555 Washington, the proposed 38-story neighbor to SF’s iconic Transamerica Pyramid, has ridden a troubled road on its way though the city approval process. It seems that uneven path will continue. The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that the planning department recently put a hold on a vote on the project’s environmental impact statement, claiming that the developer still owes the city $102,000 in uncollected fees. Needless to say, the doodoo has hit the fan. Is the planning department trying to chisel the developer to fill its budget gap? Or was it simply incompetent in collecting the fees in the first place? Will the developer refuse to pay unless their project receives the green light? Or will it go along obediently while the city chases its tail? Stay tuned…
A couple of months ago we introduced you to the W Hotel in Hollywood, a collaboration of some of the leading design talent in LA. One of those firms, Sussman Prejza, just sent us a video that shows off their all-important fiery red and multi-colored “W” signs, seen throughout the building. In addition to the behemoth 35-foot-tall W on top of the hotel, the firm designed a slew of animated signs, which sparkle thanks to LED’s, red and/or crystalline filters, and faceted, laser-cut acrylic surfaces. The signs vary from 2.5 to 5.5 feet tall and are programmed with their own dedicated control computer, 10 network switches, 61 power supplies and over 24,000 LEDs. And you thought all that Hollywood sparkle was simple, didn’t you?
If you want to understand just how under-appreciated California architect Edward Fickett is just try finding a picture of any of his work online, and then compare that task with finding something by his contemporaries Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler. Fickett, who died in 1999 at the age of 83, was no slouch. To name a few of his accomplishments, he designed the passenger and cargo terminals at the Port of Los Angeles, Edward Air Force Base, Dodger Stadium, a bevy of hotels and restaurants, mansions for hollywood stars, and some 60,000 light and airy tract homes known as the “Fickett Houses.” Read More
Los Angeles’ Permanent Supportive Housing program got a much-needed emergency shot of funds this week: a $5.2 million pledge from the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
Though Los Angeles has more homeless people than any other city in the US, only in the last few years has it begun to catch up with other cities’ level of services. 2005 saw a city-wide push to build supportive housing, a model borrowed from New York that combines affordable housing with services to help residents deal with mental illness, drug abuse, and disabilities.
Top architecture firms helped fill out the new supportive housing landscape, with innovative projects such as Michael Maltzan’s 95-unit, radially-arranged New Carver Apartments, Pugh + Scarpa’s 46-unit Step Up on Fifth facility in Santa Monica, and Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects’ 82-unit Skid Row Housing in downtown Los Angeles.
Even though we already knew who had won ahead of time, we couldn’t help getting excited about AIA/LA’s ARCH IS__ awards, crowning “two exceptional young architects” at SCI-Arc on Monday night. The winners: Oyler Wu Collaborative and Tom Wiscombe/ Emergent. Both are pushing the envelope in terms of design, materials, engineering, and program, and are even starting to (slowly) build things. Read More
Dear Angelenos: Would you like to save $10,000 this year? Move to a walkable neighborhood and leave your car at home. While this may be obvious—and unrealistic in many parts of our sprawling town—the Center for Transit Oriented Development (CTOD) is hoping to change the game with a new toolkit aimed at improving areas of Los Angeles in close proximity to transit stops. The CTOD, funded through a CalTrans grant and sponsored by Metro, has prepared evaluations of all 71 existing and proposed stations associated with heavy rail, light rail, and busways in the city. Utilizing the findings of those studies along with information gleaned from focus groups, the report offers strategies for expanding and creating new transit oriented districts around Los Angeles. Read More
The Las Vegas Sun reports that, in spite of some hold ups with environmental approvals, work is expected to begin this year on the $4 billion DesertXpress, a high-speed rail link between Vegas and Victorville, California. Construction on the 185-mile project, which involves two parallel, at-grade tracks through the Mojave Desert, mostly along the I-15 corridor, should take four years. Service is scheduled to being in late 2014. Aecom and Stantec have both been involved in the project thus far, along with a slew of engineering companies. The decision to begin/end the line at Victorville has raised some eyebrows. There are advocates who are pushing for an extension to Palmdale—the site of a future high-speed rail link to Union Station—allowing non-stop rail service from downtown LA to Vegas. DesertXpress chose the Victorville terminus because it is the first major population center west of the Cajon Pass, easily accessible to millions of people in the Inland Empire, and could be paid for without recourse to public tax dollars. To date, the project has been entirely privately funded, though it could be eligible for Federal Stimulus money in the future.
Since the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, a lot of attention has been focused on the preparedness of the United States to absorb such massive tremors. Nowhere is this more true than in California, the state that is perhaps the most poised in the country to deal with such disasters, as well as the most prone to suffer them. A recent report last week from California Watch—a consortium of investigative journalists who relish tackling the tough issues—found that the state’s public universities have been particularly remiss in earthquake-proofing their facilities. The report identified 108 buildings owned by state universities that engineers say would suffer serious structural damage in the event of a major quake. UC Berkeley topped this list with 71 occupied buildings that failed to make the grade. California is expected to feel one or more magnitude 7.5 or greater earthquakes in the next 30 years.
Here’s another bad sign for the shaky real estate industry: The California Real Estate Journal, CA’s only statewide commercial real estate publication, is folding. The last issue of the weekly will be on April 5. We received confirmation from the CREJ this morning, but have not yet been able to speak in depth to anyone there. More word as we get it.. For what it’s worth, the pub has received 20 regional and national awards for excellence in journalism. Ah, excellence in journalism. What a quaint phrase..
Our good friend Alissa Walker reports on Good’s blog about a trip this past Saturday led by BLDG BLOG author Geoff Manaugh to California City, a giant unbuilt city in the Mojave Desert, about 2 hours from LA. The trip was part of Obscura Day, described by its founders, Atlas Obscura, as “a day of expeditions, back-room tours, and hidden treasures in your home town. California City is about 80,000 acres of land that was purchased in 1958 by developer Nat Mendelsohn, who hoped to eventually make it the third largest city in California. Unfortunately that never happened. He only managed to corral about 10,000 people. The rest is just a desert carved with an empty grid of dirt streets. Walker points out that the streets, with names like Oldsmobile Drive, still show up on maps. More of the 70 strange places visited on Obscura Day included a visit to Berkeley’s spooky Bone Room, a tour of the Integatron sound chamber in Joshua Tree, and a visit to Baltimore’s Museum of Dentistry. Read More