Sunday, October 26, 2014

Star of Skid Row

This new apartment building would stand out in any neighborhood, and it stands out even more on Maple and 6th, the heart of Skid Row.  Michael Maltzan, its architect, has said,"The community that lives there should have a similar environment to anybody that could afford something more expensive." I like him for this.   It is designed to house 100 people identified by the County as being the “most vulnerable,” often requiring emergency medical care and having a history of chronic homelessness. The ground floor is occupied by the Department of Health Services Housing for Health division headquarters. It was developed by the Skid Row Housing Trust, This organization began by rehabilitating S.R.O (old single room occupancy) buildings, but later ran out of buildings to rehabilitate and has gone on to new development.  Rents are subsidized by the L.A. Housing Authority, and each resident pays 30% of their income, whatever it may be.

There are waiting lists for all the supportive housing units, and some have questioned whether it was worthwhile to spend 40 million dollars on just this one.  As a lover of architecture, I say that this building will add beauty to the neighborhood for years to come, while a strictly utilitarian building would not.  While I'm at it, I ought to find out how much it would cost to build a plainer structure with equal capacity.  There were a couple of cost-saving measures taken here, too.  The housing units were pre-fabricated in Idaho.  The lower level incorporated the existing structure, a brilliant idea that also saved on demolition and disposal.

Here's another view from Maple Street.

Here is a wonderful video of The Star construction.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Skid Row Supermural

Two of my favorite things are maps and murals, so I had to go see this one, even though it's in the most depressing place in the city.  I had read about this mural in the L.A. Times- "For skid row residents and advocates, mural is a sign of survival." The official name of this neighborhood is "Central City East," not skid row.  In 2006, Firefighters at Fire Station 9, the neighborhood station, were ordered by the city to remove the words "Skid Row" from their trucks.  That same year, the boundaries of skid row were defined in a court case,  Jones vs. City of Los Angeles.  If you have time, you can read about it here.  The details are heartbreaking.  A.C.L.U. has a synopsis of the decision.

“It is the only place in our community where you will see the name ‘Skid Row’ in public"said organizer General Jeff Page.  Everyone who worked on the mural lived within the boundaries depicted, and it was entirely funded by Skid Row residents.  Credit goes to the Winston Death Squad, Wild Life, Chris Como, and Tre. "Now, folks will come from all over the world to take a photo in front of this mural just as they do with the iconic Hollywood sign”, says General Jeff.  Next time I'm there, I'll make it a selfie.

Even one homeless person is too many.

The intention is to fill the entire wall, and its a long one, with murals. Here is one more panel.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Citizens Warehouse or Pickle Works Building

I first noticed the Citizens Warehouse Building as I crossed the First Street Viaduct while it was being widened to accommodate the metro rail Gold Line tracks.  That was in 2007.  I took a picture of this sign

I didn't know anything about the building, but I assumed its future was secure, in a truncated form.  The end closest to the bridge would be made shorter, but the wall would be replaced where the building had been cut, I thought.  Isn't that what they meant by "removing and reconstructing the southern end of the Citizens Warehouse Building?"  

The building had been declared eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, while plans for the Gold Line were being developed.   This made the City of Los Angeles responsible to avoid, minimize or mitigate the adverse effects of the new construction.  It had been built in 1888 as a pickle factory, and is also known today as the Pickle Works Building.  Later it had served as storage for the possessions of those immigrants to California who were able to hire entire rail cars for transporting their household possessions.  After the nearby railroad station was destroyed in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, it was used for the storage of soy sauce because it is close to both Little Tokyo and Chinatown.

It was and is an important site in the downtown arts district.  In 1980, artists began to move in.  The space was divided up and the artists created live-in studios according to their individual desires. Living in places like this was not legal, and they often ran into trouble with building inspectors.  Here's what Carlton Davis wrote about those days.

From 1981-1986, the building housed "The Art Dock" the world's first drive-through art gallery. Carlton Davis was hanging out on the loading dock one afternoon. A car stopped in front of them, and the occupants stared at them intently. A drive-by art gallery seemed like a good idea. Davis curated 40 installations by 35 different artists there over the years.

When I photographed this pigeon on a window sill in 2007, it looked like people were still living there, but they had to move out not long after that.  

This shows just how close the Pickle Works Building is to the bridge during the reconstruction period at the beginning of 2008.  

I didn't go back again until Dec. 2011.
 The bridge itself looked almost complete, but the pickle works building looked like this:

The end had been removed, but not restored.  Graffiti appeared.

Some of the residents names were still by the buzzer at the door.

and a potted plant left behind still put forth a few leaves and flowers.

I found out later that the Los Angeles Department of Engineering wanted to tear it down.  Carlton Davis wrote "The pickle has been lopped but still stands" in August 2011.   In April 2013 there was an exhibit:  “In Your Face” which opened at the Angel City Brewery in conjunction with the District Gallery on April 11th, the majority of the show is the devoted to the Art Dock, the world’s first drive-by art gallery, located in the downtown arts district. The community organizations  L.A. Conservancy, and Los Angeles River Artists and Business Association (LARABA) worked to save the building.  

Carlton Davis wrote this update in August 20013

 I haven't seen any new information since then.  All I can say is that it's still there, under the shade of my favorite trees.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

One Santa Fe and the Citizens Warehouse Building

I was amused to see a Curbed LA post from May 2014, calling this project the "Almost Finished Nail  in the Arts District Gentrification Coffin." I can see the buildings as rather coffin-like in shape too. The complex as a whole is a quarter of a mile long.  The only thing to do is to photograph what's left of the arts district as it used to be.  I'm starting here, on the next block.

This is Center Street, a block away from One Santa Fe.  It was on the telephone pole in front of  the magnificent blooming tree that I  first saw the flyer protesting the construction of One Santa Fe.  The building with windows boarded is another story.  It's the Citizens Warehouse Building.  It used to have artists studios, but when the first street bridge was widened, a section had to be cut off.  It's an historic building and was intended to be restored.  Now the bridge is open, but the Citizen's Warehouse still has plywood boards on the side facing the bridge. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

One Santa Fe

A few years ago, I was wandering around Santa Fe Avenue checking the progress of the First Street Viaduct widening project.  I saw a flyer affixed to a pole about a protest against a big development project.  It was just the sort of thing I would object to if it were happening in my own neighborhood.  The protesters did not prevail, and One Santa Fe is in the late stages of construction.  A few of the units are already leased.

It's a fancy place in what's called the Arts District, which is filling up with places artists can't afford.  It's huge--"the Empire State Building on its side."  here's the price list, according to Curbed.

Studios (*343 to 670 square feet): $1,480 to $2,035
One-bedroom/one-bathroom (526 to 690 square feet): $1,980 to $2,410
One-bedroom/one-bathroom (703 to 913 square feet): $2,135 to $3,135
Two-bedroom/two-bathroom (899 to 982 square feet): $2,385 to $2,810
Two-bedroom/two-bathroom (1,002 to 1,103 square feet): $2,460 to $2,810
Two-bedroom/two-bathroom townhouse (1,241-1,422 square feet):$3,585 to $4,530

I'm all for Tiny House Living, but 343sq. ft. should be a lot cheaper than that.

But here's the surprise--I like the way it looks.  It's like a shiny version of the surrounding architecture.  I like the angles and the vermilion color.

On the other hand, I think it won't be long before everyone forgets this was the arts district.