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Friday, September 30, 2016

Thin is in when it comes to new Echo Park homes

The city’s will hold a public hearing today to review a developer’s request to carve up a single Echo Park  lot in order to build eight separate homes – each less than 20-feet wide. The developer, Echo Park LLC, is seeking to build the three-story homes on the site of a former gas station at Echo Park Avenue and Avalon Street under the city’s small lot subdivision ordinance, which includes guidelines “to ensure that a well proportioned and compatible small lot subdivision is designed to meet the needs of its residents and the neighborhood,” according to city documents.

If successful in subdividing the nearly 8,000 lot into eight separate pieces, the developer has presented plans to build homes that are three-stories (or 45 feet) high, 39-feet long and about 19-feetwide. The planned townhouses are so narrow that two vehicles would have to be parked end-to-end in each garage because there is not enough room for side-by-side parking.  In February, the Echo Park neighborhood council’s planning committee declined to support the development, The Eastsider reported.

The houses might be skinny and tall by Echo Park standards, but, according to the staff report, no one has filed any objections to the project.

Related Posts & Items:
Slices of Echo Park life up for sale. The Eastsider
Planning Department staff report. Planning Department



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28 comments

  1. I don’t mind the concept, but when are developers going to get it through their thick modernist skulls that people are attracted to Echo Park, at least in part, because of its historical craftsman charm, and that new developments would have much less trouble garnering community support if they weren’t these stark, minimalist boxes?

  2. I’m still sad that they tore that gas station down.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mr-rollers/2130128462/

  3. Yeah, I always thought that gas station would make a great taco stand.

  4. And also – I’m not opposed to density, but that scale is not going to fly on that lot. This will be another modern development that no one wants to buy in – like the ones on Sunset – unless it’s priced waaaay low.

  5. While I’m totally about keeping Echo Park as historic as possible (I actually own a 102 year old Craftsman here), I’m glad to see that these architects are taking a page out of the Jutako school of making do with less space.
    Great story on that philosophy of Japanese architecture here:
    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=128953596

  6. I don’t mind having a combination of architectual styles in Echo Park. In fact, we already have a pretty wide spectrum of craftsman, Spanish, modern, wacked-out stucco. (For the record: I also own a very old home in Echo Park (90 years old). And, even in that period there was a combination of craftsman and very early modern.) What most Echo Park homes have in common is that they are small homes on large-ish green lots. So, that would be my key complaint against this proposed development. Density is ok, but you need some green-space. While condos with no green space might be appropriate on Sunset Blvd, I would say that they would not mix well into that part of the neighborhood. My proposal would be that they cut the number of units in half and keep some green-space around the development. Just my two cents.

  7. Think is a perfect example of how to build a slum. Three stories tall and nearly as narrow as a trailer. Three-story trailers, all jammed together on too little space.

    And this is going to last through the years as something other than a slum? How? I can show you other such slum construction around, and slum is all it turns out to be.

    This very kind of project was planned for Hyperion Avenue in Silver Lake, south of Sunset. The always-ready-to-approve-too-big-a-development Silver Lake Neighborhood Council was in favor of it! (In the end, they let it go to the city without a council decision, because the developer dilly dallied on relocation support for tenants who would have been evicted of the project.)

    I wonder if it is the same developer, as it is the same plan for three story trailers, wall to wall on the lot. Look at the floor layout and tell me if anyone is going to want to live in those places very long — not a good recipe for anything but a slum!

    In the Hyperion project, a condo project, the developer was going to combine two lots, tear down an existing apartment building, and by zoning could have built a maximum of 10 units (in reaction, the locals rose up and got the zoning lowered there!). The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council got him to build 12 instead, waiving the already meager setbacks to cram the two additional units on the lot!!! Fortunately, right then the economy crashed and lending froze. I presume they lost financing because now, two years later, the project has not proceeded.

  8. Hello.

    We live at 1619 Avalon Street, directly next to the planned development. I attended the public hearing this morning. If the city approves this project, we basically feel like they will be taking our house away from us. Our hillside view will be completely eliminated by a 45 ft. wall, my wife and I will have zero privacy in our back and side yards and all morning sunlight will be removed. These are only some of the issues that will directly impact our house but on top of that, more congestion, lack of parking etc will impact surrounding neighbors. Putting eight single family residences on Avalon Street will almost double the already existing number of single family residences. From what I understand, because this lot is zoned as commercial, he can build right up to the sidewalk and my property line.

    The developer, Jeremy Paige, made an attempt to come across as someone who cares about the community. This certainly is not the case because neighbors and myself, on several occasions, have assumed responsibility for upkeep in front of his property.

