(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia user Junkyardsparkle)
Austrian-born architect Richard Neutra's first commission in the United States has been empty and blighted for years.
The Jardinette Apartments, a 1928 modernist courtyard apartment building honored with Historic-Cultural Landmark designation (#390) and listings in the National Register of Historic Places and the State Office of Historic Preservation, is now a depressing dump that one would expect to find in a slum, not in Hollywood's hip Melrose Hill district.
At least as far back as 1992, the Los Angeles Times noted that the building was already "somewhat neglected and forlorn". Thirty-one years later, you'd THINK new owners would have lovingly restored the landmark building (which was remarkably untouched for its age and number of past owners), but you'd be sorely mistaken.
Here's the previous owners' Instagram. It appears that Clippinger Investment Properties was restoring the building. The last post is from February 12, 2019.
Here's Clippinger's archived website for the Jardinette. It claimed that units would be rentable in 2017, with the restoration done in 2019. Rents would have been $1599-$2799. Instead, Clippinger's lender foreclosed on the property.
Oh, and it was "nearly empty" when Clippinger bought it in 2016! That says something about the owners before Clippinger.
Forty-three light-filled apartments are still empty, gutted by a new owner who bought the building in December 2020.
The building wasn't Ellis Acted, but there were tenants who are no longer there. I did a little digging, and I could only find proof of eleven or so former tenants finding new homes in Hollywood. The majority seem to have moved to cheaper areas, ranging from Harvard Heights to the Midwest. (I will not be sharing former tenants' information. The map below is meant to approximate tenants' movement and doesn't indicate any specific addresses other than the Jardinette.)
There were fifty-odd displaced tenants from this building alone. Multiply that by every empty or near-empty building in Hollywood, then by every neighborhood in the city, and it's clear we have a problem.
Richard Neutra (and Rudolf Schindler, who assisted on the project) designed the Jardinette with its future occupants' quality of life in mind - a planned rooftop garden, planters built into balconies, careful use of translucent glass to let in more light, and Murphy beds in the littlest units (all of the units are under 700 square feet) to maximize precious floor space. A truly remarkable amount of thought and care went into the Jardinette, which is a rarity for buildings with small, modest apartments. There's something particularly blasphemous about gutting a brilliantly designed apartment building that was already partially restored and letting it sit empty.
Clippinger applied for, and got, Mills Act status for the building, which provides substantial tax savings with the understanding that they will be used for the building's upkeep. The building's Mills Act contract transferred to the new owner when it sold.
Which means that the new owner is getting a generous tax break on a rent-stabilized building that is STILL empty, now uninhabitable, and blighted.
Case in point: last summer, LADBS got a complaint about the empty building being left open to the public. It seems to have been dismissed. What is even more disturbing is the city's persistent and willful refusal to enforce its own laws.
Prior to a recent Cultural Heritage Commission meeting, the Planning department deliberately withheld this letter from The Silverstein Law Firm, falsely claiming there is a two-page limit to written correspondence. (Beret-tip to Nathan Marsak for uploading it.)
Lies, lies, lies. The two-page limit applies to appeals. The firm wasn't making any sort of appeal; it was asking the CHC to investigate a Mills Act violation and investigate the city's failure to do its job. Silverstein could have sent up to TEN pages, not counting the photos.
If the CHC did not have time to read all of the material submitted prior to the hearing (a very real possibility, given how much information is sometimes introduced prior to hearings), the matter could have been rolled over to the next hearing. Instead, the Planning Department suppressed it by falsely deeming it "non-compliant".
BUT...we can fight back against these crooked shenanigans.
If you are bothered by a blighted building, a corrupt "city family", and a blatant violation of a Mills Act contract (grossly unfair to honest Mills Act owners who keep their properties in good condition and inhabited), no one can stop you from sending an email. Or several.
Readers, if you care at all, ask the Cultural Heritage Commission, the Mayor, the City Attorney, the Controller, and Councilmember Soto-Martinez to investigate the city's failure to inspect the Jardinette and hold the owner accountable for violating the Mills Act contract. Be sure to specify that you are reaching out because you are concerned that Robert Silverstein's disturbing email was not shared because it was wrongfully deemed "too long".
You'll need the following emails:
Just be sure to keep it under two pages; you can't trust the City Family. Mine will be short, but far from sweet.
Incidentally, Neutra never actually got paid for designing the building. The promises of past owners, and apparently the current one, seem to echo those of developer Joseph H. Miller, who commissioned the Jardinette and two other buildings that were never built, then skipped town to evade his creditors.
Appalling, isn't it?
P.S. A couple of people have mentioned the new owner's plans to me. While I want to believe that the Jardinette is indeed poised for a comeback, it's been almost three years, and talk is particularly cheap when it comes to real estate in Los Angeles. Joseph H. Miller wasn't planning on going bankrupt and Clippinger wasn't planning to go into foreclosure, but both of those things did happen. I will be keeping an eye on the progress. If and when the Jardinette ever does come back to life and fill back up with tenants, I'll be only too happy to announce it here.