by Lloyd Alter, Toronto on 12.22.08
Not a few real estate development projects have been iced because of the real estate meltdown; I hope that Rock Row in Los Angeles will not be one of them. It has a lot of things to admire, including a really tight site plan that gets 15 townhouse-like units on to one property with a common service lane between them. The units are appropriately scaled at 1300 to 1540 square feet, what looks to be reasonably priced from $475K, and have
"many environmentally conscious features, ranging from a permeable driveway of grass pavers to instant hot water heaters. LEED Certification also guarantees excellent indoor air quality, very low utility bills, and an energy efficient and sustainable design and construction. An ecological viewpoint is carried from schematic design to the finishes and fixtures."
As a cured real estate developer, I was intrigued by the site plan and the way the land is subdivided.
Rock Row is one of the earliest projects to be entitled under the new LA City Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. This ordinance encourages homeownership through smart growth practices. These homes are structurally independent from the foundation to the roof; these are not condominiums, there is no HOA, and the owner actually owns the land.
There are many situations all over North America where there will be demand to convert large lots into smaller ones for development at greater density; allowing land division like this permits encourages redevelopment and intensification. In many municipalities one cannot do freehold ownership without having some frontage on a municipal road allowance; "lollypop" subdivisions, where the lane is actually subdivided into strips, thin legs connecting the house to the street, are a way around this.
I know it is LA and everyone has gotta have a garage, but do wonder
if they have to be two side by side garages; What a shame that the
entire public ground plane is given up to cars and garage doors. They
"these 2 and 3 bedroom homes maximize the indoor/outdoor relationships unique to Southern California. Each unit has a series of decks and balconies arranged to guarantee privacy, while affording the occupant abundant usable outdoor space."
and then completely turn their back on the shared urban space between the units. But then, it is LA.
I also wonder about the merits of "the water permeable grass pave system" under the pressure of so many people and so much traffic in such a small space. The rendering shows this lush uniform green leading up to a wall of garage doors, and it just isn't going to turn out that way; people need a different, more even surface to walk on so it will be broken up. And the best thing about dead-end lanes is that they give kids a safe place to ride their bikes and play ball, which is tough on grass-paved systems. Can such a surface stand up to fifteen families and thirty cars? Or is this just green rendering rather than real green design?
Outside of that quibble, it is a pleasure to see a tight, dense
re-use of an urban site for what looks like very interesting family
housing. Rock Row via Jetson Green
More Dense Green Design in TreeHugger:
Ikea Village Without the Allen Key
UK Builders Gear Up For Zero Carbon Housing
Eco-Towns: Three Models of Green Urban Planning
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