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Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

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70's Kids Could Take Submarine Buses To The Beach!

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The summer of 1974 was a tumultuous one in the United States as President Nixon had recently resigned in disgrace, the failed war in Vietnam was winding down, Patty Hearst was on the run with the SLA, gas shortages led to widespread rationing and a global recession was on the horizon. Here in Los Angeles, our public transportation system was in such tatters that the LA Times reported that Angelenos had to deal with "half empty buses that rolled past waiting passengers, schedules that went awry, and fares that jumped alarmingly at each new zone." The Rapid Transit District decided something needed to be done and one of their ideas was to launch a "Street Fleet" aimed at Inland kids that would ferry them to the beach during the summer. 

The Street Fleet buses, decorated as battleship-grey submarines (complete with periscope) churning through bright blue waves, made their way to pick up kids in the Valley, Pasadena, Watts and more on 4 different lines and transported them to the beachfront in Santa Monica. Foreshadowing our current world-class transit system, with its subway to the beach, art installations at every train stop, colorful buses and more, the RTD pulled out all of the stops in their promotion campaign including organizing activities that included bus painting, Street Fleet posters in area schools, skywriting, retail tie-in promotions, a special student beach pass, an informational brochure, letters to school principals and even sleeves over the bus stops that made the beach runs. There was even a promotional video with a catchy theme song (watch it and tell us those kids weren't having a blast!!).

Beach goers were encouraged to bring their surfboards and the Street Fleet service was described as a "life preserver for kids who live in the inland areas of Los Angeles County that will run seven days a week for the 93-day summer beach season.”  According to lacurbed.com, the Street Fleet was a success, and soon became known for its wet seats, rambunctious atmosphere, and sandy floors crowded with volleyballs and the aforementioned surfboards. Sadly, it only lasted the summer of '74 as there was not enough funding to continue the program in the summer of 1975. We housesellers would be delighted to hear from any Boomers or Gen-X kids who have stories about the Street Fleet they would like to share.

Where We Stand With The Housing Market As We Head Into Summer

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The big "buyers market" most real estate insiders predicted would be in full swing by now in Southern California hasn't quite taken hold yet, but with the housing market all over the place heading into June, we housesellers thought now would be a good time to update you on what has been going on over the last few months and what to expect in the coming months. First off, we are at peak home-buying season and conditions in some of California's super-heated housing markets are quite different than a year ago when homes were hard to come by and prices were sky high. In our pricey coastal towns, sales and prices are seeing double digit declines, and year-over-year sales dropped in March by 19% in Los Angeles, 16% in Orange County, and roughly 14% percent in San Francisco according to the California Association of Realtors. 

The March CAR numbers reflected the first year-over-year price drop for Los Angeles and San Diego counties in seven years and the third in Orange County in the previous four months. It has become almost impossible to predict how the next few months will go, though, as single family home prices in Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties changed course in April, climbing upwards again after falling year-over-year in March. The Los Angeles housing market is considered as one of the premier housing markets for both investors and homeowners and is one of the hottest and most profitable in the United States. As crazy as this market is, Los Angeles definitely has a track record of being one of the best long term real estate investments in the U.S. over the last ten years since the housing crash.

In the end, there is still a lot of demand to live in a state where developers can’t easily ramp up construction. Experts say the market is in a period of "pausing" and, although prices may dip for a time, a crash on the scale of 2008/2009 isn’t in the offing. Unemployment in California is 4.3%, near a record low (and a far cry from a height of 12.3% after the Great Recession), and average weekly earnings rose 27% from last Spring according to non-inflation adjusted numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. So, basically we are still on a wild ride, market-wise, but all signs seem to indicate that things will remain relatively stable for quite some time with neither plummeting values or skyrocketing prices in the foreseeable future.

 

The Fascinating Story Behind LA's Most Beloved Building--The Griffith Observatory

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

The Griffith Observatory is probably the most recognized and beloved building on Los Angeles, at least to locals, and an interesting online article we housesellers came across recently made us aware of some interesting facts about the building and grounds that we didn't know about. For example, did you know that Griffith J. Griffith, the man who spearheaded the project and who also created Griffith Park in 1896, was an unwelcomed figured in LA who went to jail for shooting his wife in the head. Griffith, who drank as much as 2 quarts of whiskey a day, had come to believe that his wife was conspiring with the Pope to poison him and steal his money. She survived, but her subsequent request for a divorce in front of the courts was granted in less than 5 minutes--arguably the fasted divorce proceeding in LA history. 

Griffith was inspired by a visit to nearby Mount Wilson and became determined to build his own public observatory in Griffith Park. He offered the city $100,000 to build an observatory, but Griffith’s reputation was so bad that the city was not interested in taking more of his charity--at least not while he was alive. So, in his will he decided to leave a bequest totaling $750,000 for the construction of a free “Hall of Science” and Observatory atop the peak of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. He died in 1919. The Depression made the construction of Griffith Observatory possible, with building materials and labor cheap and plentiful. The builders resolved “that in every possible instance, they would use materials obtainable in Los Angeles or the vicinity, thus aiding local industry and employment.” 

