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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Eastside Property Report

Eastside Property Report: Echo Park and Silver Lake home prices (at least those in the 90026 Zip Code) posted the biggest increase in the area during October. But Eagle Rock and northern Silver Lake and Atwater Village were not far behind. Click on the link below to view an Eastside Home Price chart of the ups and (mostly) downs the median sales price took over the past year as compiled by DataQuick and the L.A. Times.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who is going to step up and buy this Echo Park home?

The sales listing for the Echo Park house at 2966 Landa Street includes all the basic facts and figures: a price of $699,000; 1,100-square-feet of space; two bedrooms and two baths. But one number is not mentioned: 87. That's the number of steps that must be climbed up from the bottom of the hill to reach the front door of this home located on a steep public stairway. That means everything - from guests to groceries - must travel up and down that stairway. "It's been a wonderful place to live," said architect and homeowner Chris King, who designed the house in collaboration with partner Barry Jacob. But after three years of stairway living, King and Jacob have put the house on the market as they search for another project and challenge.

Building what the pair call The StepHouse would seem challenging enough. The StepHouse was perhaps one of the first new homes built on a public stairway in Echo Park in decades. King and Jacob loved the setting and the charm of the stairways. But their interest in building a house with no direct street access, garage or off-street parking forced them into a year-long process of public hearings and meetings with planners to secure permission to build their glass-and-wood house on an empty lot. While the home and its hillside views are eye catching, most visitors can't help but ask about the difficulties of hauling bags of groceries and trash cans up and down the Landa Street stairway.

King said it has not been a big deal. What he's enjoyed is getting to know neighbors as he and Jacob make their daily trek up and down the stairs. "That's what I really enjoy about living on a stair-street," he said. Since moving in three years ago, other have also taken a greater interest in the Landa Street Stairway, including fitness buffs who like to exercise on its nearly 150 steps.

King and Jacob have not decided where they will live if they sell their Step House. Jacob said their home's location is certainly not for everyone. "It's going to appeal to a certain audience, and we are fine with that."

At least their house is located only half way up that stairway.

Top photo from EchoParkModern.com; Bottom photo from HistoricEchoPark.org

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The million dollar neighbor next door

The hills surrounding the Silver Lake Reservoir feature some of the area's most stunning views - and real estate prices. Values remain far below their boom-year peaks, but nearly a dozen homes sold for a million dollars or more during a recent six month period in the 90039 Zip Code, with almost all of them in Silver Lake (Sorry, Atwater). The seven-figure sales prices might make other homeowners jealous but they often don't come easy.

Silver Lake's million dollar club ranges from a 1928 Spanish-Colonial style house on Armstrong Avenue that sold for $1.3 million; a $1.6 million Art Deco-inspired house on Micheltorena Street with a swooping stairway; and a classic mid-century with guest house on Hidalgo Avenue that fetched $1.015 million, according to a search on Redfin.

"I've seen things pick up in last couple of months at the million dollar range," said real estate agent Dan Ortega at Keller Williams. However, Ortega notes that half of those recent million dollar sales closed at below the asking price. Still, the discounts have not been as steep as in other neighborhoods and the 90039 section of Silver Lake, which includes Moreno Highlands and the Ivanhoe Elementary school district, commands some of the highest prices around.

Meanwhile, don't expect the million dollar property club to add many members in Echo Park, Mt. Washington or Eagle Rock. "I think were still a ways from the point where will see homes in that price point," Ortega said.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A new view of old windows

Ed Sanchez spent many years in the business of getting homeowners to rip out old double-hung and casement windows - beloved by old house fans - and replace them with (gasp!) aluminum sliders. It did not make him a popular man among preservationists. But on Monday night, Sanchez will be welcomed at a meeting of the Highland Park Heritage Trust as an expert on repairing and restoring the same old windows. How did this happen?

Sanchez, as it turns out, hates throwing things away. He also saw the growing interest, as well as profit, in the restoration of old windows. About a decade ago, he and his partners opened up Window Restoration & Repair. He now gets a kick fixing windows that have been stuck for decades. "When [customers] are able to operate windows freely with just one hand ... they can't believe it," Sanchez said. "They are always fighting their windows."

At Monday night's meeting, Sanchez will talk about the maintenance and repair of old wood as well metal wood windows. Keeping and repairing those old windows can turn out to be cheaper than replacing them with new metal and vinyl when you take into account the labor to patch and repair the surrounding wall, he said.

