Will bouquets of balloons become a Silver Lake symbol of anti-development?

Photo courtesy Anne Hars

Photo courtesy Anne Hars

SILVER LAKE — Artist Anne Hars has devoted much energy fighting small-lot developers and defending the tenants who have had to move out for the pricey townhomes. Now, Hars has come up with a new way to focus attention on this issue: balloons.  A committee of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council has approved spending up to $200 to tie bouquets of helium-filled balloons to the roofs of homes that are to be torn down for small-lot developments.

Har’s UpHouse Project was inspired by the 2009 animated film Up and the the story of Edith Macefield, an elderly Seattle resident who refused to sell her cottage to real estate developers. The developers ended up building around her property.

Silver Lake has seen numerous projects built and proposed under the small-lot ordinance, which allows builders to pack more single-family homes on a property than would normally be allowed. Supporters of small-lot developments say they create more options for home buyers and are typically smaller than apartment buildings. But many residents have opposed the projects as being too large and out of character in old neighborhoods and unaffordable to many exiting residents.

In January, balloons were attached to the roof of a  home on Coronado Street that is slated to be demolished for a 10-home, small-lot project.

“By tying bouquets of balloons to the roofs, the UpHouse Project seeks to commemorate houses around the city which are slated for demolition by luxury small lot developers,” Hars said in an email.  “The City of Los Angeles could benefit from learning about Miss Macefield’s legacy. She is considered a modern day folk hero, because she valued her home more than the large sums of money she was offered to leave it.”

Hars estimates that it would cost about $75 to commemorate each home through the UpHouse project.

The  Silver Lake council’s Arts & Culture committee voted unanimously to support the project with up to $200 but the governing board has yet to vote on the matter.


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  1. I’m sorry but people in Los Angeles are SUFFERING due to the lack of enough housing and yet this so called artist is protesting efforts to increase the amount of housing for people? Honestly it might not be a big deal to people who already have a place to live to keep things quaint and just the way things are but it isn’t cute for those who aren’t so lucky.

    • Developers don’t have to tear down history to build new homes. There are plenty of empty lots, run-down apartment buildings and eyesore commercial properties for sale that are much better candidates for demolition. I support development in our neighborhood, but NOT at the cost of history and character. Bungalow courts and craftsman cottages are unique to Southern California and have been identified by the city as important historic cultural buildings of interest.

      And let’s be real — none of the places that are being built in Silver Lake or Echo Park these days qualify as “affordable housing.” Even I, someone with two degrees and a stable full-time job, can’t afford any of the new builds. Have you seen what rent in a new building goes for in our neighborhoods? These new developments only serve a small segment of our population — and it ain’t the old-timers who are forced out of these old homes. Look around and see who your new neighbor are, bro.

      • From my experience small lot subdivisions are mostly filled with people who were previously renting – thereby increasing supply of relatively affordable apartments.

      • cant build homes on commercial property…and I hate someone else telling me what to do..

        The easy way to solve the problem is have the area zone R1, so one house replaces one house

    • No, LA is suffering from the lack of AFFORDABLE housing.

      • Got it in one. Whatever goes in these lots is going to be next to useless to the majority of people if it’s as astronomically expensive as everything else.

      • Perhaps, but adding supply to a very tight market can only help in that regard… Less yuppies outbidding you down the block.

        Most affordable housing was built as market rate housing. It just became more “affordable” as it aged (and newer, more desirable housing was built nearby.)

        • Sounds reasonable, but I don’t think it works that way in this particular situation.

          Reason why is that this area has a finite amount of space, so the free market basics of supply and demand don’t quite apply.

          Building expensive stuff in a finite space doesn’t necessarily free up other places for lower-income housing. Rather, rich folks move into the new place, and the place they vacate just goes up in price.

          I think it’s more of a tulip bulb scenario than a simple issue of supply and demand.

          • Oh I agree… it’s definitely more complicated than supply and demand. Lots of other factors are driving up rents (improved economy, middle class returning to the city, downtown LA’s revival, low interest rates, foreign speculation, restrictive zoning, minimum parking requirements, good old fashioned greed, etc.)

            However, the one advantage we have over other big cities is the sheer size of Los Angeles. We have a helluva lot more room to grow than most cities struggling with gentrification. So much of LA is still low density, car-centric sprawl… plenty of low rise buildings downtown to be redeveloped into towers; surface parking lots and strip malls across the basin to be replaced with mixed-use buildings; and single family homes in the flats to be replaced with apartments and town homes.