On May 14, 1935, the domed structure, designed by John C. Austin and Frederick M. Ashley and compared by one Los Angeles Times journalist to “the magic work of a genie,” opened with a crowd of 500 of the city's elite watching as Mayor Frank L. Shaw accepted the building from the Griffith Estate on behalf of the city. The planetarium inside Griffith Observatory was just the third in the U.S., behind Chicago and Philadelphia, and it was reported that around 18,000 people crowded the halls of the Observatory the first week it was open. Btw, Griffith, who referred to himself as "Colonel" (despite being born in Wales and never having served in the military) is also responsible for the Greek Theatre, which you may be surprised to learn celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.

Measure EE Is Just Too Flawed To Vote "Yes" On

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

On June 4 there will be a special election in Los Angeles to vote on a tax increase for properties located within the Los Angeles Unified School District. Known as Measure EE, this is new property tax would cost property owners of every home, apartment, office, business and all other buildings within the boundaries of the LAUSD $.16 per square foot ($160 for every 1,000 square feet). The proponents of Measure EE state, if passed, the EXTRA property tax charge would last 12 years and then be eliminated. However, we housesellers have never known of any increase on any tax whether it be sales tax, gas tax, etc. that ever gets rolled back. While we rarely offer advice on how people should vote on certain measures, bills or laws, we stand with the majority of the local community in urging you to get out and vote "NO" on this proposal.

From what we have been able to ascertain, proponents of the measure claim the money is needed to reduce class sizes and hire more staff, but the LAUSD's finances have historically been so mismanaged that LA County has long considering taking over the school district and hiring experts to run it. There is also evidence that a substantial portion of the money raised could go to their unfunded retirement liability for retired teachers. There are just too many questions as to how effectively the district will spend the new money and whether the proposed oversight mechanisms are strict enough for this measure to pass.

We strongly encourage you to research this matter and draw your own conclusions, and you are always welcome to contact us to clear up any confusion you may have on this or any other issues. For anyone who votes by mail, your ballots were mailed out on May 6 so you should have them by now. Voters who prefer to vote on Election Day can find their polling place at www.lavote.net/locatorbyaddress

LA Celebrates The 90th Birthday Of Its Most Famous Hotel--The Chateau Marmont

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

One of the most infamous landmarks in Los Angeles--and its most famous hotel--celebrates 90 years of existence this year. The Chateau Marmont on the Sunset Strip is one of those buildings that truly makes you ponder the old saying "if these walls could talk". With all of the hoopla surrounding the anniversary, we housesellers thought that we would dive into some of the most interesting facts about this Hollywood hot spot. One of the more poignant stories involves Charles Manson victim, actress Sharon Tate. She and her husband, Roman Polanski, were living at the hotel when she became pregnant and they only left because she didn't want to bring the baby back to live in a hotel. Coincidentally, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Manson family murders. 

The "infamous" label the hotel has acquired is largely from well-publicized events such as John Belushi's drug overdose death there in 1982, Led Zeppelin drummer, John Bonham, supposedly driving his motorcycle through the lobby during an LA tour stop and Britney Spears being ejected from the lobby for smearing food all over her face en route to her famous head-shaving breakdown just down the street. But did you know that as police were responding to calls about Belushi, Billy Idol (one of the biggest stars in the world in 1982) was smashing up his Chateau bungalow and waiting naked on the balcony as he thought the cops were coming for him? Or that in the 1950s, the hotel had a service where if you were out drinking and you didn’t want to drive back to the hotel, they would send two carhops (one of them would drive your car, and the other would drive you)? Well, two famous writers were drinking one night, realized they were too smashed to drive and called the hotel to let them know they needed a ride—only to be told they were still at the hotel!

Part of the allure of the hotel is its incredible location at the gateway to the Sunset Strip, plus it has just 63 rooms and has always had a lot of privacy. Originally built as an apartment house, every unit is self-enclosed and they didn’t add a restaurant or bar until the 1990s. We read a story about people working on the same film—like Sidney Poitier and Diahann Carroll on Porgy and Bess—staying at the Chateau and not realizing it for weeks. It is this discretion that is behind the motto "If you want to be seen, go to the Beverly Hills Hotel. If you don’t want to be seen, go to Chateau Marmon". And it is really only in the last two decades the hotel has become glamorous and expensive...in the 1970s, a room could be had for $14 a night whether you were Carly Simon, Dennis Hopper, Andy Warhol, a guy in from New York peddling a script or a wannabe player hoping for a break. If you are interested in the juicy details of the 90 years of Chateau Marmont history, you might want to check out the new book "The Castle on Sunset: Life, Death, Love, Art, and Scandal at Hollywood’s Chateau Marmont".