Many customers are interested in repairing and preserving double-hung wood windows made from Douglas fir or crank-operated metal casement windows. In a few years, Sanchez said it would not surprise him if preservationists became nostalgic for those aluminum sliders from the 1950s and 1960s.

"Some day, people are going to look at aluminum windows and they say, 'Hey those look cool. I can't believe I took them out of my house.'"

Photo by MG Shelton/Flickr

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An early price chop for new Echo Park condos

The Sunset Five condo project has been on the market for only about three weeks but the owners of the Echo Park project have already taken a $20,000 whack at the price of one unit. The price of the Unit A - two-bedrooms and 1,184 square feet - was reduced to $579,000, according to Trulia.com Units in the newly completed project on Sunset Boulevard at Portia Street range from $495,000 to $645,000, according to the listing agent.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Rolls of carpet replace reels of film in an old Highland Park movie house

It's been a long time since anyone has watched a film at the Franklin Theatre in Highland Park. The former Figueroa Street movie house near Avenue 55 closed decades ago and the building it once occupied is now home to MP Carpet Service. While the seats and projectors have been ripped out and the auditorium gutted and carved into separate spaces, faded wall murals and even a strip of the stage curtain still hover over giant rolls and scraps of carpet.

Highland Park historian Charles Fisher provided some history on the Franklin in a comment posted on Cinema Treasures:

"The Franklin Theater building is a product of over 80 years of adaptive reuse. It was originally built in 1922 for Fred Stillwell as an automobile sales agency and garage. By 1929, it was operated by the local Chevrolet dealer. In 1934, new owner, E. H. Rose converted the building to a market. The facade was redesigned in [concrete] by architect, W. L. Schmolle. The theater conversion occurred in 1936, when Rose hired architect Lyle N. Barcume, engineer Harold P. King and contractor G. S. Griffith to convert the existing structure into a theater. The marquee, which was engineered by Blaine Noice (who engineer many of the buildings at the old Walt Disney Studios on Hyperion Avenue) and designed and built by QRS Neon Corporation, LTD, was installed in September of that year and the the venue opened as the "Hughes Theatre". The name was later changed to the "Franklin Theatre", under which it operated until 1952, when it closed and was converted to DeWitt Storage."

One MP Carpet customer told the owners of the days she saw movies at the Franklin when she was girl. Members of the family who own the business, which has been located in the building since the early 1990s, said the murals are in a fragile state, with paint flaking off the walls even during a light cleaning. So, they are left untouched and forgotten.

Friday, October 30, 2009

It's the end of the line for Taylor Yard

The last remaining major repair shops and sheds at Taylor Yard, the once bustling freight train yard that sprawled along the Los Angeles River near Cypress Park, have been turned into piles of rusting metal scrap. In the last few months, nearby residents - and those farther away in the hills of Mt. Washington and Silver Lake, have watched crews demolish and dismantle the large maintenance sheds at the historic rail facility. But Union Pacific did not consider any of the buildings at Taylor Yards historic.

Railroad spokeswoman Lupe Valdez said the buildings at Taylor Yard, which has not been used in many years, were torn down to lessen the need for 24-hour security at the 42-acre property. City and state officials have talked for years about buying the former Southern Pacific yard for parkland - the new Rio de Los Angeles State Park was once railroad property - but budget problems have stalled that proposal. "We would love to sell it," Valdez said of the property. "That's what our hope is."

Angelino Heights resident and railroad enthusiast Kevin Kuzma has been watching and photographing the demolition of one of the reminders of the city's industrial past. He has written a story about the yard's history and significance:

By Kevin Kuzma

Demolition is nearly complete on a pair of Elysian Valley’s largest landmarks. Crews are making quick work of the massive metal buildings built to service the locomotives that once assembled and led Southern Pacific freight trains in and out of Taylor Yard.

The taller Back Shop building is the older of the two. Built in the early 1930s (along with the long-gone Taylor roundhouse), this building once housed a full service repair shop where heavy repairs could be performed on the era’s steam locomotives, including Southern Pacific’s distinctive - cab-forward - locomotives designed to haul trains over the steep grades of Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The more sprawling diesel shop complex was built in 1949 and was considered the finest such facility in the world at the time.