            Preservation is certainly important. But it has to be balanced with the needs of today and tomorrow… otherwise who benefits?

          • and where in the constitution does it assert that the poor have the absolute right to live whereever they want.

            When i was poor, I lived in working class neighborhoods and it did not harm me at all.

            But when the unemployed started moving into my working class neighborhood burglaries and car buglaries and drug dealers came with them

        • “Less yuppies outbidding you down the block.”

          Not even the “yuppies” are getting those, try the Chinese.

          Chinese developers been buying up houses left and right in EP and Silverlake, in cash. Even middle to upper income “yuppies” with 10-20% down are getting outbid.

    • There is no need to ruin neighborhoods to increase the housing. If they simply built projects that are compatible with the existing neighborhood, no one would be complaining. You can add readily double the housing without being incompatible — simply building two homes on a lot instead of five could to do that, and then you could build them two stories instead of three or four stores in 1-2 story neighborhoods.

      Further, you say the people are suffering for lack of housing. Well, none of these small lot developments will be affordable to those people suffering, none of them are aiming at the market values that those suffering people can possibly afford. This is aimed at all the new people our city is trying to get to move here, by screaming about LA via high-notice things like an NFL team, by bringing the Olympics here to scream to the world to move here, and all the other things we do to push the idea of California in everyone’s face all over the country and world.

      Every time we build a skyscraper in downtown, that will be filled by new companies moving here, not the people already here. New companies won’t be started here to fill that space, we keep giving tax breaks to companies to move here. And when they move here, they will bring at least 2/3 of their employees with them from other states.

      Our policies make it so this overdevelopment is not to serve the people here or make housing more affordable, it is to bring even more people here and only create even more of a housing shortage.

      • Exactly. Well said.

      • Small lot made it possible for my family to purchase our first home. Median home price in echo park silver lake is 800-900k. No way I have cash to take on a fixer. So no, small lot provides options to families already living in LA, not just newcomers. They increase housing supply which drives down cost. Yikes

    • Unbelievable how many people make comments like this. I’m sorry, but these comments and all like it are ignorant. Most of the houses being destroyed are not for apartment buildings. They’re so a developer can build 5 to 10 homes in that ONE HOME’S place… and then each of those 5 to 10 homes will sell for $1,000,000.

      Adding million dollar homes is not adding affordable housing stock to the market, kids. Anyone who thinks it is, is woefully misinformed.

    • Agreed – this is stupid! We have a housing shortage because many of the LA neighborhoods have resisted vertical development. What people don’t understand is you can’t have affordable housing, quaint neighborhoods, $15 minimum wage, full employment, zero traffic, etc. without giving up something.

      The real problem with the small lot subdivision ordinance is that the city takes 2 years to approve the project. SO, it will never be affordable because only larger developers with lots of money and projects in the pipeline can afford to embark in the lengthy entitlement/development process. They have to recoup their carrying costs, lost opportunity cost, etc. by selling the units at a premium. If the city would push plans through in an expedited fashion – perhaps allowing small developers with a more social mindset to embark on these projects in a timely manner, maybe someone would actually be willing to build smaller units with a lower price target, but that doesn’t seem to be the direction we are going. There is a reason tract homes and Wal Marts are taking over this country – only large companies can afford to deal with the never-ending bureaucracy imposed by many cities and counties.

  2. Time to evacuate. “creative elite” is already here, Tech soon to follow.

    • The term is Yuccies – Young Urban Creatives.

      I didn’t make that up, but I wish I had. Maybe the last lukewarm $5 pour-over sent me over the edge…

  3. You realize even when they build luxury housing, that helps everyone because the highest income people will choose those brand new luxury units over some other slightly less nice property. That property will then become available for someone else looking for a home. You can’t expect in a major metropolitan area everything is going to be cheap rent forever. We have it easy compared to NYC or San Francisco.

    • Precisely because San Francisco choose to stay frozen in amber, so as it became more desirable, it just pushed up the price of all its existing housing stock.

  4. While I can somewhat empathize with the plight of long term renters being displaced and having the homes they once lived in torn down, lets not kid ourselves. The neighborhood council opposes pretty much any development. Hell, I own a home next to a vacant lot in Silver Lake that had construction plans stalled for over a year because the SLNC and a few cranky old wind bags that live near by gave the poor owner hell over the legal use of HIS land.

