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Los Angeles Times

Wednesday December 3, 2014

Northern Edge of Westlake Finally Getting Developers' Attention

By Andrew Khouri
 

The 67-unit Hom Temple apartment complex is one of several projects underway or planned along Temple Street south of the Hollywood Freeway. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

The real estate investment wave remaking Echo Park and Silver Lake is spreading south of the Hollywood Freeway.

An upscale apartment complex is under construction on a former vacant lot on Temple Street in Los Angeles' Westlake district. The 67-unit complex is one of several projects underway or planned along gritty Temple as builders look to provide housing for young professionals and others near resurging downtown Los Angeles and the increasingly hip and expensive burbs of Echo Park and Silver Lake.

The Hom Temple apartments, near Hoover Street, consist of 61 one-, two- or three-bedroom market-rate apartments, with the smallest starting at $1,500 a month. There will also be six units reserved for low-income tenants.

Two courtyards are planned, with barbecues, water features and fire pits. Residents will be able to work out in a fitness center and play pool or cook meals in a club house. A small retail space is also planned, which the developer, Beverly Hills-based Sharp Capital, hopes to fill with a local coffee shop.

"This little pocket has been kind of neglected for some years," Sharp Capital principal David J. Shophet said of the area around Temple between Glendale Boulevard and Virgil Avenue. "We think the area is generally ripe for development."

Todd Wexman thinks so too. Late last year, his 4Site Real Estate firm broke ground on a 49-unit complex near Glendale and Temple, just south of Echo Park Lake and the 101 Freeway. When the project opens, which Wexman hopes will happen in April, there will be a pool, gym and solar panels to power the residential units.

Wexman said rents at the development — where several small, aging apartment buildings once stood — should range from around $1,550 to $2,700.

More residential projects are coming to the northern reaches of Westlake, also known as Historic Filipinotown, said broker Paul Darrow of Marcus & Millichap, who has helped broker deals in the area.

Facing land constraints and immense competition from other builders in Hollywood, Echo Park and Silver Lake, developers have looked to the area around Temple, seeking to provide new apartments near downtown Los Angeles while offering less expensive rents than those in nearby areas, Darrow said.

"They're filling a gap in the marketplace which has been sort of dormant for many years," he said.

Shophet expects many residents to be those who are priced out of Silver Lake and Echo Park, but who wish to remain close to bustling Sunset Boulevard. The framing on the project is nearly complete and it is scheduled to open in July.

"I see it becoming an extension of Silver Lake," Shophet said of the neighborhood.

For now, the working-class area is home to modest older houses and apartments. Low-slung commercial buildings line Temple: discount stores, mini-marts, restaurants, auto body shops. In 2002, the city named the area, where many Filipinos settled decades earlier, Historic Filipinotown. However, at the time, less than 15% of residents were Filipino while 65% were Latino, according to a district study.

The new developments have drawn concerns. Larry Gross, executive director of the tenant group Coalition for Economic Survival, fears the new projects will make the area more attractive to those with higher incomes, pushing rents in older apartments beyond what current residents can afford.

"If there is not some restrictions or restraints on this, Historic Filipinotown will not be a reference to the current residents, but a memory of the residents that once lived there," he said.

As more development arrives, it's important that affordable housing is also built, said Aquilina Soriano-Versoza, executive director of the Pilipino Workers Center.

"We are definitely not opposed to development and improving the neighborhood, but we need to make sure there is equitable development that creates spaces for all different incomes in the neighborhood and people are not pushed out."

The area is steeped in Los Angeles lore. In 1892, soon-to-be oil baron Edward L. Doheny and partner Charles A. Canfield used a sharpened 60-foot-long eucalyptus tree trunk as a drill to strike oil near the corner of Glendale Boulevard and Colton Street.

The find — less than a half-mile south of 4Site's project — triggered an oil boom that transformed L.A.

By 1950, the Hollywood Freeway had cut off the area from Silver Lake and most of Echo Park. So far, the 101 has served as a barrier to the gentrification that has swept those two neighborhoods in recent decades.

But with rents and home prices seeming to climb ever higher, development dollars are creeping south and jumping the freeway.

"Temple Street," Shophet said, "needs some love and attention."


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