Americans Say Real Estate Still A Better Investment Than Stocks

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

An April Gallup poll shows that even with stocks having a strong 2019 so far (apart from some wild fluctuations based on certain Trump tweets), with the major U.S. stock indexes establishing or nearing record highs in April and early May, more Americans (35%) continue to believe real estate is a superior long-term investment to stocks (27%) or other investment options. The expected buyers market hasn't quite arrived and home sales and prices have continued to rise throughout the Spring in Los Angeles and Orange counties, as well as across the country.

Gallup has asked a version of the "best investment" question since 2002 when housing prices were increasing rapidly and 50% of U.S. adults polled that year said real estate was the best investment, the highest percentage choosing any investment type in a single year in Gallup's trend. Five years later, as the real estate bubble was about to burst after values peaked, housing still ranked first but with fewer Americans (37%) choosing it. During the bulk of the Great Recession between 2008 and 2010 that saw plummeting home and stock values, Americans ranked savings accounts and CDs right along stocks and real estate as the best long-term investments. Interestingly, Gold actually topped the list in 2011 and 2012, but soon gave way to real estate again and has since fallen further down the list.

Of course, we housesellers need to point out that this is just one poll and the "real estate versus the stock market" question continues to be debated heatedly on investment sites all over the internet, but Americans who own both stocks and a home choose real estate with a slight margin of 40% to 38% over stocks. Stock owners, not surprisingly, are more positive than the general public is about stocks as an investment even though stock ownership has declined among most major U.S. subgroups since before the recession...while, thanks to Millenials, home ownership is on the rise. Also, Americans may regard real estate as the better bet because stock price gains can be a boon to investors, but most Americans don't actually reap the rewards.

Apartment Gardening Can Be A Wonderful, Healthy Activity For Los Angeles Renters

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Last week, we housesellers discussed here why if you own a home in Los Angeles you should be enjoying the benefits of a home vegetable or fruit garden. Well, if you are a renter we want to make sure you know how to enjoy this healthy and rewarding activity, too. Just because you live in a place without your own yard doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice the health and prosperity that gardening offers, and garden beds can take so many more forms than just those that require you to dig up a plot of land. Because of our fantastic weather, many SoCal apartments and condos have reasonably spacious balconies or patios with lots of sunshine and you can easily create a personal garden on them, or even inside. 

Root vegetables and herbs are the simplest and least space consuming way to start an apartment garden. Sage, chives, cilantro, parsley, etc. are super easy to start in mason jars (or old glass jugs for bigger yields) and can be placed on your windowsill or in a windowsill planter, hanging garden baskets or just on the patio/balcony floor. Small citrus trees – such as lemons and mandarins – do  well in patio containers, and avocado trees are easy to sprout from leftover seeds and can live in pots for years. Tomatoes and peppers are easy to grow in pots (as long as they are in the sunlight), as are small varieties of cucumber and zucchini. Greens and lettuce, radishes, carrots, mushrooms and scallions are all great space-savers with minimal maintenance. 

While small citrus trees are a no-brainer for apartment gardeners in sunny LA, strawberries do well in containers or hanging baskets and there are even varieties that require no sun and can be completely grown indoors, such as the Alpine variety. The dwarf varieties of blueberries prefer containers and will make a comeback year after year (they love acidic soils, so consider using soil specific to acid loving plants). Your best bet in getting started with this adventure is to visit your local garden center as they are the folks with the most experience growing delicious fruits and veggies in tight areas. We also suggest stopping by your local farmers market--you'll be sure to get some great ideas there. And, of course, you can find anything online but this kind of project might be more fun after actually talking to someone with experience!

 

 

Why You Should Grow A Backyard Garden In Los Angeles If You Own A Home

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

It has been awhile since we housesellers discussed the best ways to develop and nurture your backyard California garden and with May being one of the best months to do so, we thought we would offer up some tips. In fact, May is the best month to start planting the heat-loving fruits and vegetables that tend to be the most popular such as carrots, celery, chard, chives, corn, cucumbers, eggplants, a huge variety of lettuces, melons, okras, green onions, pumpkins, spinach, squash and sweet potatoes. The two things that are the most expensive to buy at the store, peppers and tomatoes, thrive here. And, in a city where it can be costly to eat healthy when dining or ordering out (the conundrum of the $16 LA salad), growing your own fruits and veggies can save you a considerable amount of money.