    • Construction plans for what? For something triple the height of anything else in the neighborhood?! For something going contrary even to the over-sized zoning on the narrow and hillside streets? Something wanting variances all around so they can build even more than allowed?

      In reality, the NC rejects few projects. Right off the bat, if no one from the public opposes it, it gets approved. If the public does oppose it, the NC about a year and a half ago rejected it first SLS, and now does so only on occasion.

      But it doesn’t even matter what the NC does. They have no power, they are strictly advisory, and when the project proceeds to downtown,downtown doesn’t give a damn what the NC says, they approve anything the developer wants, anything al all, no matter how big, no matter how many times in the California Environmental Quality Act it violates,no matter what zoning rules it violates (they just give them a variance –for anything).

      And sine downtown refuses to follow the law, now various projects around the neighborhood are finding themselves sues by neighbors because of the violations. Yes, the neighbors have to spend a TON f money to sue, simply because downtown refuses to so much as follow the law. In fact, our Councilman O’Farrell won’t; even allow anyone appealing a project to the council to even have the matter heard,even after they pay for that appeal. He is having them all put on the “consent calendar,” which means there will be no hearing, no discussion, the appeal is automatically rejected, you get to say nothing.

  5. If Edith Macefield is the inspiration, Ms. Hars should be targeting her art to the people who are selling their homes, encouraging them to follow that example, no? The builders are just doing what they do, which is build.

  6. The small lot development ordinance is a nightmare. It squeezes multiple homes into a space that is supposed to only fit one home based on current planning code. The small lot development ordinance should be stopped. If you want to revise the building and planning code, then it should all be revised. The small lot ordinance is just politicians giving developers a way to break the rules and ruin neighborhoods.

  7. What happens when they get loose and fly to the ocean and choke a dolphin? There’s got to be an idea out there that’s better than this.

  8. Ms. Hars is not a disinterested party here…she owns a duplex right there and presumably suffer a decline in home value if denser housing were built nearby.

    That doesn’t make her a bad person, we all want to protect our investments, but this is about money, not neighborhood ‘character’, and it would be a more honest dialogue if we were upfront about that.

    • Or maybe she just realizes that the less housing is built, the more hers is worth by default. I agree, it doesn’t make her a bad person. But neither are the developers who are building homes (monsters!)

      People need places to live, and rents are bananas right now.

    • An assumption you are making, does not make it true. Even you acknowledge this by saying “presumably.” How would you know, anyway? Do you know Ms. Hars? I doubt it. Very disingenuous comment.

    • Anne Hars may have her property values somewhere in the very back of her fertile mind, but she fought very hard and diligently to make sure that her evicted neighbors, a 3-generation family with a severely disabled child, got double their relocation fee and extra time to move. They were always first and foremost at the heart of this, especially after this developer falsified docs trying to show that this family paid more rent, therefore could easily afford another place nearby where the child had all his health care centered. Anyone who does this IS a monster. Anne Hars has selflessly donated her time and energy getting attention to their situation, raising money with small fundraising efforts and plant sales, and in general helping this beloved family of ex-neighbors transition to their new life, far away from Silver Lake. This is second nature for her, it IS a battle for neighborhood character, and that character is defined by the people who live here. Please don’t assume you know the situation when you don’t; it’s counterproductive and contributes nothing to the conversation.

      • Commendable, but regardless of the validity of that situation it doesn’t make opposition to small development right. If Hars truly cared about creating affordable housing options she’d be trumpeting small lot all day. Instead it appears she’s seeking self enrichment.

  9. No ,no no, you have it all wrong >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>LET them tear down homes so they can build Mc Mansions on small lots so they can feel closer to their West L.A, densely populated upbringing.
    “Quaint” is just not enough, build it BIGGER and BETTER !

  10. “typically smaller than apartment buildings”

    Pretty much sums it up.

  11. Small lot ordinance has created a new homelessness which many refuse to see. I for one ask there the ACLU stands on this issue. Yes more housing is being built, but not for people like me, I live off retirement an savings, I planned for my retirement, live very fugal, I own my home, Echo Park is where I decided to invest in, I too bought a dream future, now torn apart by greed, apathy. ECHO PARK IS NO longer the community who takes care of its own, just look at the homeless around the park. I volunteered thousands of hours to clean ups, graffiti paint outs, working with community kids, to make it a better place, only to now feel the threat of displacement? No not right, my quality of life distroyed, no longer know my neighbor’s and it’s frigging SAD! YES SAD! TO think I could have bought my home in another community and not have to deal with any of this stuff. I get told sell ur house, leave, but I can not. ECHO PARK is all I know, and if it means my old ass has to fight, than fight it will.

