Don’t touch that window! Highland Park house flippers busted for breaking preservation rules

A pair of Highland Park house flips that violated preservation rules. Photos from Redfin

Highland Park is a hotspot for home flippers, investors who buy, fix up and then resell homes as quickly as possible. But some of the flippers have run afoul of the rules that govern the historic district, which includes about 4,000 Highland Park homes and buildings. Last month, the board of the the Highland Park-Garvanza Preservation Overlay Zone reviewed the case of two house flippers that had been caught replacing original wood doors and windows with vinyl windows and other materials that did not fit into the homes’ historic character.

Board president Charles Fisher said he is sympathetic to homeowners who may not be aware that they are required to seek approval before changing out windows and doors. But flippers are another matter, he said. “The flipper has got some money. They should know better.”

In fact, swapping original wood windows and doors has been the biggest problem when it comes to Highland Park home flippers, Fisher said. “We have some are flippers who know their stuff,” he said. But the normal routine is for them to “just gut everything and start changing windows.”

Why does it matter if someone replaces a wood window with a new vinyl or metal window? Fisher said the historic preservation rules governing changes to building exterior are focused on protecting historic architectural features. “You want to keep the character defining features of these homes, and the windows are one of those character defining features.”

Ideally, the Highland Park board would prefer that any exterior changes reflect the building’s historic style and features. But, in some cases, the board is fine if only windows and doors that are visible from the street be preserved or replaced with something of a similar style and material.

That was not the case of the two flipper properties that came before the most recent Highland Park HPOZ meeting. The current owner of 610 N. Avenue 54, which was purchased in December for $218,000 and was put up for sale at $299,143 last month, agreed to replace the new windows, porch railings and front door with something more historically appropriate for the 104-year-old bungalow, a plan approved by the board.

Meanwhile, the owner of 238 E. Avenue 41, a 92-year-old wood-sided cottage that went on the market in March at an asking price of $299,000, agreed to replace the vinyl windows that has been ripped out with wood replicas. That plan also met with the board’s approval.

While the replacement of wood windows at both properties violated the historic preservation rules they did not seem to bother buyers all that much. Both homes went into escrow less than a month after being put up for sale.


  1. is there something on the books for the eagle rock area in regards to this?

  2. Once the burglar bars go up, no one will be able to tell the difference.

  3. Locks are to keep honest people honest. Bars be damned. Take that shit of your windows man, you are only fucking up your own view!

  4. Good work! These people SHOULD be busted for doing this to homes in historic areas. If flippers want to make a buck here they’d better do it in a way that shows some respect for the unique character of these neighborhoods. There are plenty of other neighborhoods elsewhere for them to use their vinyl windows and cookie-cutter rehab methods.

  5. Let’s face it. Highland Park has gotten a pretty raw deal over the past 50 years with dodgy developers, slumlords & opportunists defacing many of the historical buildings without following the guidelines of the HPOZ. Considering this new wave of flippers and rehabbers over the past 5 years we have the opportunity to restore some of the dignity and charm to this neighborhood (the largest HPOZ in Los Angeles). The work is being done now to many of the houses and buildings is largely commendable and this redevelopment or so to speak will be the new face of Highland Park & Garvanza for the next 50 – 75 years. It is our duty to protect the integrity of this neighborhood with any of the work that is done to a contributing historical structure. When it all boils down, you will INCREASE the value of a home by doing quality work that reflects the original character of the house. Original windows and doors rehabbed look awesome or you can have exact replicas made locally by Vent Vue (Frogtown)and it does not cost as much $$ as people would think. Anything but those horrendous vertical aluminum vertical sliders… and as for the stucco’d buildings…. ughhh.

    Let’s continue to make this neighborhood great!

    Andrew Ward
    134 N. Ave 54

    • How much more does a 4′ x 4′ replica wood window cost than a Vinyl window? I think it is obvious that EVERYONE likes historic wood windows more than vinyl windows…just like I would much rather live in South Pasadena than Highland Park, but unfortunately, I can’t afford South Pasadena or wood windows.

      If I have original inoperable low efficiency wood windows, what are my options? I have a real problem with my neighbors dictating what I can and can’t do with my own home. Especially when Highland Park is so run down and any improvement is better than nothing.

      • Then don’t move into a HPOZ area where you already know there are rules regarding how your house looks.

      • @BB Bombshell, You could also look into getting your current inoperable wood windows repaired. I’m amazed at how well mine turned out after some new cords and weights were installed. It was WAYY less cash than even a newer vinyl window.

      • I’d like to live in South Pasadena also but like many I have to live within my means too. However, if you do spend the $$ on the short term in repairing the original windows or replacing them with exact replicas you will add significant value to your property on the long term. Overall the HPOZ in Highland Park is a massive benefit to the long term vision and sustainability of our community. Call Ed Sanchez who does window restoration and repair http://www.window-restoration-rpair.com

        Good Luck!

