July 16, 2015 § Leave a comment
It must be five years since the Coffee Table, a beloved Silverlake eatery and gathering place on Rowena, was closed and boarded up, victim of a developer’s scheme to install condos in its place. Eventually it was razed along with a ratty board and care facility and several storefronts; the 1.44 acre parcel then sat empty.
I’ve never thought of myself as one to nurse a grudge, yet every time I walked to Trader Joe’s past the lot devoid of all but opportunistic castor plants, I grumbled at how neighborhoods are forever at the mercy of someone with enough cash to rip the heart out of them.
Two years ago, a sign appeared behind the property’s chain-link fence: “Coming soon! 29 Twenty, Exciting 2 & 3 Bedrooms, Contemporary Design.” A privately-held investment firm based in Miami, Fifteen Group, had acquired the land and stuck a deal with SoCal developer Van Daele Homes to build 33 townhouses (“townhomes” in real estate-speak).
“Soon” was a relative term; nothing happened at the site until March, 2014, when the city affixed notices to three mature shade trees–a Chinese flame and two jacarandas–announcing its intent to remove them for sidewalk widening. That got the attention of neighborhood residents, who countered with their own signs. More than a year later, the trees remain, though still under threat. The city has yet to set a hearing regarding their removal.
Earlier this year, construction finally began: workers graded the parcel, poured concrete slabs, and began work on a concrete retaining wall.
I’ve searched for the source of my annoyance with 29 Twenty: it starts with feeling that despite neighborhood councils and talk of civic engagement, in L.A., new developments happen to us, not because we decide what our neighborhood needs.
Silverlake is a desirable place to live. More families want in and those families need a place to live. I get that.
But why should Silverlake be an enclave for only the well-monied? Floor plans for these units show three-level, attached units from 1,356 to 2,275 square feet, two to three bedrooms, 2.5 or 3.5 bathrooms, and roof top decks. No prices have been listed for the Rowena project, but at Van Daele’s Morton Street development in Echo Park, comparable units start in “the low 800s.”
Both developments feature the glitz du jour: quartz counter tops, stainless-steel appliances, master suites, walk-in closets, multiple bathrooms–though no yards, community gathering spaces, or even green spots.
Los Angeles needs less glitz, more affordable housing, and more ways to build community. The Coffee Table at least gave us the latter; 29 Twenty strikes out on all counts.