Housing in Hollywood

A while ago I was riding the bus down La Brea and I was surprised to see a number of projects under construction. There seems to be a small explosion of residential and retail going up. Here are a few photos….

La Brea & Santa Monica

La Brea 2

La Brea 1

Jerry Solomon

For a really thorough overview of this mini-building boom, check out this article by Daniel Safarik for The Faster Times. He gives an excellent breakdown of each project and talks about what all this development could mean for the community. Safarik points out that large stretches of La Brea have fallen into decline, and that it makes sense to replace vacant, decaying buildings with new structures that will contribute something to the neighborhood. And I’m certainly in favor of development, as long as it responds to an actual need.

And that’s the tricky part. What does this community actually need? And in a larger context, what does the city of LA actually need?

Not too long after my trip down La Brea, I was walking along Franklin and I noticed a number of apartment buildings sporting brightly colored banners to let people know they had vacant units. Here’s a selection….

El Cerrito

Banners 2





These are just half of the pictures I took. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the area, La Brea intersects Franklin at the foot of the Hollywood Hills. All of the signs I photographed are on buildings within a mile of that intersection. I didn’t have to look for them. All I did was walk along Franklin to Wilcox, where I made a right. I’m willing to bet there are many more buildings with vacancies on the streets between Franklin and Hollywood Boulevard.

Sure, I understand that all apartment complexes are going to have vacant units at times, and the larger ones will always have a higher turnover. But ten years ago I wasn’t seeing green and red banners shouting “NOW RENTING” at passersby. Ten years ago apartments were in demand, and landlords didn’t have to worry about luring tenants.

So I guess I’m skeptical about the necessity of building over a thousand new units on La Brea. If there’s that much demand, why are there so many empty apartments just blocks away? It’s true that vacancy rates can vary widely from one neighborhood to another. But it’s interesting that of all the buildings going up on La Brea, only one is going to provide affordable housing. The rest are all geared for the upscale crowd. I’m assuming prices will be in the same range as The Avenue, a recently completed complex near Hollywood and La Brea where rents start at $2,350 a month.

I’ve heard so much about how LA needs to accept high-density housing, that there’s no other solution for the city’s future. But LA is not growing the way it used to. Census data shows that the city’s population increased just 2.65 percent between 2000 and 2010. In the Hollywood area the population actually shrank by more than 12,000.

So are we building all these units because people can’t find housing? Or are we building them because developers stand to make a lot of money?

Hollywood Journal – Leave the Dome Alone

Another entry from my Hollywood journal, this one very brief.

The wrangling over Pacific Theaters’ plans for the Cinerama Dome continues. There was a good deal of anger in the Hollywood community over the proposed project. The Community Redevelopment Agency had received letters of protest from over a hundred concerned citizens, including Steven Spielberg and Richard Schickel. And the people at Pacific had started paying attention.

I also mention a couple of record stores I used to frequent. Eastside was in a strip-mall on Hillhurst. It’s long gone now. Record Recycler was on Sunset near Vermont. It’s actually still around, though it hasn’t been at that location for years. The owner moved the store down to Torrance. Those of you who are into used vinyl can get more info by clicking here.

For a while I was in the habit of hitting the Roosevelt Hotel for a drink at the end of the day. I loved zoning out in the lobby and listening to the guy at the piano. Totally relaxing. I should point out that the photo below was not taken at the time I wrote this journal entry. I snapped it on a recent visit. I wanted to show a little bit of the Roosevelt lobby, but it’s important to say that it’s been remodeled since this entry was written.

And finally, in transcribing this journal I’ve decided to leave the errors in, which is why “Roosevelt” is misspelled in the last paragraph.

June, Nineteen Ninety Eight

Yesterday I called Pacific Theaters again to see if there was any change in the Cinerama Dome situation. And apparently, yeah, they’ve made some concessions. It’s still hard to say whether this so-called remodeling is gonna work out okay, but from what the woman told me, it sounds like they’re finally thinking a little bit about design. I heard they were talking to the L.A. Conservancy. Thank God for the Conservancy.

This afternoon I went and bought some records, first at Eastside, then at Record Recycler.

A little after six I walked into the lobby of the Rooseveldt. Ordered a beer. Sat down in a chair over by the piano. The guy actually played Three Coins in the Fountain. Mercy.

Rsvt Lobby

More Millennium Madness

There’s an excellent article in the August 9 issue of the LA Weekly covering recent revelations about the fault line that may run under the Millennium Hollywood site. You can follow the link below to the on-line version, but I urge you to also read the print version, which is more coherent and gives a broader picture of the situation. Reporter Gracie Zheng does a good job of sorting out the details of this depressing story, which clearly shows that campaign cash from developers is way more important to the City Council than the safety of LA’s residents.

Was Fault Hushed Up?

The Devil Is in the Details

Aerial view of Regional Connector station at First and Alameda.

Aerial view of Regional Connector station at First and Alameda.

To show you how clueless I am, I hadn’t heard anything about the MTA’s proposed Regional Connector project until a few days ago. This is a major undertaking, and it has major implications, not just for the downtown area but for all of LA. Briefly, the purpose of the project is to link together the Gold Line’s Little Tokyo Station with the Red Line’s 7th & Metro Station, which could make things a lot easier for transit riders. For a more complete explanation, here’s a link to the Regional Connector page on the MTA’s web site.

MTA Regional Connector

And if you’d like to see what the completed project would look like, click the link below to see proposed designs, as well as maps laying out the location of the stops. I thought some of the comments were interesting, too. A lot of people are less than thrilled with the way the stations are laid out.


As with any project of this size, there are pros and cons. Overall, I think the Regional Connector could be tremendously beneficial. But there are also potential problems, and three different groups are suing the MTA over the project. One issue is that a number of local businesses will be displaced. Even businesses that don’t have to worry about being demolished are very concerned about being able to function during construction. Many of these are family-run enterprises, and a significant loss of customers over a period of years could kill them.

I spent some time this morning checking out a number of articles on the Regional Connector, and often the comments were the most interesting part of the story. A lot of downtown residents are totally gung ho on this project. Many of them dismiss the concerns of the local businesses as though the owners are worrying over nothing. A few of the commenters are so angry about the lawsuits that they suggested a boycott of the businesses involved. I wonder how these commenters would feel if an enterprise they’d worked for years to establish was threatened with extinction.

I also wonder if the people who are so enthusiastic about this project remember the last time the city built an underground rail line. I’m referring to the construction of the Red Line, which ran way behind schedule and way over budget, and caused massive problems when they were tunnelling under Hollywood Boulevard. The street actually sank six inches during this period, and the digging also affected water lines. There was also evidence of massive corruption and sub-standard work by the contractors. Here’s a link to some of the comments posted at the LA Times during this period.

LA Times – Red Line Comments

I do think the Regional Connector could be really good for LA, but we have to show a healthy skepticism about any project of this size. The picture the MTA paints makes it all sound great, but there’s a big difference between creating digital renderings and actually getting it done. Don’t forget, they’ve burned us before.