February 12, 2015

The demolition of heritage homes in Los Angeles

Not just a Vancouver phenomenon, for many of the same reasons.  As told in the New York Times:

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In Los Angeles, Vintage Houses Are Giving Way to Bulldozers

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For 50 years, the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury lived and wrote at 10265 Cheviot Drive, a bright yellow stucco home built in 1937 that is tucked away on a winding street in an eclectic and charming, affluent neighborhood on the West Side of Los Angeles.

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Bradbury

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Or rather, that was once tucked away. Early one January morning, a team of demolition workers, armed with crowbars and backed by a bulldozer, showed up to begin a methodical dismantling of this piece of history in Cheviot Hills, fending off neighbors alarmed by the racket. By the end of the month, all that was left were two chimneys and a few stucco walls.

The loss of the Bradbury home was the latest in a tidal wave of teardowns that has spread across Los Angeles over the past two years. Developers, seeing the potential for high profits in this housing-starved region, have been bulldozing vintage homes in middle-class enclaves — Arts and Crafts cottages, Spanish Mission-style bungalows — to replace them with lot-filling, towering modern homes that typically sell for over $2 million. …

… the destruction of thousands of classic homes is disrupting and dividing neighborhoods, raising alarm among civic leaders about potentially irreparable damage to handsome, historic and architecturally distinctive communities that they argue define Los Angeles as much as Hollywood or Venice.

Under rising pressure from neighborhood groups, the Los Angeles City Council is moving to toughen regulation of home construction — and destruction. A law that was passed in 2008 in response to an earlier wave of teardowns is now viewed as full of loopholes.

“This is already out of hand, but it could clearly get a lot worse,” said Paul Koretz, the City Council member pushing the legislation. “We are trying to respond to it as quickly as we can.”

But the effort has been slow, as the proposed changes are reviewed by city planners, fueling suspicion among neighborhood groups about the influence of developers on City Hall.

“This is not a complex process that should take two years,” said Dick Platkin, an urban planner who used to work for the city. “It could be done for three or four or five months if it was a high priority, which it’s not.” …

“It’s one of the hottest issues in the whole district,” said Teddy Davis, a Democrat running for City Council who has pledged not to take developer contributions. “I hear about it from Toluca Lake to Silver Lake, from Sherman Oaks to La Brea-Hancock. It really rattles people: They feel like here are these 100-year-old homes, and they are gone in two hours. And then they have a giant aircraft carrier parked next to their homes.” …

The opposition is far from unanimous. Many families want bigger homes, particularly in Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods with large families. Some homeowners say they welcome developers who take down older, dilapidated homes and replace them with sleek, modern homes that they argue increase property values for all.

Whatever the historic resonance of the Bradbury home — people were lining up to grab chunks of the yellow stucco as mementos — it was hardly considered a work of architectural distinction. It was purchased by a well-known architect, Thom Mayne, who told the book blog Melville House that he viewed the home as banal and wanted to replace it with something architecturally distinct.

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  1. The same thing happens in the suburbs. The 2000 ft2 1970’s homes in my neighborhood in Surrey that sell in the high 400’s to 500’s are being replaced with large lot filling homes that are double the size at least and sell for over $1M.