    • Tony the Main Spoon

      That’s what I’m talking about, Sir!

      The new peeps in EP remind me of that Everclear song;

      “I know you think you bought yourself a brand new time,
      As the world holds still and the years go bye!
      There is nothing new about you, just another self made man,
      There is nothing new that I can see, enjoy it while you can,
      I know you think you are so special
      What makes people think they are so special
      What makes people think they are so unique
      Like a California King

      I see you hide behind your own doors . . . ”

      Enjoy your home, your neighbors are not really the
      Neighbors from before and they will sell within 5 years max. The so-called creative class is a joke with a shitty retirement plan. Haha pompous, check to check, try hards.


      • Do you ever have any fun?

        • Tony the Main Spoon

          So-called Eastside Arts, my friend! I look at everyone In the eye and say hello. You know I have fun making the most out of our beloved “Parks”. And I don’t think I’m better than you, except in some Short Stop pool game.

          • Well that’s a little obnoxious, you look at EVERYONE in the eye and say hello? Guaranteed way to creep out random women walking down the street

          • That would be on the woman.

          • Tony the Main Spoon

            Especially the ladies. They love me and always have. May seem obnoxious to people with no game at all (past your expiration date) but it’s an art, actually- to say hello.

          • Unless you are Leonardo Dicaprio, no woman wants you staring her in the eye and saying hello out of the blue as she walks down the street minding her own business. You’re kidding yourself. You are scaring these women.

    • How can replacing one house with 8 increase homelessness? There are 7 more places for people to stay.

      • in this case, the developer kicked out a family of 3 generations and at least 3 other residents in other houses, to build 8 new million dollar homes to help 8 new million dollar owners find a place to stay. does this sound like he’s trying to help the housing crisis? or might he have another motive?

        • Huh?/would that be a family who has benefited from prime real estate at well well below market value for decades with zero property tax? Cry me a river.

          You realize those families upgrading to median priced homes are opening up rentals that family can slid into given they ve massively benefited over decades.

    • Huh. If you’ve invested and bought your home you cannot be displaced. Maybe you don’t know ur neighbors because they don’t deal with grumpy old men

  12. In 2015, Matthew Desmond was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” grant. He wrote this:
    Perhaps it’s time to consider a Zero loss policy when it comes to RSO homes.

    • so then instead of being demolished, the tenants get bought out and the building is renovated.

      either way, the old tenants get a check, new people move in, rents go up. the units are still RSO but they are now at market.

      RSO doesn’t mean affordable. You can’t solve the affordability crisis with the RSO.

    • I would be for universal vouchers helping families sited in Mr Desmond’s article as long as they agreed to- no more children, no drugs, no booze and required job training. Give and take. Otherwise good luck living with all those bad decisions that got you there in the first place.

      • The bad decision is spending a million plus for something gross and new on a small lot in EP/Silverlake. You talk like a right wing punker. See you in the pit, Junior Mints.

      • You would like it so much better in Orange County and no one here would miss you.

  13. Hope the new square, small balcony, small windows houses are that cool tope color.

  14. You either build further out, or in but more densely. That’s your option folks. Be glad there is so much investment IN the city and not 30 miles away.. What the city does need for sure is some plan and incentives to reward development of affordable housing.. but that too will need to be more densely built in order for it to make financial sense.. Neighborhoods change over time. Echo Park as an example is a different place now than in the 80′, 60’s, 40’s back to its inception when there was only open land when no one was here.. just hills.

    • agree. tons of boomer entitlement here. LA is not the place you grew up in.

    • True. The heart of Echo Park is less than 2 miles from Downtown. The idea that it will continue to be single family homes with yards is delusional. That’s the same distance as Wall St. in NYC is from Greenwich Village, or the Louvre is from the Arc de Triomphe.

  15. What owner/seller/ developer would ever agree to the balloons?

  16. Sometimes, instead of keeping the patient alive, you pull the plug. Old does not necessarily mean good or beautiful. Keep up gentrification so that all of our properties rise in value. Perhaps, some day, we will get a full service Hole Fools.

