State O’ the Market: Downtown Los Angeles Has Completely Run Out of New Condos


If you want to buy a condo in Downtown Los Angeles, you're going to have to wait until 2016 or—ewwwww—settle for one someone has already lived in. Downtown is now fresh out of new for-sale units, following the sale earlier this month of the last penthouse at the Evo-South tower in South Park (the second to last penthouse sold in March). Unit 2303, opened way back in 2008, measuring just shy of 4,000 square feet, with three bedrooms, became something of a landmark when it sold last week for $3.4 million: it was the last condo of the pre-recession development boom. The recession stopped new construction dead in the neighborhood, but it's picked up again in the past few years; DTLA is now full of cranes, but there won't be any condos arriving until South Park megaproject Metropolis opens its first residences in 2016.

Real estate firm Polaris Pacific both sold the last Evo units and releases regular reports on the LA real estate market. The latest report, from March, finds there are plenty of new condos on the way in Downtown eventually: 351 are under construction and 3,212 have been approved. Like Evo, pretty much all the new units on the way are "luxury" units aimed at the richest buyers. Meanwhile, marketing/sales firm the Mark Company found just 83 resale condos available in Downtown in March, selling at a still pricey average of $565 per square foot.

· 1155 South Grand Ave #2303 [Redfin]
· Megaproject Metropolis's Condo Pricing, Renderings Revealed [Curbed LA]

Local Landmarks: One Guy Has Been Working for Free For Six Years to Keep the Venice Skate Park Pristine

[Image via Matt Keifer / Creative Commons]

Former pro skater Jesse Martinez has spent the last six years getting up every day before the sun rises to go to the Venice Skate Park and clean it up. The biggest battle is with graffiti, says The Argonaut, but he does an impeccable job: though the concrete is vandalized every night, "there's not a single tag on the 16,000-square-foot park." That's because Martinez has decided not to let it happen: "If you tag it, I guarantee you that by eight in the morning it will be gone," he says. This is not officially his job; though he's been at it since the skate park opened in 2009, Martinez has never been paid a cent to work there.

A skater since the early days of the sport, Martinez is spurred to take care of the park only by pride in his neighborhood and the legacy left by 1970s skate legends who grew up there, popularized skateboarding, and were immortalized in movies like the 2001 documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. He does use supplies funded or donated by the Venice Skatepark Foundation/Venice Skate Alliance, a nonprofit started by local skaters, and there are about six volunteers who might help him out on any day. But he's the driving force behind the maintenance of the park, and is recognized as such not just by the locals, but also by the city. The skate park is under the jurisdiction of Los Angeles's Department of Rec and Parks, but "until recently ... has not provided funding or labor for cleaning or maintenance." They'd instead created a partnership with a Venice Skate Alliance precursor, giving them responsibility for taking care of the park.

The city has reached out to Martinez—"We'd like to see him paid for his work," a Rec and Parks rep says. "That was our intent."—but has been holding on to his employment application for four months. (The rep explained there is, for some reason, "a criminal background check hold" on Martinez's paperwork.)

Meanwhile, a few weeks ago, the old truck that Martinez uses when doing skate park upkeep was stolen. Martinez says that, without the truck, he can't get the pressure washer he needs to blast graffiti off the concrete. One of his friends, a fellow skateboarder and realtor named David Fowler, launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise money and awareness about the work that Martinez does at the park, as well as to spotlight the funding issues for park maintenance. Being a volunteer caretaker of the skate park hasn't been easy for Martinez, who's taken time away from other parts of his life to keep the park pristine as a point of pride for Venice, but he seems to be focused on keeping it up: "Just let me clean. I don't want to do anything else. I do it so Dogtown lives on."
· The Keeper of Dogtown [Argonaut]

PreservationWatch: Case Study House #18, On National Register, For Sale as Possible Teardown


Rodney Walker is one of the lesser-known architects who participated in Arts & Architecture's groundbreaking Case Study House program, which introduced Mid-Century Modern to the masses, but over his career he created scads of strikingly lovely houses around Southern California. One of those is his Case Study House #18, aka the West House, which sits on a bluff in Pacific Palisades and, along with several other Case Study Houses, on the National Register of Historic Places. But that doesn't mean it can't be demolished. The 1948 house has just come up for sale and the listing gently hints that a new owner might want to tear it down.

