Downtown Los Angeles skyline

In a city of 470 square miles, Downtown LA is a speck


Monday, September 8, 2014
c.2014 Shane Phillips
Read the full post at Better Institutions.

Since 1999, Downtown LA Has Built a Fifth of All Housing In Los Angeles. In a city of 470 square miles, Downtown LA is a speck: five square miles, barely one percent of the total area. And yet, since 1999, approximately one-fifth of all residential construction in the city has occurred in this relatively tiny space. And there’s a lot more coming.


Downtown makes up one percent of the land area in Los Angeles, but it’s accounted for twenty percent of new residential construction since the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999. Chart by Shane Phillips.

According to the Downtown Center Business Improvement District’s 2014 Market Report, nearly 20,000 units have been built Downtown since the approval of the Adaptive Reuse Ordinance in 1999. Another 20,000 are in the development pipeline, likely to be built in the next 5-10 years. In contrast, data from the California Department of Finance (1, 2) show that the city has added approximately 98,000 new units in the last 15 years.

This focused growth has paid off in a big way, as most locals can attest to, and it’s a testament to what good policy can accomplish. Downtown LA is now a Walker’s Paradise, a Top-Five World Destination, or America’s Next Great City – take your pick. In less than 15 years it’s gone from a place to sweep under the rug to a symbol of the city’s evolving embrace of urbanism and multi-modalism.

At the same time, this doesn’t bode well for affordability across the metro area. Part of the reason that so much growth has gone Downtown is because most of the city is essentially off-limits to new development. While other neighborhoods fight to limit the construction of new housing, increasing pressure on the price of existing homes, Downtown has taken a very different tack, attempting to discourage under-utilization of valuable land in the urban core.

But one neighborhood can only do so much. Without concentrated, transit-oriented growth across more of the city we won’t make a dent in the demand for housing. And with 500,000 people already spending too much on their homes, the problem is only going to get worse.

latimes required reading

Getting your child into Kindergarten


This article was printed in the Los Angeles Times and is a great take on the challenges and difficulties in finding both a neighborhood you want to live in and a school for your children. Read on….

See original article at “The Real Race to the Top”

L.A. Unified’s grade-school game
Getting your child into the L.A. Unified elementary school of your choice involves a lot of planning, patience — and luck.

By Leslee Komaiko
December 14, 2011
Want to send your child to a well-regarded LAUSD elementary school? Get your notepad ready, and maybe some aspirin too.

If money is no object, move — simply purchase or rent a home near your desired school. Residential property. An office where you’re writing a novel won’t do. And don’t take the real estate agent’s word that the school a block away is your home school. Just because you can hear the tether balls being whacked, it doesn’t mean your child is destined to hit those tether balls. (Double-check addresses for home schools here:

Oh, and if the school you want is a magnet or, in certain cases, a charter, disregard the above. For that, even money won’t help. You have to amass points.

And you may still have to move. What you’d be looking for is a house in an area with a crummy home school, a school that’s overcrowded, without enough books and desks. That gives you points. So does a PHBAO home school. No, that’s not one that serves PH-balanced pork-filled dumplings to its charges. It stands for “predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian or other.” (Never mind that every school is predominantly Hispanic, black, Asian or other. Hello, LAUSD — “other” means everyone else.)

Now submit your application to your desired magnet or charter the winter before your child can begin kindergarten. (The application deadline for the 2012-13 school year is Dec. 16.)

And don’t forget about race. If your child happens to be of mixed race, be flexible. Find out which one is underrepresented at your school of choice and go with that; it could increase your odds of success.

If it all works and your kid gets accepted into the magnet or charter of your dreams, congratulations and please don’t gloat too much in front of your less-fortunate friends. And if your kid is rejected, you’re out of luck, at least for kindergarten. Maybe you could try home schooling — you don’t have anything else to do, right?

And remember there’s still good news in the form of those much-coveted Los Angeles Unified School District points. A kindergarten rejection will move your child up the list when you apply for a spot the following year.

And of course if the magnet (or program) of your dreams doesn’t start until first grade, what you want is a kindergarten rejection. So study the numbers carefully in the Choices guide, which has moved online this year and which should really be called the You Wish guide. It will reveal the schools that are most in demand, the ones that therefore have the stinkiest odds. That’s where you should apply to kindergarten, because remember, rejection and thus points are the goal here. Confused yet? I thought so.

