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West Hollywood lets condo owners off the hook for earthquake safety upgrades

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Condo owners argued the repairs would be too expensive

On Monday, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously approved a motion calling for condo owners to be exempted from a forthcoming seismic retrofit program, as Wehoville reports.

An ordinance proposed by city staff would require many of the city’s concrete buildings and all steel-frame structures constructed prior to the 1994 Northridge earthquake to be inspected for potential earthquake risks. Inspectors could then order property owners to bring the structures up to current safety standards.

But Wehoville reports that condo owners at the council meeting argued against the ordinance, saying the building updates should be optional.

A memo from the city’s Community Development Department notes that the seismic upgrades could be costly to condo owners in particular, and multiple residents of the exclusive Sierra Towers building told the council that (by their estimate) such retrofits could cost up to $1 million per unit.

Sierra Towers resident Joy Germont wrote to the council that “the cost of the retrofit would be so enormous that it would cause many of us to have to sell at a great loss.” She pointed to the fact that the building sustained no damage during the Northridge quake as evidence that the repairs might not be necessary.

Seismologists generally agree that Southern California is due for a major earthquake that could cause structurally weak buildings to collapse—especially those built with non-ductile concrete or stiff steel frames.

The council sided with the condo owners, but did not dispatch with the retrofit program altogether. As Wehoville reports, the rewritten ordinance will still apply to owners of apartment buildings found to be in need of retrofits.

Watch How an 8.0 Earthquake on the San Andreas Fault Would Rock LA [Curbed LA]

The Southern San Andreas Fault Is a Ticking Earthquake Time Bomb [Curbed LA]

WeHo City Council Gives Condo Owners a Pass on Earthquake Safety [Wehoville]

Two new apartment complexes planned for Chinatown

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They’ll bring 70 units to the neighborhood

A pair of new residential projects planned for Chinatown could bring 70 new apartments to the neighborhood.

Plans filed with the city on Tuesday call for the construction of a six-story apartment building with 33 units at 708 South New Depot Street. Three of those units will be set aside for very low-income tenants.

As Urbanize LA reports, a neighboring project is already being planned by the same developer, Bunker Heights, LLC. The five-story building, which is set to rise from a vacant lot at 849 North Bunker Hill Ave, would include 37 units (two of which will be reserved for very low-income tenants).

The two structures are being designed by Labyrinth Design Studio with a wavy, stacked blocks aesthetic and plenty of balcony space.

Black and white renderingLos Angeles Department of City Planning

Chinatown hasn’t seen the kind of development that has transformed adjacent Downtown neighborhoods in recent years, but a few new projects have been announced in the area within the last year. They include a Johnson Fain-designed mixed use development and a glassy, millennial-oriented project near the Gold Line.

LA County median home price bests pre-recession record

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The median home price: $560,000

Well, it only took a month for Los Angeles County’s median home prices to go from tying the record high to zooming right by it.

A new report from real estate data company CoreLogic shows that in May 2017, the midpoint sales price for homes in Los Angeles County was $560,500. That price surpasses the pre-recession record of $550,000 set in August 2007.

Across the entire Southern California region, the median sale price reached a near-record $492,000, “the highest for any month since August 2007 when it was $500,000,” according to CoreLogic.

“Healthy demand continues to meet a relatively low inventory of homes for sale, helping to nudge prices higher,” said Andrew LePage, research analyst with CoreLogic.

High prices and a lack of access to the wild financing that people had in 2007 (and which contributed to a major economic crash) hints at another housing issue: Affordability “is worse than the rise in prices suggests,” says CoreLogic.

Despite increasingly expensive stock, the number of homes sold increased 4.8 percent over the previous year, with 7,585 homes sold in LA County in May 2017. Compared to last month, the total number of sales rose nearly 19 percent.

The rise in LA County home prices corresponds with the findings of a new report from UCLA that predicts that the costs of housing in Los Angeles is on the rise, and names LA as the country’s most unaffordable city for buyers and renters.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen’s former Hollywood Hills midcentury asks $2.5M

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Features include walls of glass, basalt floor tiles, and teak cabinetry

Missed your chance to purchase John Legend’s sleek midcentury residence when the singer and his wife, model Chrissy Teigen, sold it in 2014? Well, here’s another opportunity. The Hollywood Hills home—much admired by Oprah—is back on the market.

Legend and Teigen remodeled it with the help of designer Don Stewart, as they told Architectural Digest in 2013.

Open dining room and kitchen
Bedroom with sliding door

Built in 1961, the 2,200-square-foot residence includes three bedrooms, though one has been converted into a recording studio. There are also two-and-three-quarters bathrooms, including one that is split between indoor and outdoor spaces, with a stone bathtub and a large walk-in shower.

Indoor and outdoor bathroom

Features include beamed and vaulted ceilings, basalt floor tiles, teak cabinetry, and stainless steel kitchen appliances. The open, glass-walled living area opens to a large patio shaded by the roofline, which juts out several yards from the edge of the house. A step-down wooden deck provides additional seating area and views across the hills.

