L.A.'s historic core appeals to young industryites

Despite Los Angeles’ residential real estate market downturn, it’s still not a slam-dunk for young Hollywood’s prospective first-time homebuyers. Prices are indeed lower, but that’s a relative figure: $400,000 to $600,000 is the buy-in range for starter homes in what are termed “edgier” areas requiring a “pioneer spirit” — often the option for first-timers.

Neighborhoods that are rough around the edges, particularly those in Los Angeles’ historic core, have character homes and rough-cut architectural gems that appeal to industryite’s creative sensibilities. Also of interest: former industrial buildings and warehouses astutely remade as live/work lofts.

Per DataQuick, the median price in April for a Southland home was $435,000, almost 24% less than April last year. The credit crunch definitely affects folks in the biz, especially those who rely on stated income for credit purposes.

Real estate agent Brian Moore, of Prudential California Realty Los Feliz, specializes in Northeast Los Angeles. Compared with L.A.’s Westside, the area is less built up and boasts easy access to downtown, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley’s major studios. He finds that many industryite first-time buyers opt for the Northeast’s eclectic communities, including Mount Washington, Highland Park and Glassell Park. “They’re more and more in vogue in a Generation X/hipster kind of way,” says Moore of the emerging, socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods. “And relative to Silver Lake and Los Feliz, they’re much more affordable.”

Cypress Park and Montecito Heights are also starting to change, increasingly attracting those in the biz willing to tackle historic home renovations. “Lately my clients have been looking for fixers,” says Margaret Goldsmith, an agent with Sotheby’s Intl. Realty, Los Feliz. If her entertainment clients can’t buy in Silver Lake, they still want the privacy and views of hillside properties. Those on the radar include:

Highland Park & Montecito Heights

The historic artists’ enclaves of these communities border the Arroyo Seco River corridor; Highland Park is the city of Los Angeles’ largest Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) with more than 2,500 designated historic residential and commercial structures. In 2007, starter homes were priced in the mid-$500,000s; homes of that caliber are now in the $430,000 to $470,000 range, says Bob Taylor of Bob Taylor Properties.

Per Taylor, art galleries, hip bars and restaurants and “young people riding bikes” are clear evidence of Highland Park’s gentrification and transition from ethnic enclave. “Rent for a while,” suggests Taylor, “and watch where property values are going.”

Lincoln Heights

Now bisected by the 110, 5 and 10 freeways, Lincoln Heights was L.A.’s first suburb. The area is familiar to production and art department workers as the location of the massive St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on Avenue 21 and the varied standing sets at Lacy Street Studios.

In addition to the Brewery Art Colony, a number of other loft conversions are aimed at those seeking grand live/work spaces. “Lincoln Heights is an early-’80s version of Silver Lake with the potential to become the next boho hot spot,” says Phillip Spencer, a former film art director, now interior and furniture designer.

Nearby are Lacy Studio Lofts, developed by Creative Environments of Hollywood (CEH), a real estate development firm that remakes former industrial buildings into sleek urban live/work lofts. “People on the creative side of the business want buildings that have an edge,” explains Howard Sadowsky, a principal with CEH.

West Adams: Jefferson Park

A mix of Spanish Revival homes and Craftsman-style bungalows, Jefferson Park is an old-school neighborhood with a pending HPOZ. Midway between USC and Culver City’s downtown, the area benefits from the historic preservation advocacy of the West Adams Heritage Assn.

As David Raposa of City Living Realty explains, the area has long attracted the industry because of its central location and surfeit of reasonably priced “real homes” that have hardwood floors, fireplaces, beamed ceilings, multiple bedrooms and decent-sized backyards.

“It’s not a cookie-cutter suburb,” says Raposa, “it’s the middle ground between suburbia and city.”

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