Today I watched as one of my favorite houses, one block up from mine, was hauled away like trash in a dumpster truck, a million pieces of wooden shards, crumbled plaster, and hunks of concrete. Two days ago, it was a house like mine, a classic mid-1920s Spanish Colonial with a red tile roof and graceful lines, a place that for nearly a century many families called home. I will miss this inviting, cream-colored stucco home with green trim, similar and yet not quite exactly like any other on the block.
When I first saw the “For Sale” sign on the lawn, I should have guessed it would have a date with the wrecking ball. While real estate agents often advertise these vintage homes as “charming,” increasingly, they lure buyers with the phrase “development opportunity!”
I had just turned the corner when I saw the massive truck turning from the property onto the street, chugging down the block with the remains of the home in its container. I pulled over to watch and observe a moment of respectful silence. Block-by-block and house-by-house, buyers are knocking down these old beauties, eviscerating the original architectural charm of neighborhoods like mine throughout the city. Right next door to this now-empty lot, a California Craftsman home was razed several months ago; a house easily triple the size of that Craftsman is under construction.
In 2008, the City of Los Angeles passed the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance to prevent new home building that was out of scale with the neighborhood. The ordinance has been updated twice since 2015 to close the loopholes that actually encouraged the building of “McMansions,” such as exemptions for “green” buildings. Walk past almost any home-construction site in the area and you’d be shocked to learn that the ordinance limits new home size to forty-five percent of lot size. Yet the city keeps selling permits for these big box structures, which tower over their neighbors and literally darken their landscapes. Aside from the occasional Cape Cod, Craftsman, or updated Spanish style, most new home construction is angular, boxy, and impersonal.
We moved to Pico-Robertson in 1999 from Venice, wanting a more vibrant Jewish community as our four kids were growing up. I nearly dismissed my house when I first saw it and its “For Sale By Owner” sign. It was pretty, with an arched living room picture window, but it looked so small from the outside. The minute I stepped inside, though, I wanted it. The living room was surprisingly spacious with a domed ceiling and elaborate molding. It was a classic, old-style L.A. home, with archways throughout and art deco tile in the bathroom. They sure don’…….