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Los Feliz Spanish-style with sweet guest house seeks $2.1M

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A striking staircase and a bold color choice in the kitchen

Located between Los Feliz and Griffith Park boulevards, this Spanish Colonial Revival-style pad is in a fantastic, high-rent nook of the city, and, according to the listing copy, offers both privacy and views of the neighboring hills.

The three-bedroom, three-bathroom residence holds a stately entryway staircase, coved ceilings, wood floors, and a vibrant kitchen with cobalt blue cabinets and a patterned tile backsplash.

Fun colors aren’t just confined to the kitchen: At least two of the bathrooms contain what looks to be original tile in yellow and teal, respectively.

The house’s living area opens to a courtyard and the backyard beyond. Sharing the lot with the main house is an adorable, possibly unpermitted guest house with its own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchenette.

The property is listed for $2.095 million, and after 19 days on the market, it’s accepting back-up offers.

State bill could provide $98M in funding for the LA River

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It’s awaiting the governor’s signature

The California State Legislature approved a budget bill Monday that, if approved by Governor Jerry Brown, would provide $98 million in funding for projects along the LA River.

The money will be divvied up evenly and distributed to the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy. The two state-run organizations oversee wildlife protection, education, and recreation along the upper and lower portions of the river.

The bill does not outline any specific projects to be funded, but does mandate that the money be spent on the river (and not any of its tributaries), and that a total of $13 million be allocated toward projects approved by both conservancies.

River revitalization advocates River LA and Friends of the Los Angeles River expressed excitement about the new funding in a joint statement. FoLAR Executive Director Marissa Christiansen noted that the money is set to arrive “at a pivotal moment in the River’s history,” as local leaders plan for restoration projects and development along the 51-mile body of water.

In March, the city of Los Angeles completed the $59.3 million purchase of a 41-acre parcel of river-adjacent land in Cypress Park. The plot is considered a key element of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-led plan for the revitalization of an 11-mile stretch of river that stretches from Griffith Park to Downtown LA.

Meanwhile, architect Frank Gehry continues to work on a rather secretive master plan for the entire river. Last year, River LA released an online index detailing some of Gehry’s research and findings related to the project.

As for the state funding, the Santa Monica Conservancy hasn’t responded to an inquiry about how it would use the money and Rivers and Mountains says it has projects in the works in Long Beach and South Gate, but it didn’t provide specifics.

Inside LA’s new Freehand hotel, where shared rooms start at $55 nightly

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This place is not your hippie cousin’s bare-bones hostel

Downtowners who might remember walking by the boarded-up ground floor of the Commercial Exchange building will now see expansive glass panes topped by rows of transom windows, allowing passersby to peek into a new lobby, bar, and first floor restaurant.

The transformation of 1920s-era building at Eighth and Olive from a mostly empty but beautiful space into a hip Freehand hotel is complete.

Sydell Group—the company behind Koreatown’s stylish Line hotel and Palm Springs’s colorful Saguaro hotel—enlisted Santa Monica-based Killefer Flammang Architects to revitalize the building. The project was announced in 2014, and starting this week, it’s taking reservations and its restaurant and bar are open to the public.

The Freehand began as a hostel-type hotel in Miami, but Sydell Group CEO Andrew Zobler says the idea of Freehand is more about capturing the culture of a hostel—meeting people and socializing, having unexpected interactions—than it is about being one.

Maybe that’s why the Downtown Freehand’s 59 shared rooms are nothing like the ultra-basic hostels familiar to backpackers.

A shared room at the hotel. Photo by Adrian Gaut.

In the shared rooms, bunk beds made of solid wood, like those at a mountain cabin, are outfitted with the same mattresses that are used in the rooms of the Sydell Group’s upscale NoMad hotels. (Sydell is also putting a NoMad outpost into the Bank of Italy building up the street.)

Whether they have four, six, or eight beds, all shared quarters have their own ensuite bathroom with sea green penny tile, and bathroom and shower enclosures—allowing for multiple people to use the facilities without things getting too invasive.