      • The reason you would probably prefer to live in South Pas, is because of the pride of ownership in the neighborhood – which leads to better everything. Pride of ownership entails respecting the history and integrity of the house. I agree that some improvements are better than nothing, but that’s what they said about stucco 30 years ago and look where we are now!
        Look into places like Habitat for Humanity and The ReUse People of Los Angeles. I have purchased a brand new 8’x4′ wood window with framing for $400. It’s going to take a little extra work on our part to fit it into the original window spacing, but we’re already replacing a window so a few extra steps is not that big of a deal.

      • I have to tend to agree with BB Bombshell…and not all of us are RECENT residents…I have lived here since my parents first bought our house in ’72 so I see the condition of the area, and agree that some “improvements” actually look WORSE than the original condition of the house, but I’d rather have someone replace brokendown, falling apart windows with vinyl (if that’s all they can afford) than alluminum, or worse yet, than leaving them all dilapidated!

  6. One big reason that the shady flippers don’t use the proper wood windows, in addition to the cost of materials, is time; the offenders are typically doing all of their remodeling work without permits and are trying to get it done fast and cheap, without regard for quality beyond a ‘shiny and new’ appearance. Ordering wood windows typically takes at least 3 weeks and work done with proper permits and inspections certainly delays the rehab process for them. These people truly fit the definition of a “fly by night” operation and are not improving these areas with their methods.

    I also agree with earlier comments about repairing original windows when possible. Old wood windows were typically built with better wood (old growth lumber) and better quality than most of what you can get today. Sometimes they’re too far gone due to termite damage, etc. but often they can be saved!

  7. What’s wrong with new vinyl windows? I think they look nice, but maybe I’m not cultured enough to understand why one would care about windows when their neighbors house has a blue tarp roof, is clad in wrought iron, and provides shelter for eight dogs that bark all night long…typical misguided sense of priorities which is so prevalent in Los Angeles (and a large reason why Los Angeles is such a $***hole).

    • In a historical home or area there are very strict laws that must be followed. Don’t ever remodel a home in a historical area without consulting the city building and safety.

    • If you’re an HP RE Agent, why not list your name and business?

      That way I will know to never hire you to help me find my future home!

    • Obviously you’re super psyched about the neighborhood. Which makes me super psyched that you’re a real estate agent here. While we can’t do anything about what is already in existence, we can make the right changes when change is happening. If you’re going through the trouble of replacing windows, do it right. The reason the neighborhood deteriorated to the place it is, is because there was a progression of acceptance of sub-standard housing. Tearing down houses for apartments, putting up stucco (as an improvement) instead of replacing wood siding, and the best improvement of all, putting in aluminum windows to replace ‘bad’ wood windows. I am the proud owner of a 1919 Craftsman that underwent horrible plastic surgery in the 70s and 80s and 90s. The only reason my house exists today is because of some vigilant neighbors who said ‘HELL NO’ to the non-stop bulldozing of homes in the 80s. So while vinyl windows may seem inconsequential compared to some problems that exist, where do we draw the line?
      It’s a historical neighborhood. If you want to live in suburbia of tract housing, don’t live here.

  8. Historic preservation has long ago been proved to benefit communities. What might seem like petty aesthetic choices now (vinyl vs wood) do turn out to be important factors in how a physical neighborhood holds up over time.

  9. Does anyone know wha happens if you do not comply with what the HPOZ wants? We had a fence installed that the hope is now asking that we change to period correct or remove. Our house is considered a non-contributing structure .

  10. The HPOZ has rendered the word “historic” meaningless. When nearly 50% of the homes in L.A. are in the HPOZ what is the point? “Historic” should actually mean something, not just a title slapped onto to an old home to appease the greed of the majority homeowners (yet under informed) whom actually believe such designation increases the value of their home. The absurdity should be obvious upon examination. HPOZ proponents seem to only talk about higher wealth areas such as Pasadena and Eagle Rock while ignoring the litany of historic homes in lower incomes areas such as South Central Los Angeles which show on its face the HPOZ has nothing to do with values. When the time comes to replace a lousy 8 windows, the costs can easily be over $25,000 instead of about $2500 because all the special ordering of unique parts, accessories, etc. that these windows need. My example of costs is not an exaggeration in any capacity. Many flippers have less money than the neighboring homeowner next door to their own project contrary to popular belief as many flippers are just small time entrepreneurs partnered with friends or family trying to fix-up a home to make a little bit of money. In fact, flippers should not necessarily “know better” as it pertains to removing windows. How would they, especially if the flippers are new to the area? The HPOZ could have legitimate function, but unfortunately its current function is overbroad and overreaching devaluing itself with dilution on the magnitude of many fold.

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