The home sits on on a quarter-acre lot, with terraced gardens, a two-car garage, and an in-ground wooden spa.

Back of house with deck
House seen from street

Legend and Teigen sold the house for $2 million in 2014. It’s now asking $2.495 million.

River LA joins High Line-founded network focused on creating equitable public spaces

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The goal is for the projects to learn from the High Line’s missteps

River LA, the organization that hired Frank Gehry in relative secrecy to retool a master plan for the Los Angeles River, has joined a new network of 19 groups across the U.S. and Canada all working on projects to create new public spaces through adaptive reuse.

Co.Design reports that the network was started by Robert Hammond and Josh David, the team that created the High Line. Their goal is to share information and experience with teams working on similar projects, so missteps of the incredibly popular park—and of other similar projects—can be avoided.

The High Line, once an abandoned elevated train track, became a popular destination in New York and rapidly drew high-end investments to the Chelsea area. But many lower-income residents weren’t using the park, because, “They felt it wasn’t built for them, they didn’t see people like them there, and they didn’t like the programming,” Hammond tells Co.Design. That’s not exactly what High Line team had in mind.

“The most critical point in these projects is social equity around their neighborhoods,” Hammond says, and that means making sure people feel comfortable using their local parks but also that the communities that house parks get to benefit from them economically, too.

Many communities are skeptical of new projects like this, because they often drive up rents and spur businesses that cater to wealthier people. This is a frequently expressed concern in many communities along the LA River’s 51 miles.

The High Line Network is in the process of “developing a framework to help planners measure the social impact of projects,” and that framework is being shaped using information from all projects in the network.

“Public open space is not going to solve income inequality, displacement, and environmental problems,” Hammond tells Co.Design, but “as we think about these projects we have to be thinking about each one of these pieces.”

LA apartment rentals: What $1,450 rents you right now

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A beachy condo or a cute bungalow in Northeast LA

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 rentals within $100 of today’s price: $1,450.

↑ This Fairfax studio apartment measures just 360 square feet, but it packs a lot of character into that precious space. Newly renovated, the unit features built-ins, hardwood floors, new cabinets, and quartz countertops. The space rents for $1,525.

↑ Located in Highland Park’s Garvanza neighborhood, this one-bedroom bungalow measures about 400 square feet and has a new kitchen and bathroom. The unit has off-street parking “available” (for extra money?) and central air conditioning. Rent is $1,550.

↑ This freeway-close, one-bedroom apartment in East Hollywood has ceiling fans in every room, wood floors, and an ample kitchen. The building offers covered parking and on-site laundry, too. Rent is $1,450.

↑ Situated on a Mid-City cul-de-sac, this one-bedroom apartment is one of just four in its complex. The apartment has vintage-looking tile in the kitchen, lovely molding, and carpeted floors in much of the unit. It rents for $1,475.

↑ This newly renovated one-bedroom condo is located in “the East Village Arts District” of Long Beach. The residence is a few blocks from the waterfront, and it has windows on both sides of the unit, allowing for “the wonderful ocean breeze to flow through.” There’s a lot of tile and granite here, keeping things extra cool. Rent is $1,500.

Apartments in Frogtown’s The Bend up for grabs from $1,975

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The new units are right next to the LA River

Leasing will open next month for a large new apartment complex next to the LA River in Frogtown. Called The Bend, the three-story building designed by Killefer Flammang Architects holds 40 “loft-style” units geared toward “creatives and makers.”

Some of the units feature spiral steel cases that lead to private roof decks looking out to the river and neighboring hilltops. Ranging in size from 600 to 1,360 square feet, all of the units are outfitted with concrete floors, tall ceilings, and in-unit washer and driers.

But perhaps the biggest perk will be a connection to the river, which is poised for a major revitalization.

Rent starts at $1,975 for a studio, while three-bedrooms will go from the low $3,000s. The target move-in date is August 1.

The property holds two buildings along the river that The Bend’s developer, Terra River, LLC, converted into commercial space designed by Lean Arch, Inc. So far tenants include Pound and Lingua Franca, a restaurant from the owners of Wax Paper, a sandwich shop that names its sandwiches after NPR hosts.

Secluded Southwestern-style house in Mount Washington asking $1.2M

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The .4-acre property comes with a separate casita

Just a couple blocks away from the Southwest Museum in Mount Washington, you’ll find this Southwestern-style home that just hit the market for the first time in decades.

The two-story residence was built in 1927; however, only its exterior looks old-timey, as its insides have been thoroughly reworked. Per the listing, updates include copper plumbing, a tankless water heater, a new electrical system, double-pane windows, and hardwood floors.

Along with the two-bedroom, two-bath main house, the .39-acre property contains a separate one-bedroom guest house—reached via a path bordered by sculptural railings made by local blacksmith artist Heather McLarty—and a lush garden with mature trees.

Asking price is $1.2 million, and open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday.