October 22, 2015

Nearly every morning after I drop our son Theo off at school, I join a group of fellow parents at the coffee shop across the road from the school to chat about our work, our kids or life in general. A topic of conversation that has been quite popular lately is the large condominium building that is going up right next to the coffee shop, where the even more popular old coffee shop used to be. Occupying almost every inch of the lot that has been empty for nearly five years now as the economy faltered and tried to pick itself up again, this new building is now going up very quickly and very noisily. And it’s going up and up and up – 3 stories and will contain 64 units in total, a frightening prospect for our neighborhood, most obviously because there are few buildings of this scale in this part of Silver Lake. Also the number of units being built will impact our already overcrowded elementary school, which will be forced to fill its classrooms to bursting point. The building is being erected without much thought for the community. It is clear that financial gain is the motivating factor behind its construction.

The condo project is a stark contrast with a group of seven townhouses that were built recently just a few blocks away on a plot of land that is not much smaller than the lot beside the coffee shop, where “condozilla” is hatching. These seven units, called the Auburn Seven, were built very thoughtfully by a friend of ours, Michael, with his partner Todd, to fit in with the character of our neighborhood. They are only 2-storeys high and are beautifully designed so that they echo the mid-century modern architectural style for which our neighborhood is known and admired. What is even more remarkable about them is that they are green buildings. Michael made sure they were built using renewable materials and they were energy efficient, rare considerations in many construction projects today. The buildings were so beautifully designed and built that Michael and his wife Joanne moved into one themselves.

I see Michael every Thursday at the coffee shop with our mutual friend Mark (see March 30) after their weekly morning run, and we occasionally have a quick chat. He always greets me with a warm, generous smile. For months now, I’ve been threatening to give Michael something one Thursday morning, and today was the day. I friend had given me a lovely book on green architecture a while ago and I enjoyed looking through it, but, because I so admire what Michael does as a contractor and green builder, I felt it really belonged in his library and it might help with future designs. He is creating more green homes in Los Angeles, a few at a time, in a way that will not only cause minimal disruption to a neighborhood – unlike the monster that was rising up behind him as we spoke – but will actually enhance it. Something to smile about indeed.

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