The setup is great for families traveling with small children or a group of friends traveling together, says Zobler.

The hotel’s remaining 167 rooms are private, not shared, accommodations. Both shared and private rooms have similar decor features and color palettes, incorporating nubby textures and earthy, natural tones.

A private room in the hotel. The operable sash windows are original to the hotel. Photo by Adrian Gaut.

The woven carpets, the multicolored woven throw rugs, and the textile art all look as though they’d have a uniquely pleasurable feel to the touch. “Everything here feels a little imperfect [and] organic,” says Zobler.

The hotel’s decor—from the ceramic pots in the windows on the ground floor to the carpets and throw pillows in the rooms upstairs—was curated by the design duo Roman and Williams.

Some of the rooms offer a glimpse of the hotel’s restored Commercial Exchange blade sign, a 12-story-tall reminder of the building’s past.

There’s still a little work to be done. The hotel’s much-anticipated rooftop pool and the accompanying lounge are expected to open later this summer.

Opening rates at the hotel will start at $229 for a private room and $55 for a bed in shared room.

Photo by Frank Wonho Lee.

Lucas museum is coming to Los Angeles

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News about the art museum that George Lucas will build in South LA

The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, a $1.2 billion undertaking, is scheduled to open in Exposition Park in South Los Angeles in 2021, with construction starting in early 2018.

Designed by MAD Architects, the futuristic-looking museum will contain more than 100,000 square feet of gallery space, plus classrooms, a library, two theaters, an eatery, and a public rooftop garden. It will rise on land occupied now by two parking lots, just west of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. It will be in walking distance from two stops on the Expo Line light rail.

Hardly a museum of Star Wars, the new institution will focus will be on “the power of storytelling across all media, including paintings, illustrations, and moving images,” and it will display items from Lucas’s own collection (he’s a big-time Norman Rockwell collector).

Here’s all the news coverage of the museum.

Los Angeles City Council approves Lucas Museum

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“An incredible institution that will inspire generations to come”

“It’s going to be a slam dunk,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said about approving plans to build the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles. He was right.

The proposal breezed past its final hurdle in City Hall on Tuesday, with the Los Angeles City Council enthusiastically approving plans to build the new, futuristic-looking art museum in Exposition Park.

George Lucas and his wife Mellody Hobson had a tough time finding a home for the museum—initially striking out in Chicago and San Francisco.

“Who knew it’d be so hard to give away a museum?” Hobson said, half-joking. “Despite this long journey, the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art was always meant to be in Los Angeles.”

Hobson told the council she grew up in Chicago, scheming about the day she’d be successful enough to create a cultural space for everyone, a space “where I belonged.” Now the chairwoman of the board of directors of DreamWorks Animation, she’s embedded in LA, which she said is experiencing a renaissance.

“This is not a vanity project,” she said. “This is something that will serve society well for years to come.”

When Hobson and Lucas announced in January that they definitely wanted to bring the museum to LA, “my office erupted with joy,” said councilmember Joe Buscaino.

The couple was greeted with applause and “thank yous” when they entered council chambers on Tuesday.

Designed by MAD Architects, the five-story museum will look like a spaceship hovering above the park. Garcetti boldly called it “one of the boldest pieces of architecture we’ve seen in the world … [it’s] an incredible institution that will inspire generations to come.”

There will be plenty of parking, with two underground garages that accommodate 2,425 cars.

The museum will house Lucas and Hobson’s personal art collection, as well as Star Wars memorabilia and other movie set pieces. The museum’s website says to think about the collection in three themes: The history of narrative art, the art of cinema, and digital art. The permanent collection includes works by David Hockney and Norman Rockwell, along with digital renderings of contemporary architecture and illustrations from children’s books.

“The whole concept of narrative art has been forgotten,” Lucas told the council. “This kind of art is very important, and it’s especially important to adolescents. Star Wars was done on a lark to tell adolescents, 12 year olds, to think outside of the box … don’t trust anyone over 30.”

