Saturday, February 28, 2009

Attack of the bedroom clones

This hideous bedroom—fit for a sleep racked by nightmares of imprisonment, deprivation, humiliation, and torture—keeps appearing over and over again in FOR RENT listings.

These are three different Los Angeles apartments, but they have the same landlord-beige "Berber" carpet, the same horizontal light slit in place of a true window, and the same loathesome vertical blinds.

Below: A real Los Angeles bedroom
courtesy of Dave Goldstein

Who is killing Las Lomas . . . and why?

Renderings of Las Lomas copyright Richardson Partners.

The proposed Las Lomas development, on a steep hillside just northeast of the junction of the 5 and 14 Freeways in northern Los Angeles County, has been—and is still—under attack by a variety of forces, from the Los Angeles City Council (in the person, mainly, of Council member Greig Smith) to the neighboring boomburg of Santa Clarita, itself a relative newcomer, having been incorporated only in 1987.

I first discovered Las Lomas through the captivating drawings of architect Richard Robertson, a Los Angeles–based historicist who was attached to design the town. In a model of New Urbanism at its best, Robertson developed a plan for a town of 5500 housing units with a feel that harkens back to pre-WWII Los Angeles, featuring Spanish-revival architectural cues and responsible, high-density (6461 units per square mile versus 1096.5 in Santa Clarita) land usage that rivals that of Italian hill towns, which means that more than half the 550-acre site would be devoted to open space.

While Las Lomas is a rationally designed urban plan (see more here) featuring six differing neighborhoods united by a common design language, Santa Clarita is a mishmash of architectural styles, from the shopaholic paradise of Westfield Valencia Town Center to catatonic McMansion sprawl to the upchuck-inducing thrill rides of Magic Mountain.

Santa Clarita
Suburbia run amok.

Las Lomas (proposed)
Suburbia as planned urban texture.

Although increased traffic congestion on Interstate 5 looms large in Santa Clarita's public objections to the project, one suspects that the town's real motives (and those of their self-styled "Mayor Dude") are rooted in fear of encroaching urbanity and—could it be?—downright jealousy.

As for the Los Angeles City Council's double-talk stymying, the Lomas Land Co.—now under Alan Joelson, since Dan Palmer resigned in December 2008 citing "personal reasons" (aka downright digust?)—has appealed the dismissal of its lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for halting review of the project in March of 2008. Read all about that here.

We will continue to follow the project with keen interest, in the hope that an urban plan of this vision, elegance, and importance will not be killed by self-serving anti-urbanism.

Real estate and the bending of language

In the spin-driven lingo of real estate, the ever-present gap between what you read and what you get seems to have widened to a chasm that threatens to engulf reason as well as taste.

A recent online perusal of FOR SALE and FOR RENT listing netted these gems of gross misrepresentation.

"Beautiful Silver Lake apt."

"Charming apt."

"French chateau."


"Elegant 2-story home."

"New carpet." Finally, truth in advertising.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Development and depression

W Hotel and Residences, Hollywood
Calling Dr. Kildare. The massing is energetic but the clinical design and lac
k of fine detailing make the building feel cold.

The new W Hotel and Residences continues to struggle skyward on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue in spite of the deepening economic crisis. This is one of the few projects proposed over the past three years for the eastern end of downtown Hollywood that has actually managed to get off the ground. Others—including the (overly?) ambitious Blvd 6200 and the construction of the originally planned office tower atop the Pantages Theater (both projects of The Clarett Group)—seem to be stalled like a VW Dasher with spark plug issues.

The original elevation drawing for the Pantages Theater, showing the 10-story office tower that was never constructed. History repeats itself, 80 years later.
Click the image for a larger view.

The Pantages project was originally cut short, so to speak, by the Great Depression; how ironic—and very disappointing—that it has happened again, 80 years later. Seeing a 12-story Art D├ęco structure take its rightful place directly across the street from the energetically massed but predictably clinical W Hotel would have been a delight.

If the Pantages tower ever does materialize, I might even consider checking into the W Hospital Hotel for a room with a view north.