Maybe you’d like to try something less duplicitous? Find a charter that operates on a lottery system (some use the point system, some don’t), which means your kid will have essentially the same chance of getting in as any of the hundreds of other kinder vying for those few garten spots.

Or here’s a seldom used but effective strategy: Siblings get preference at charters and magnets, so adopt a third-grader at your school of choice. Now your little kindergartner-to-be has more points, and in the case of some schools, automatic enrollment. On the flip side, you have another PB&J to make every morning and, well, another kid.

What, you’re still not happy? Clear out a little more time on your calendar because you’ll need it to fill out open enrollment applications. Yep. Open enrollment. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? Hopeful. You apply for the few empty seats that might appear at the schools you prefer. You may have to wait until school has begun to find out if you’ve won the game of musical chairs. But cheery persistence, they say, can be effective. So put on a smile before you dial.

Had enough? If not, try one more angle: special circumstances that can get your kid transferred into a better school. Like SAS programs. That’s Schools for Advanced Studies programs, for which your smarty-pants kid may be eligible if your home school doesn’t have one. Or you may qualify for a PWT (Permits Without Transportation), a child-care permit or an “intra-district and inter-district parent employment-related transfer permit” (if ever a permit was in need of an acronym…).

Alas, last I checked, there’s no MHIATEJTIJK permit. That’s the My Head Is About To Explode Jeez This Is Just Kindergarten permit.

Leslee Komaiko got a magnet rejection letter for her son for kindergarten, but now she is the very satisfied parent of a first-grader at an L.A. Unified charter school.
Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Winds of Change Around the World


On the same day July 8, 2015 the news reports three significant global market changes. In Russian real estate the ultra wealthy have slowed their buying. Exclusive villas in the shadow of Moscow and neighbors of Vladimir Putin in Rublovka have been affected by the steep devaluation of the rubel and western sanctions against Russia. In China the stock markets have tanked in the past few weeks with the peak of the Shanghai Composite dropping over 25% since June and currency controls by Beijing are for this week not stemming the sell off. Nevertheless the markets in China are still up nearly 74% from mid-2014. Lastly, the Grexit is looking like it may be a reality after the referendum vote unless the last minute swap of Greek finance ministers from the unabashed vocal contrarian opinions of Yanis Varoufakis to the more ECB/IMF friendly Euclid Tsakalotos, an Oxford-educated economist who can hopefully get a a loan done and a refinancing of the Greek debt accomplished in the final hours.

The lesson from all this is that money and I mean big money moves and stops moving very quickly. Currently this all bodes very well for American real estate and namely top tier city real estate in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, DC and Miami. Foreign capital will continue its flow into American cities as a safe haven for some time to come. The caveat of course is that if all of these foreign financial issues circle back to the US somehow the flow of this foreign capital will stop buying here too and how that will affect the US property market is still very unclear. For now though Los Angeles is a place to go, enjoy the great weather, great food, great civic arts and a thriving international city which will always attract both Americans and foreigners to this city, but I do believe that we are not isolated from market forces so keep your eye on the winds of change next year in 2016.

Innovative apartment architecture


Innovative apartment buildings are simply not that common. Most developers are looking to either maximize units and square footage within the structure’s footprint or are timid in taking architectural risk on design that may meet community opposition or miss the mark in attracting positive recognition. In Graz, Austria architectural group of Love Architecture and Urbanism designed the balconies of this apartment building “as a simple way to transform the new Ragnitzstrasse 36 apartment block into something more striking.” The building has 15 small apartments and one penthouse apartment and was targeting local medical professionals that work at a nearby hospital. Read the full article in De Zeen.

