cart in close proximity, no matter where you live. According to WalkScore, some of the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods include MacArthur Park, Fairfax, Palms, Long Beach, and Sawtelle.

Are you looking for a slower pace?

Somewhere where parking is more plentiful, where you might get to know the names of everyone on your block, where there’s an abundance of single-family homes? Long Beach, San Pedro, and much of the Valley will be your best bets—but note that getting into more central parts of Los Angeles will trickier coming from those places.

Only select cities have rent control.

The main advantage of rent control is that annual rent increases are limited by the city. But there are only a handful of places in greater LA with rent control: the communities of unincorporated Los Angeles County and the cities of Los Angeles, Culver City, Inglewood, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. That means plenty of other LA cities do not.

 Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin

Do you want to live in a “hip” neighborhood?

One with craft beer, art galleries, high-end boutiques, stylish coffee shops, and “youth culture”? It’s hard to keep up, but the New York Times takes a crack at it every now and again. The newspaper’s latest obsessions? Highland Park, Abbot Kinney, and Koreatown.

Where can you get a good deal?

That’s relative based on how much you’re able or willing to pay. A good reference point is the median cost of a home ($638,000) and the median cost of rent ($1,369 for a one bedroom) in LA County. Apartment List tracks price per square foot by neighborhood, and our website publishes weekly round-ups of apartments and homes on the market at a certain price point. But if you’re still debating whether you should even move to LA, the answer is maybe.


Traditional fixer in La Crescenta has mountain views for $649K

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A one-story house with a small grassy front yard and mountains in the background.Built in 1947, the house has sweet retro touches including bright yellow kitchen tile. | Photos by Aerious Plus, courtesy of Deasy Podley Penner

Three-bedrooms, hardwood floors, and a swimming pool

This three-bedroom house in Glendale-adjacent La Crescenta needs a little refreshing, but it has an undeniable charm that’s apparent even from the street.

The dwelling opens onto an ample, hardwood-floored common area with a fireplace and a dining area that connects to the kitchen via a pass-through with plantation shutters.

The kitchen has lemon-colored tile that give the space a visual boost. There’s a similar use of color in the house’s two bathrooms, which are a vivid blast from the past with their respective yellow and blue tubs and finishes.

A door in the kitchen leads to the backyard and pool area. (There’s also a detached, two-car garage back there.)

La Crescenta is located right next door to the San Gabriel Mountains and the Angeles National Forest, and 3422 Community Avenue luckily offers views of the mountains.

The property is listed with Pam Tomashek of Deasy Penner Podley for $649,000.

A large open room with hardwood floors. The kitchen is visible just beyond the end of the hardwood.
Hardwood floors and a large open space make the front room a winner.
A roomy kitchen with yellow tile and older appliances.
The yellow tile pops in the kitchen, which could do with a refresh.
A room with hardwood floors and sliding doors.
Sliding doors connect the indoors and outdoors of the property.
A bathroom with a blue shower enclosure and seaparate blue bathtub.
The house has two bathrooms, each with its own bright accents.
A backyard with a pool dominating the space. In the background is the house and the detached garage.
The pool and detached garage round out the house’s outdoor space.