Norton and Van Ness Avenues have seen the quick demolition of two homes in the past couple of weeks, leaving local residents scrambling to learn what is being developed as they hear the sound of bulldozers in the summer air.
Both homes were in the Larchmont Village area, north of Beverly Drive and south of Melrose, that is zoned a mix of R3-1 (multi-unit), R-2 (duplex) and R-1 (single family) properties. The northeastern portion of the area (north of Elmwood) was ‘up-zoned’ in the era of Councilman John Ferraro to allow for more density in the heart of Los Angeles.
Over the years the neighborhood has considered trying to protect the entire area with a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) but the zoning and many large infill projects (mainly apartments), mean the entire area doesn’t meet the percentage of historic homes required in the standards for creating an HPOZ for all of Larchmont Village. There is still interest in pursuing an HPOZ for a sub-area dubbed “Larchmont Heights” in the western part of the neighborhood.
The owners of 421 N. Van Ness Ave. received a demolition permit from LA Department of Building & Safety (DBS) on May 19th and the two story 3,200 sq ft Craftsman home built in 1913 met the fate of the wrecking ball shortly thereafter. DBS later halted construction on the site for “construction in progress without permits or inspections.”
The lot is zoned R3-1, meaning multiple unit residences can be built. Rumor has it that the owner will be building a four unit small lot subdivision, but no designs have been seen by anyone in the neighborhood. Small lot subdivisions are currently in vogue for developers as a way to put multiple units on a single lot, each structurally independent from one another, and bought/sold independently in the single family home marketplace. They often appear as townhouses, usually with garages built at ground level topped by several floors of living space and often a rooftop garden/patio.
“We are not opposed to development,” said Charles D’Atri, President of the Larchmont Village Neighborhood Association told the Larchmont Buzz. “We just wish the new owners would reach out to the community before it’s a fait accompli and the place is gone. We’d like to see some communication and conversation with the neighborhood before the place is bulldozed. It makes fiscal sense to talk first (and not having to redraw plans, hire lawyers) and also inspires good will with the surrounding neighborhood.”
D’Atri noted with dismay that 421 N Van Ness was bulldozed without harvesting the 1913 property of many of the valuable fixtures, doors, windows and historic elements that could have been salvaged for reuse in other homes and appreciated by those who enjoy quality architecture.
“Larchmont Village is a very desirable neighborhood. We take a realistic stance,” said D’Atri. “Development is allowed here. We are not into NIMBYism, but we believe new projects should be designed with some sensitivity to the neighborhood, and conformance with existing city zoning and building rules is critical.”
The owners of 421 N. Van Ness are expected to present their plans before the GWNC Land Use Committee on June 24 at 6:30 pm in the assembly room at Wilshire United Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Blvd. The meeting is open to the public and letters can be submitted to the GWNC if one cannot attend.
Just around the corner at 362 N Norton Ave. another home was also bulldozed last week. The 2 bedroom 1 bath house will be replaced by a “new two-story single family dwelling with detached garage” on the R1-1 lot. According to DBS files Plan Check online, it appears the owner has applied for and received clearances for building the new home. The property was advertised on Estately as “Beautifully restored Larchmont Village Craftsman screaming with original character on one of the largest lots in the village. House is set high off the street with large front porch overlooking the wide street. Living room with built in bookcases and Batchhelder fireplace.
“This is a by-right project for a larger home, which is the legal right of the owner,” noted D’Atri. “In this case we may worry about ‘mansionization’ but we hope that the design will be compatible with the neighborhood.” According to Renee Weitzer of Council District 4, the applicant must comply with the Baseline Ordinance, which has standards as to how big a home can be built on a lot and the City does not have an architectural review on the look or style of the home, unless its in an HPOZ area.
No word if any of the fixtures on the Norton home were saved prior to demolition.