Housing prices rise past their peak in some SoCal ZIP codes


Understanding Los Angeles real estate is part boots on the ground, part common sense, part historic trends and part looking at the data. Immigration to Los Angeles is the number one factor that affects change and values in neighborhoods. The immigration 30-50 years ago was young people looking for a new life, then overseas nationals and central american immigrants, then Asian, Middle Eastern and Eastern European refugees and peoples looking for a better life. We live in a city that keeps changing. So, it’s not so much love they neighbor as try to understand who the new neighbor is that is moving in and how they will change your area over the next 10 years by either overwhelming the existing residents with a new direction or blend in slowly until the old guard moves on. Either way the place you live in today will change in 10 years so either be a part of the change or consider moving somewhere else…. keep reading… here is the article and data. Adam,0,6106375.story

March 12, 2014 –  Housing prices surpass bubble peak in some Southland ZIP Codes / By Andrew Khouri

Most are in the San Gabriel Valley or on the Westside, markets driven by Asian buyers and the tech industry. Still, many areas remain well below their pre-recession highs.

In some corners of the Southland, it’s as if the housing crash never happened.

Home prices in a dozen Southern California ZIP Codes have passed their peaks during the housing bubble, according to research firm DataQuick. Most are either in the San Gabriel Valley, a magnet for buyers from Asia, or on the Westside, where the technology industry is booming.

Across the region, home prices remain far below their peaks despite an explosive run-up in the first half of 2013. But nominal prices in some affluent neighborhoods have entered uncharted waters.

The return of bubble-era pricing could foreshadow a spillover effect, experts said. As buyers get priced out of prime areas, they may look to adjacent neighborhoods — juicing demand there and pushing up prices.

“A lot of the action is at the higher end of the market,” said Christopher Thornberg, founding partner at Beacon Economics. “That is what is driving the show.”

Many other regional markets have stalled since last summer. Higher prices and mortgage rates, along with a shortage of homes, have turned off many would-be buyers. Sales have tumbled overall, but they continue to climb in wealthy communities.

Of the 12 ZIP Codes where the non-inflation-adjusted median price has passed its bubble-era peak, six are in the San Gabriel Valley and one is in affluent Irvine. All are hubs for buyers from China looking to move to the U.S. or invest here. Another is ritzy Los Feliz, where homes near Griffith Observatory command top dollar.

Four other areas are on Los Angeles’ Westside, in Venice, Palms, Mar Vista and Culver City. Buyers from the area’s burgeoning technology industry — known as Silicon Beach — have fueled price increases, along with broader gentrification.

Despite steep prices, experts don’t see a bubble forming in these areas.

“There are important, fundamental reasons that prices moved up,” said Stuart Gabriel, director of UCLA’s Ziman Center for Real Estate.

The neighborhoods are near job centers, the urban core and, often, good public schools, Gabriel said. The areas have also recovered faster because prices there simply didn’t fall as steeply as in other areas during the crash. And each has unique factors driving the current price growth.

In the San Gabriel Valley, an influx of Chinese buyers has shifted the market into overdrive, real estate agents say. Many Chinese see U.S. real estate as a solid investment, cheaper and more stable than in China.Others buy homes with their children in mind, seeking cleaner air and solid schools.

An epicenter for previous waves of Asian immigration, the valley is a natural landing place.

In Arcadia’s 91007 ZIP Code, the median sale price for a previously owned house reached $1.33 million last quarter — 30.5% higher than its peak in 2007. In the city’s 91006 ZIP Code, prices are 23.7% higher. Other areas with nominal prices exceeding their peaks, though less dramatically, are Walnut, Temple City, San Marino and a ZIP Code that covers parts of San Gabriel and East San Gabriel.

“It’s crazy,” said Pamela Rose, a San Gabriel Valley real estate agent. “We are experiencing a lot of overseas money.”

On the Westside, the arrival of hip cafes and other amenities catering to tech industry workers has, in turn, attracted others to these areas.

In rapidly gentrifying Venice, the median price in the fourth quarter of 2013 was $1.34 million. That’s nearly 3% higher than during the bubble and 84.4% more than the bottom during the crash.

“There is a tremendous amount of demand from the tech industry,” said real estate agent Tami Pardee. “It’s really driven up the prices in Venice, which has driven up the prices in Mar Vista.”

That spillover is welcome news for current owners looking to build home equity. Some have cashed in, selling to developers who have built larger, new houses with affluent buyers in mind.

But not everyone benefits from the surge in prices.

“It’s not good news for the police and firefighters and teachers and nurses — the people who do important work in our communities but cannot afford to live in our communities,” UCLA’s Gabriel said.

Twitter: @khouriandrew


Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times