  17. Balloons are bad news for sea creatures! Find another gimmick!

    • Tony the Main Spoon

      Look who’s talking: “Do (I) ever have any fun?”

      Balloons are open to interpretation, symbolically, why diss? But your right, it’s ok to be uptight about people’s opinions over the bland development in-the-making, featured on the Eastsider.

  18. In addition to the problem of intransigent baby boomers resisting change now that they have their piece of the pie (as pointed out above by peligro) Echo Park and Silver Lake are also suffering from the legions of trust fund millennials who don’t just resist change but fear change. Since they never had to work to earn what they have they never had to challenge themselves and so don’t know if they would have the fortitude to adapt to change or challenge and deep down doubt that they would be able to step up to any challenge. Having a concentrated population of young people who live in fear of change is a real problem for these neighborhoods.

    • Oh please who are you kidding. It’s poor Mexicans who are worried that rents are going to increase, that’s who hates gentrification. The only “trust fund millenials” protesting gentrification are the social justice warrior types who think a white person needs to rush in and defend the helpless minorities.

  19. Do balloons really cost that much?

    If she is such an artist, why not just buy some balloons herself and attach them to houses.

  20. I’ve met Anne Hars, and she is a lovely woman and very dedicated artist. I don’t understand her opposition to small lots. I don’t think it’s because she “secretely harbors” ideas about her own property value. She does not seem to be “that type” of person to me. I feel like small lot development is really ok in general, but, love that projects get a critical eye and input from the community. Especially things like parking and traffic patterns matter. And garbage trucks. I think density benefits the community. Having a cute little house on a bit lot is dreamy, but, it’s also nice to have more density especially when it allows people to walk – and re calibrate lifestyles that revolve around the atmosphere-damaging autos. I also feel like people really want community – they want to be a part of something and not just live isolated in some suburb or high rise. I don’t advocate that every lot should be small lot subdivision, but I certainly don’t think some more density will hurt. If we were talking a 30 story high rise, that’s another matter. I do think folks who move into these high-priced homes free up rentals.

  21. Against Aerial Litter

    “All released balloons, including those falsely marketed as “biodegradable latex,” return to Earth as ugly litter. They kill countless animals and cause dangerous power outages.”


  22. I’ve been thinking about this some more over the weekend and one thing that really gets my gall is that artist Anne Hars and others who want to live in an exclusively single family residential neighborhood SHOULD have done their homework and looked at a zoning map BEFORE buying their house. I know quite a few people who have done such research ahead of time and opted to buy in Eagle Rock where the vast majority of the neighborhood (with the exception of the blocks flanking the main boulevards) is zoned R-1 so they know that the lots next to them will never be developed at a density greater than a single family home per lot.

    Face it. Echo Park is dense already, is zoned to grow more dense and this is AS IT SHOULD BE considering how close it is to downtown.

  23. If the neighborhoods become cleaner, with better educated dwellers, it’s all up from there. Go development!

  24. PSA to the very confused artist Anne hars and those who support this misguided project. Increasing the amount of homes on a single lot 10-1 means it’s possible for 9 more people/families to have a home. Many of those lived in rentals they’ve outgrown. This added housing decreases the cost of rentals (which has skyrocketed thanks to dummies like Anne hars and overzealous development restrictions), which is very important if you support affordable housing. These are facts.

    If you’re opposing responsible development you are against providing affordable housing to those in need. Think about your actions and their consequences.

    BTW, how is a shitty rip off of a Disney movie by a confused wacko notable?

  25. Coalition of LA Natives

    The first property the artist ballooned is listed on the UpHouse website as at 856 Coronado St. The city council voted to deny the community appeal to save the homes of 5 Salvadoran families at that site the same day it celebrated the life of the Salvadoran champion of the poor Archbishop Romero on March 17, 2015. Mitch O’Farrell actually came to the aid of the the developers Urban Blox in the appeal process even though hundreds of signatures were collected from his constituents against the proposal due to serious legal irregularities in the proposal that should have made the DCP deny the project from the beginning. Coincidently, a sizable donation was made to O’Farell’s re-election campaign fund by the developer even though O’Farell was just elected.

    Now O’farell is saying he is trying to reform the small lot ordinance but community groups have pointed out that the current reforms have loop holes built in so that the city and the politicians like o’farrell can look as if they are doing something without actually making any changes…

    One hopes Council person O’farrell will work doubly hard to make sure their are no loopholes in the current small lot reform measures.

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