The most obvious tip when starting a garden in SoCal is to pick the spot on your property that gets the most sunlight (even if it is in the front yard). Most plants require at least six hours of sun a day, with "fruiting" plants like tomatoes and squash doing best with eight or more hours. Then, consider how many hours you have each week to dedicate to watering, weeding, pruning, fertilizing, mulching, and most importantly, harvesting. Expenses are pretty minimal, though you'll want to get a tiller and a spade of some sort, but these can be found cheaply at any of the discount hardware stores in the area. And seed packages are only a few bucks. It's a little more expensive to begin the planting season with starter plants, but these can be a great choice if your schedule is too tightly packed. 

Some neighborhoods in LA have great conditions and are ready-made for gardening while others have soil that has too much sand or clay, so you'll want to research the composition of the soil in your yard and plan to mulch and fertilize accordingly. Realize that you'll have to deal with animal intrusions...suburban areas may have raccoons and skunks that love to dig in freshly seeded soil and city farmers might have to contend with birds that tend to swoop in on fruit trees. Whatever the case, having the proper protection such as fencing and netting in place will ensure your efforts aren't dashed by a hungry critter. And, as always, make sure you follow all of the proper water conservation regulations as irrigation techniques have made great advances in recent years.

 

 

Coworking Spaces Starting To Become A Big Thing In Los Angeles

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

Coworking spaces have started to take off recently in Los Angeles due to the need for new business locations and, in a city like LA that has high rent and crazy purchase prices for real estate, we housesellers know that means you need to find a great original way to acquire new business locations. This can be especially hard for start-ups and freelancers and that’s where the need for coworking places comes into play. These locations are very different when compared to a regular office because there are multiple businesses all residing in a single place. In addition, coworking spaces are known to cultivate environments that are favorable to productivity and innovation. 

But what exactly are coworking spaces? Coworking spaces are essentially shared workspaces that offer affordable office space for those looking to escape the isolation of a home office or coffee shop. In America, the movement is credited with starting in San Francisco in 2005 (the lack of a hyphen is intentional) with the idea to combine the independence of freelancing with the structure and community of an office space. As the growing presence of Silicon Beach turned Los Angeles into a tech hub, the city has become a hotbed for online-content providers and up-and-coming startups alike in the past few years. This has resulted in companies ranging from large international corporate chains to small niche-oriented businesses looking to share space and minimize commercial rent costs.

So, it is easy to see why this concept would take off in Los Angeles. It encourages networking by offering people a way to connect with business professionals in the same fields of industry, and the business model offers flexibility since workers are free to come and work at any given hour during the day or night. They have amenities like coffee machines, fully equipped kitchens and so on but you don’t have to worry about the leasing formalities. Unlike the somewhat similar concept of shared office spaces, coworking spaces usually lease to members for a period of 3-to-6 months whereas shared office spaces such as executive suites usually lease for a period of 12 months. In any case, more and more coworking spaces are being utilized in LA because the last thing many freelancers and creative tech folks want to do is to spend most of their money on rent.

 

Surprising Facts About Notre-Dame Cathedral

by Jeff White and Lori Donahoo

In the past few days we have been seeing a wealth of stories about how the fire at the legendary Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris has touched people around the world and brought out an onslaught of donors who wish to financially contribute to the rebuilding of the damaged parts of the church (as of Wednesday, donations were nearing the $1 billion mark). This got us housesellers wondering just how much we really knew about this beloved French landmark so we did a little digging and came up with some interesting facts you might not know. One of the more interesting is that it (and not the seemingly more obvious choices, the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre) is the most visited tourist attraction in Paris, and Europe, with some 13 million visitors per year. Multiple travel sites rank it as the #1 "must visit" tourist spot in Europe.

Among some of the legendary historic events the church is tied to are the crowning of Napoleon Bonaparte as Emperor of France, the safekeeping and storage of the remains of King Louis the XIV, Henry VI of England being made king of France inside Notre-Dame in 1431, and the beatification of Joan of Arc by Pope Pius X. The spire of the cathedral that collapsed in the fire contained relics--including teeth, bones and hair--of the patron saints of Paris, St. Denis and St. Geneviève, and were placed in the spire in 1935 by an archbishop to protect the cathedral. St. Geneviève is often credited with saving Paris by using the power of group prayer to divert Attila the Hun away from the city in 451.

The Great Organ, the cathedral’s largest, was built in the 19th century but some of its more than 8,000 pipes date to the 1200s. The famed stained glass windows also date from the 13th century. The cathedral contains one of the oldest surviving wood-timber frames in Paris, involving around 52 acres of trees that were cut down in the 12th century. Each beam is made from an individual tree which is why the lattice of the historic building is nicknamed "the Forest". Sadly, much of it seems to have been destroyed by the fire. Notre-Dame was a decrepit, decaying building when The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was published in 1831. The success of the classic novel (the church is the centerpiece of the story, not the hunchback) led to massive restoration efforts. And Notre-Dame is literally the center of France since the country's Kilometre Zero (the point from which distances are measured from a country's capital or main city to other cities) is located at its entrance.

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