The museum will replace parking lots and a soccer field (which will be relocated and improved) and include, in addition to galleries, a café and restaurant, theaters, lecture halls, a library, and classrooms.

At a press conference after Tuesday’s council vote, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said Exposition Park will become “a new destination all over again.”

“[The museum] replaces asphalt, and now it’s a symbol of what’s new and what’s next,” he said.

The museum’s president, Don Bacigalupi, told the council he was anxious to start building. Construction is scheduled to start by early next year with an opening date tentatively set for 2021.

Los Angeles home comparisons: What $775K can buy

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A townhome in Silver Lake or a beachy cottage in Malibu?

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 $10,000 of today’s price: $775,000.

Living room with hardwood floors
Kitchen and staircase
Bedroom with walk-in closet
Office spaceVia Julie A. Mollo, Sotheby’s International Realty

↑We’ll start with a three-bedroom townhouse in Silver Lake. The 1,241-square-foot residence also has three full bathrooms and an attached two-car garage. Features include hardwood floors, a recently remodeled kitchen with stainless steel appliances, a living room fireplace, and a small barbecue area outside. Asking price is $779,000. HOA dues are $325 per month.

Front of Spanish-style home
Living room with fireplace
Remodeled kitchen
Bedroom with sliding doorVia Alice Hines, Coldwell Banker

↑This three-bedroom Leimert Park home last sold in October and now it’s back on the market with a very contemporary-looking interior. The Spanish-style home was built in 1934 and features arched entryways, beamed ceilings, and an elegant living room fireplace. It has 1,757 square feet of living space and two full bathrooms. The 5,012-square-foot lot is big enough for a two-car garage. Asking price is $785,000.

Living room with fireplace
Dining area and kitchen
Master bedroom
Second bedroomVia Val Hacopian, RE/MAX

↑This fairly spacious West Hollywood condo has two bedrooms and one and three quarters baths spread across 1,153 square feet of living space. There’s also a large, covered deck with plenty of room for outdoor dining. Building amenities include a gym, swimming pool, and a pair of parking spots. Asking price is $765,000, with HOA dues of $364 per month.

Front of house with grassy lawn
Living room with fireplace
Dining room area
BedroomVia Henry Vega, Redfin

↑This bright yellow property in North Hollywood hasn’t actually hit the market yet, but it will next week, so get ready. Per the listing, the four-bedroom, three-bath home has been divvied up into three separate units, with tenants living in at least one of them. Still, the open front unit has been recently remodeled and offers hardwood floors and a nice living room fireplace. Plus, the rental income should help with mortgage payments. Asking price is $780,000.

Little pink house
Living room with glass double doors
Backyard areaVia Ren Smith, Partners Trust Malibu

↑Here’s a little pink beach cottage in Malibu’s Paradise Cove community. Featuring two bedrooms and one bathroom, with 1,100 square feet of living space, the home is a little bigger than it looks, though certainly still cozy. The 2,000-square-foot lot holds a small backyard and deck accessed directly from the bedrooms. Asking price is $775,000, though HOA dues are an additional $1,163 per month.

Downtown LA streetcar opening may be pushed to 2021

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The project was once expected to be complete in 2016

Plans for a Downtown Los Angeles streetcar are still chugging along, but perhaps not as quickly as prospective riders might have hoped.

The City Council’s Transportation Committee will review a report on Wednesday from city staff indicating that the project’s realistic opening date will have to be pushed back to July of 2021—seven months later than the previous estimate.

Delays should be familiar to longtime Downtown residents. The streetcar was once projected to open as early as 2016, but a lack of funding and other issues have so far kept the project in the planning stages.

The report also contains a new cost estimate for the project: $274.2 million (or $290.7 million including finance charges). That’s a little higher than previous estimates, due to the later opening date. The cost also rises to $306.3 million if an extension of the line to Grand Avenue is constructed, though last year the City Council decided not to pursue that option unless additional funding becomes available.