    The city will more than likely approve the project as is because Mr. Paige is working within the cities commercial zoning guidelines. My wife and I are asking the community to get together on this and please appeal the development. If anyone has any suggestions or advise for us as far as city council people to contact, we would also appreciate that.

    If you want to be added to an appeal list that I’m putting together please email me at [email protected] with your name, address, phone number and email information.

    Thank you for reading this.
    Kevin and Lynnae
    [email protected]

  9. .. and what is up with that rendering btw? Is it an elevation, perspective, or a plan view? That said, I am really feeling Henry’s comments above. Ideas, good and bad, all begin somewhere and this representation just does not appear to be all too thought out in the most basic sense.

  10. this is the standard floorplan in San Francisco. Except in SF you typically only get 1 floor (a flat) and dimensions are more like 20 by 80 instead of 20 by 40 x 3. They’re called railroad apartments. And you’d have scored big if you got one with a garage.

    When I left SF I swore I’d never live in one of these again, but I may have softened on that. The biggest factor in determining appeal for these new units will be how much (if any) greenspace is included. A nice yard in the back, or shared courtyard in the middle of the units, could make them worthwhile. In SF you can find flats like this that appear drably urban from the sidewalk but when you walk the long hallway all the way through and out the back door you find a secluded yard, often 20×30 or more, with mature redwood trees. It’s an amazing surprise.

    Also, if these units are sandwiched side-by-side, are there lightwells? Because you don’t want to live in a railroad apartment with the only windows being in the front and rear. The drawing above has a very bunker-like feel to it.

  11. We’ve looked into doing these sorts of projects in this area before. Not sure what the developers’ numbers look like, but I’d be surprised if they do very well on them.

    The problem is that, even packed in like this, the structures themselves are going to cost almost $300k. If you add in the cost of the land and also of the permits, architect fees, etc., you end up having to sell them for $500k+ to make it worth your while to build.

    For $500k+ in this neighborhood, you can do a lot better – maybe a remodeled craftsman on a reasonable lot.

    So: My strong suspicion is that the developer does not plan to actually build these. Instead, he’s hoping to get the entitlements, then flip the project to someone else who will make the mistake of building them.

  12. @Henry

    New York City must be the biggest slum ever with all those dense rowhomes, eh? London and Paris too…slums, all of ’em.

  13. @Jeffro

    Same thing in DC. Although I’m not sure about the desirability of rowhomes with parking garages in the District. The parking spot is great of course, but an original Victorian or Federal rowhome would never have a garage, so anything that does is faux and was built much later.

    I’ve actually noticed a lot of similarities in the housing stock of SF and DC…Bay windows, large front porches, ornate filigree, etc. The biggest different I can see is that while many of SF’s homes are mostly wood-clad, while DC’s are mostly brick.

  14. @Kevin

    I don’t live at that corner (I’m down the street near Delta) so I don’t have a stake in this other than I like contemporary architecture, and happen to think it can blend well with craftsman if the materials and colors are chosen well.

    I do feel for you though, and think your complaints are legit. I would be upset if a development of this height were built blocking my view.

    I also applaud you for coming onto Eastsider and being straightforward and honest about your plight. Contrast this to the way the opposition to the theater/restaurant project on Sunset went about it: Create a blog, censor comments, and pretend to speak for the entire community.

    Best of luck in your battle. Perhaps the city can push the developer to break up the density a little bit? If the side of the development facing Avalon were brought down to 1 story and tapered up to the full height along EP Ave, it would go along way to preserving your view and your privacy.

  15. They didn’t tear down the gas station. It was moved to a museum in
    San Diego but what a shame that that piece of history is gone!
    Those houses are a joke!

  16. when will people get it through their thick skulls that modernism has been around for 90 years?

  17. Thanks AliJill – that makes me feel at least slightly better.

  18. With all this talk about the appropriateness of this development, why isn’t there concern about the volatile organic compounds like benzene and trichloroethylene that can complicate building over an old gas station? Gas station tanks leak, especially older ones, and the soil gas has to be extracted with soil vapor extraction wells and air sparge wells. Is this in the EIR? Has anyone tested the soil? If not, I’d strongly suggest that future residents keep all their windows open. Way open. Forever. Or hold their breath.

  19. Did anyone ask where the trash cans will go?

  20. I own the house at 1623 Avalon St. (next to Kevin) but live in an apartment near Chango’s. I’m all for the APPROPRIATE development of our neighborhoods and this lot in particular. The developer wants to build to the maximum capacity of the lot, putting a 3+ story building right up against a single-family house! How is that fair?!