CSH #18 is still quite well-preserved, with two bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms, a garden room, glass walls, "pristine white galley kitchen," and a double-sided fireplace, all on a little more than half an acre overlooking the ocean. (It faces the Pacific, but is set back from the cliff a bit to reduce noise; according to its Arts & Architecture feature, "the privacy of the open south and east exposures of Case Study House No. 18 can be threatened only by an occasional sea-gull.")

But Pacific Palisades is not the remote territory it was in 1948 and the property is asking a hefty $6.8 million. The listing says it's "Suited for simple living in paradise or a possible, incredible development opportunity with incredible OV acreage. Live-in and/or celebrate the rarest of properties to build a private, ocean view estate seconds to the ocean." The house is not a city landmark and listing on the National Register is basically ceremonial. However, there is a lot of land here, and a new owner might take the approach of nearby Case Study House #9, aka the Entenza House, which now serves as a guesthouse to a newer mansion.

· 199 Chautauqua [Redfin]
· Mapped: The Case Study Houses That Made Los Angeles a Modernist Mecca [Curbed LA]
· LA's Most Famous House Finally Makes the National Register [Curbed LA]

DevelopmentWatch: 37-Story Condo Tower Planned For Twelfth and Grand in Booming South Park

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Back in February, a Shanghai-based developer dropped $26 million on a lot at the southwest corner of Twelfth and Grand in Downtown's booming South Park. Though condos were expected to rise on the site, the land wasn't zoned for that (yet), and at $585 a square foot, the transaction was the most money anyone in Downtown had paid for a site that wasn't even prepped for "dense development." Now the prepping process has begun and the City Planning Commission got a sneak peek yesterday of what's planned for the lot, says the LA Times.

Developer City Century envisions a 37-story, 126-unit condo tower, designed by Richard Keating, who designed the Gas Company Tower on Bunker Hill (there's no mention of retail for the groundfloor, which is unusual these days). "This is going to be an architectural building, not just a big slab," Keating assures. The 44,412-square-foot lot is not very roomy, so he's planning a "thin, delicate-looking" high-rise. There was once talk of putting two towers on the site; this skinny skyscraper does leave room for "perhaps another" on the site, but there don't seem to be plans for a second tower right now.

When the $100-million project is completed, units are expected to list for between $600,000 and $4 million—about $1,000 per square foot, similar to the pricey prices at the nearby Metropolis megaproject, which is still under construction. The high-rise will have windows that residents can open (pretty rare in Downtown towers) and balconies. City Century managing partner Joseph Lin says that he's gunning for the future residents to be locals who were just waiting for the right skyscraper: "We are purposefully not trying to sell in China." (Chinese buyers have snapped up many units in nearby luxury towers.)

That zoning change still needs to come through, though, in addition to the usual approvals for a project like this. Lin says if city officials sign off, work can start in early 2016, with construction taking just under two years.
· Chinese developer unveils plans for luxury condo tower in downtown L.A. [LAT]
· Two More Condo Towers Probably on the Way in South Park [Curbed LA]
· Megaproject Metropolis's Condo Pricing, Renderings Revealed [Curbed LA]
· Mapping 28 Projects on the Way in DTLA's Booming South Park [Curbed LA]

Los Angeles Things: Study: Actually, Los Angeles Isn’t Very Suburban at All

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Despite Los Angeles's sprawly reputation and lingering love of single-family houses, the stats shows that it's actually pretty damn urban and not very suburban at all. Economist Jed Kolko, writing at FiveThirtyEight, points out that much of the data about cities in the US is gathered in a way that makes it hard to figure out quite how city-like they really are. So to get a better idea of which places are actually just giant clusters of car-dependent, single-family neighborhoods and which are urban in the "high-rise-and-subways, 'Sesame Street' sense," Kolko conducted his own nationwide survey.

The US Census has an "exhaustive" list of "other" geographic areas, but "urban" generally just comes down to "not rural." And that means that dense urban areas and suburbs are grouped together like they're the same thing. To get a more nuanced picture of what's going on in US "cities," Kolko and real estate listings site Trulia (where Kolko is head economist) surveyed more than 2,000 people across the country, asking them to describe where they lived as either urban, rural, or suburban—and purposely did not give definitions for those terms. They then tied that respondent's answer to their zip code, which was treated as that person's "neighborhood."

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Kolko and Trulia found that the best indicator of which term a person would use to describe their neighborhood was density. The dividing line for most people between urban and suburban was at 2,213 households per square mile (roughly the density of Woodland Hills): anything over that was usually called urban; under that was usually called suburban. Respondents living in zip codes with less than 102 households per square mile typically considered the area rural.