As it stands now, the project is expected to make a loop from the Historic Core down to South Park and up through the Financial District. It would arrive every seven minutes during peak hours and every 10 to 15 minutes during off-peak hours.

According to the funding plan for Measure M, Metro’s sales tax hike passed in November, the project is due to receive $200 million. Unfortunately, the funding schedule as it exists today doesn’t make that money available until 2053. Not surprisingly, the report notes the importance of convincing Metro to make those funds available sooner in order to complete the project on time.

The rest of the money for the project will come largely from a property tax approved by Downtown voters in 2012. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation is also applying for a $100 million grant that would also provide additional funding.

The city has also been looking into the idea of a public-private partnership to get the project going if funding comes up short. The report notes, though, that that option would push back the project’s opening date even further, to mid-2022.

Is Solar Energy Right for You?

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Article Highlights:

Solar Electric System TV Ads 
Do You Really Need One? 
System Cost 
Solar Tax Credit 
Home Mortgage Interest 

It seems like you can’t watch TV these days without being exposed to home solar ads touting free electricity and big tax credits. Be careful, as these savings and tax credits may not be all that they are advertised to be; this depends upon your financial and tax circumstances. Home solar is not necessarily the best option for everyone. Before you take the leap, please take a moment to consider the tax and financial aspects of solar electric systems as they apply to your circumstances. Once you’ve done so, you can make an educated decision.
Do You Really Need It? – Although nearly everyone wants to help the environment by reducing the use of fossil fuels, not every household uses enough electricity to warrant the expense of installing solar. Thus, the first step in your analysis should be to look at your annual electricity costs to see how long it will take for the projected savings to pay off the system. Be sure to also consider how many years you plan to stay in your present home, as if you expect to move soon, you likely won’t recover your costs before selling the home. System Cost – If you decide to install solar, shop around and do your research to find reliable contractors with good reputations. Get multiple quotes and compare them not only for cost, but also in terms of warranties, features, and kilowatt output. Financing – This is one of the key issues that you need to carefully consider in making your decision. Systems typically cost $20,000 or more, and this depends on the home’s size and electricity needs. If you plan on financing the system, you need to be very conscious of loan interest rates, which can substantially impact the overall cost.  CAUTION: Some municipalities have set up programs through which the loan for the purchase of a solar electric system is added as a lien on the home; the payments are then made along with property tax payments. Unfortunately, the interest rates for these programs are generally substantially higher than the rates for other sources. All too frequently, the borrowers are led to believe that the payments are deductible as property taxes, but, in fact, only the interest portion of the payments are deductible as home mortgage interest.Solar Tax Credit – As an incentive to persuade homeowners to install solar electric systems in their homes, the federal government offers a tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of solar installation (if for a primary or secondary home). However, the credit is nonrefundable, which means that it can only be used to offset tax liability; any amount of credit that is not used in the current year carries forward, however. Depending upon your circumstances, you may not even derive a meaningful benefit from the credit. Line 47 on the 1040 tax form represents your tax liability for the year, and the solar tax credit can only be used to offset that amount. In addition, the solar credit is being phased out; the credit on new installations drops to 26% in 2010 and 22% in 2021, the last year of the credit. Another issue is that the credit is not allowed if you lease a solar electric system instead of purchasing it. Interest Deduction – Because the addition of a solar electric system would be treated as a home improvement, if your loan to finance a system is secured by your home, the interest is deductible as home mortgage acquisition interest – provided that you itemize your deductions and that the sum of all your primary and secondary home acquisition debt does not exceed $1 million.
The final issue is whether you can actually afford the solar electric system. Is it worth having one after taking into account the system’s cost, the financing interest, the reduced electricity costs, and the tax credit? This office can assist you in conducting an objective analysis without pressure from a salesperson. Please call for an appointment before committing to purchase a solar electric system.