    The plan has condo owners backing their cars out onto Avalon Street, near the corner of Echo Park Ave. Even though it’s a short block, Avalon is busy because it’s used as a thoroughfare for surrounding streets are even steeper, narrower and one-way. That’s 16+ cars backing out of their garages, across the sidewalk, onto an already busy street right at the corner of Echo Park Avenue. This does not sound safe for drivers, pedestrians or bicyclists.

    As a local thoroughfare, Avalon is heavily used by parents with strollers, children and teenagers as they walk to local schools. Not only will cars be backing out of garages for normal use, the stacked parking arrangement will require condo owners to juggle car parking, increasing the incidents that pedestrians and bicyclists will interact with cars driving in reverse.

    Stacked parking also makes it likely that condo owners will use the already limited street parking for their convenience. There are NO VISITOR parking spots available.

    Residents surrounding Avalon Street know that trash day is particularly challenging for both parking and navigating the sanitation trucks. I don’t know how this will work… but 8 condo units X 3 bins = 24 bins lined up in front of the development every week? The trash trucks frequently takes up the whole width of the street, blocking traffic. Imagine what happens when they have the condos to service! This not only affects Avalon St. traffic, but will also clog Echo Park Ave. while people are stuck waiting to make turns onto Avalon.

    This development will not make our neighborhood safer and more pedestrian-friendly. I would like to see an appropriate scaled mix-use development that is an asset for our community over the long term. We deserve better!

  21. “how to build a slum. Three stories tall and nearly as narrow as a trailer” – how is this any more a recipe for a slum than say 3 story 25′ wide townhomes – with no parking – further subdivided so each story has a different tenant – which is to say San Francisco? Is it the density you are opposed to? the height? the massing? Lack of usable outdoor space? Too narrow? I’ll bet 18′ is wider than any room in most people’s houses. Just curious… But remember “substandard housing and squalor” was long a feature of echo park even without the help of new 500k townhomes.

  22. Just a note: This developer has been published on two blogs as “Echo Park, LLC” but that is not accurate. My husband and I have seen city planning documents with the name listed as “Echo Echo, LLC”. Just in case anyone in interested in finding out more about him…..

  23. @Robert

    The Silver Lake subdivision looks great, and is a great example of modern, sustainable-looking design that I’d happily support. What’s absolutely key, however, is the green space provided around the buildings – there’s a tremendous amount of space on the lot, gardens, etc.

    None of that would be even remotely possible on the *tiny* piece of land occupied by the proposed development. To fit eight units in that space, it’s clear the developer plans to pack the lot out its very edges. The resulting effect, for the neighborhood, landscape, and residents would be dramatically different from the units in Silver Lake.

    Best – ATM

  24. I must say that I like the concept of these thin Echo Park homes. When I visited Holland there was many similar thin buildings and I really enjoyed walking on the streets of Amsterdam. The living in such houses might be quite problematic considering space issues but it could look really great.

  25. Yes, the narrow buildings in Amsterdam are beautiful, and they are older than some of the original developments in Echo Park. Narrow, railroad-style building can be found all over the world and it ABSOLUTELY HAS ITS PLACE. But, the streets in London, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, Amsterdam, or Paris – where you will find these types of structures are lined with other similar structures (and, yes, we’ve actually been to these cities). You do not typically find these developments – no matter where in the world you are – shoved up against a tiny bungalow like ours on a street full of similar bungalows, in a place like Echo Park. They just don’t belong, and that is the only point.

  26. I live/own on the adjacent block to this development. I think this development is great and I hope it gets built. The future of Echo Park is going to be high-density, multi-family development. All of our 85+ year old houses (at the bottom of hills, in earthquake country…) aren’t going to last forever and when they’re replaced, it’s going to be with developments like these. If you have a problem with it, then buy the lot from the developer.

  27. UPDATE – The City of L.A. is still taking official comments on this proposed development. Please email your comments to Sarah Molina-Pearson at City of L.A. at [email protected]

    My response to Echo Park:

    “The future of Echo Park is going to be high-density, multi-family development.” Reply: The future is what we make of it. The reason for community planning and input is so that cultural and historic pockets can be preserved. Los Angeles is a perfect place for dense urban in-fill, but this project is inappropriate for the area and not in keeping with the intent of Echo Park’s Community Plan.

    “If you have a problem with it, then buy the lot from the developer.”
    Reply: So the only people who should have a right to determine the future of a community are the property owners!?!! Echo Park, please think this statement through… this is the 21st century after all.

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