Using these parameters, they then classified major US cities and found that Los Angeles is 87 percent urban, making it the second most citylike in the country. It's not quite New-York-urban (100 percent), but still more than most might expect (*not more than Chicago or Philadelphia, as previously written!). But Los Angeles is already known to be the least sprawling of the largest metros, and has been called the "biggest success story" in terms of anti-sprawl. It's even moving away from single-family living. So maybe it's time for those expectations to change.
· How Suburban Are Big American Cities? [FTE]
· Los Angeles is the Least Sprawling Big City in the US [Curbed LA]
· Los Angeles is the Biggest Anti-Sprawl Success Story in the US [Curbed LA]

What It Sold For: Jonas Brothers’ Family Home in Toluca Lake Sells for $1.8M

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Jonas Brothers via Jaguar PS / Shutterstock

Though the former Disney Channel boy band The Jonas Brothers did not grow up in this house, their parents did here from 2012 until just recently and it looks much as one might expect the family home of a super-chaste, bubblegum pop music group composed of actual brothers to look. According to the LA Times, the 1938 Traditional (of course!) is separated from the rest of the neighborhood by an ivy-covered front fence; inside the fence is a sizable front lawn and an expansive backyard big enough for a sweet fort, a gazebo, and a patio. Inside, there are hardwood floors, white carpet, and marble kitchen counters. The master bathroom features lots of marble and a separate shower and tub. Last sold to the Jonases in 2012 for $1.3 million, it just sold again for $1.8 million.

· The Jonas brothers' family home sells in Toluca Lake for $1.8 million [LAT]
· 4619 Arcola Ave., Toluca Lake, CA 91602 [Redfin]
· Nick Jonas Selling Handsome 1938 Mediterranean in the Hills [Curbed LA]
· The Taylor Swift Ex-Boyfriend Guide to Real Estate [Curbed LA]

New to Market: 1912 South Pas Mansion by G. Lawrence Stimson Asking $1.8M

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This 1912 house in South Pasadena's historic Oaklawn District was designed by architect and builder G. Lawrence Stimson, who also designed Pasadena's incredible Wrigley Mansion (aka the Rose Parade Tournament House) and many other houses in the area, but this five-bedroom estate was also Stimson's personal residence for a time, says the listing. Now it seems the house is something of a restoration opportunity, but the bones are so, so good. Beyond the classically lovely entry, there is all the right kind of molding everywhere—rose motif in the formal dining room!—huge double-hung windows, wonderful wood floors, and a circular staircase.

To keep things from being too predictable, there's a "Japanese bathroom" at the back of the house, which, from the photos, appears to be a wood-slatted shower enclosed in paper screens. There's a bit of work to be done on the dwelling (the backyard needs spiffing, one of the upstairs floors appears to be paint-splattered), but it's easy to see that this 4,356-square-foot jewel just needs a bit of polishing up. It's listed for $1.799 million.

· 207 Oaklawn Ave., South Pasadena, CA 91030 [Estately]

Three Cents Worth: How Much Does It End Up Costing When a House Lingers on the Market in Los Angeles?

Please welcome real estate appraiser, Curbed NY graph guru, blogger, newsletter writer, and columnist Jonathan Miller to Curbed LA. For his inaugural column, he looks at the connection between the length of time a listing stays on the market and the hit it'll take on its final sale price.

Since Los Angeles is all about relationships and you don't know me (yet), I thought I'd better get started on my first Three Cents Worth Column for Curbed LA. I've been compiling and analyzing data for Douglas Elliman's market report series for more than 20 years and one thing I've learned: there is nothing better than a good chart. For this column I thought I'd explore the relationship between days on market and listing discount and how that is changing.

There is clearly a relationship between how long a home takes to sell and what discount or premium was realized between the list price and the final sales price. When a listing sits for a long period of time, it's a function of how close the listing price sits to the actual value of the property. I looked back to 2007 (before the financial crisis began) and presented the average listing discount (the percentage difference between the list price at time of sale and the sales price) and the average days on the market (the number of days between the last price change to the contract date).

These lines represent the average listing discount for homes that sold within a certain time period. Consistent with the tight housing market—rising prices, rising sales and tepid inventory growth—the overall listing discount has been declining steadily since 2009, but leveling off in the past few years.

It has been my experience that when a homeowner prices a property at what they want to sell it for, rather than what is is worth, the home takes longer to sell and the discount is larger. Homes that are priced closer to market sell much faster and, one could argue, have a better chance at selling for more than the reasonable value might be. In the past three years, a home priced to sell quickly usually resulted in a bidding war or had more buyers look at the property. Just look at the purple line for 120 days and the magenta line for 30 or fewer days since 2009—much more of a frenzy for homes priced to sell.
· Listing Discount versus Days on Market [L.A. Condos + Single Family Sales] [Miller Samuel Inc.]
· Jonathan Miller [Curbed LA]

It’s a Mall World: Grove Owner Rick Caruso Builds Malls Like He’s Making Movies

[Image via Howard F. / Curbed LA flickr pool]

Developer Rick Caruso gets a lot of flack for his fakey-old-town shopping centers (The Grove and the Americana at Brand), which replicate a place that never really existed. But if you consider these malls as a kind of set for a movie we're all background players in, there's something to be said for the film-director-level of control and calculation going on at The Grove and other Caruso properties. A recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter reveals that Caruso approaches his shopping plazas a lot like a movie: starting with a story, trying to create something that people can connect with, and of course devoting himself to good lighting.

— Like a good movie, a good mall should make you feel something. Caruso looks at his "lifestyle centers" as places that should connect with people on an emotional level and make them want to stick around to take pictures (and shop). "Market share is interesting and important," says Caruso. "But what's more important is 'heart share,' the emotional connection."

— The reason people take so many pictures at The Grove is because they look better there than they do in so many other places in LA. "We learned a lot from studio lighting," says Caruso. "We're probably the largest buyer of pink lights in the world. People look better, and it provides a warm glow."

— Caruso realizes that the movie business has what he needs to build the kind of world-within-a-world that he wants. During the 1990s, he hired a longtime production designer, Richard Sawyer (The Three Amigos), to help him create the right environment in his projects. "He is probably the closest developer that might equate to a director-producer," Sawyer says.

— Every good story needs a solid setting, which is partly why Caruso was so interested in redeveloping quaint downtown Pacific Palisades. "They have their own flag! An honorary mayor! Their own Fourth of July parade! It's just so beautiful, so basic, so steeped in family values. It's a big slice of American pie." That perfect setting is also why he's on the lookout for property in Downtown LA's Arts District: 'You can't invent that — those old warehouses, that backlot.'"

— Caruso "micromanages" every property in his empire, visiting at least twice a month for a thorough inspection, to make sure that "the upkeep of sensory details, whether it's the body language of valet staff or a bit of gum on the sidewalk" fits into the narrative of the space.

— Like most blockbusters, The Grove attracts a ton of people because it offers people a way to escape from their everyday lives, Caruso says. "A lot of the experts criticize The Grove, that it was manufactured. Well, somehow 20 million people a year seem to feel it's real and it's right. We transport them to a better place."

— Caruso argues that The Grove and all his shopping centers aren't part of the "shopping business," but part of the "content and experience business," which requires that his shopping centers "construct narratives, scenes, feelings and moods," telling a story that shoppers want to listen to.
· L.A.'s Walt Disney of Shopping: Rick Caruso on Expansion Plans, Whose Advice He Seeks in Hollywood [THR]
· 10 Quotes About the Grove From Its Birth in the Early Aughts [Curbed LA]
· Here's the Jaw-Dropping Plan to Grove-ify Downtown Pac Pal [Curbed LA]

Public Art: MacArthur Park Lake Will Be Filled With Thousands of Giant, Colorful Balls This Summer

[Images via Portraits of Hope]

This summer, MacArthur Park Lake will be filled with about 7,000 enormous, handpainted, inflatable spheres in a "one-of-a-kind floating artwork." The project comes from Portraits of Hope, which has also covered New York taxis and Los Angeles lifeguard towers in its signature graphic flowers. The Spheres at MacArthur Park were seven years in the works, according to an April story at CBS LA, but finally got approval this past December. The spheres, four to six feet in diameter, are being painted now, by thousands of kids and adults from the area, in "brightly colored floral and aquatic designs," with work expected to be done in late July or so. Once the spheres are in the lake, they'll bob for about four weeks.


Photo: POHThe Spheres at MacArthur Park

Posted by Portraits of Hope on Wednesday, May 20, 2015
· Spheres at MacArthur Park [Portraits of Hope]

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