Open House #2: Living in Public Storage, ie The Downtown Lofts…

December 6th, 2009 → 1 Comment

Welcome back to “Open House” my series of blog entries detailing my journey to home ownership (to suit an artist’s lifestyle with an artist’s income… all by myself.) These blogs are also research notes for my new show about being Carless in LA and will be integrated into a show I’m developing through an artist residency March/April 2010 at the Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia, PA.

Last week, I visited my friend Jih-Fei , a PhD candidate who presented a paper last summer at a conference in Hawaii about Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (stroke stroke stroke my ego Jih-Fei!). He lives in the Little Tokyo Lofts downtown.

From the website….

“In these extraordinary lofts, you can almost feel the electricity of the city (granted, the fact that they’ve been built in the old Westinghouse building might have a little to do with it).”

I’ve been curious about the new loft developments just outside the “bastion of safety” that is Little Tokyo. Since the stock market crash, downtown lofts have been foreclosing and many of them still stand empty.

Also from the site…

“You will live close to a grittier flavor of nightlife with dozens of underground clubs and bars known only by those who reside within the glow of downtown.”



Yes, and that flavor is…. urine. The smell is unmistakable. The bus drops me off five blocks away from the lofts, just as the warehouse district closes and tents of the old residents get pitched. Are these cardboard coffins that people sleep in for insulation, that glow under the nightlife… are these the people who know of “the underground clubs?”



It does feel precarious to be an Asian woman carrying a large purse on my shoulder to be walking these streets alone. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have walked through this neighborhood EVER and definitely not alone. But there are new bars and restaurants that have sprung up. And even a few dog walkers. But the old residents remain. Homeless people, day laborers, and other longtime inhabitants of this area. Some of them greet me as they assemble their homes for the evening. I stutter a hello back but find my pace moving from brisk walk to light jog.


Again, from the site…

Or spend a relaxing night enjoying the skyline view from your loft while ordering Chinese take-out. It’s nice to know your food will actually come from Chinatown.”



Hmmm…. if I cook the food, will that make the food even more authentically Chinese?


PRICE

Pros

The price is right, as you can buy someone’s lived-in condo for as low as 200k.




Cons

HOA fees are HIGH at around $400-500 a month. And those fees can go higher whether you like it or not.



MAINTENANCE

Pros

Aside from cosmetic changes inside the unit, bigger issues like a roof repair, and busted pipes are all covered in the HOA fee. The building is also very clean inside and well maintained.



Cons

HOA fees are still too high. And I really don’t feel the need things like a dog run or swimming pool which are part of this building.



COULD I LIVE THERE CARLESS?

PROS

The Gold Line is nearby. As are restaurants, galleries and theaters. I can also rent my parking space to someone else in the building for $100/month. I could possibly get around by bike.

CONS

It’s not a great sign that the parking situation requires a 24 hour security person and a large metal gate. I also don’t feel terribly safe walking around there at night, stepping across homeless people. When we walked back from the REDCAT, we must have been approached by at least 4 or 5 homeless people. I don’t think I’d feel good about carrying valuables on me and walking alone or waiting for the bus at night. I’m also not terribly impressed by this quote on the website:
There’s also 24-hour courtesy patrol. Because while urban living has its edge, that doesn’t mean you should get cut on it. “


NEIGHBORHOOD

PROS

Having lived in LA for a long ass time, I have noticed how the downtown neighborhood has shifted from a nighttime No Man’s Land to a bustling pretend Manhattan. Japanese food is just a few blocks away. Its well situated in walking distance from Little Tokyo.



CONS

It’s still not Manhattan. And while the homeless people were nice enough, I don’t know that I could just up and go for walks at night the way I have in other places I’ve lived in LA. Also, the human excrement smell that would be outside my front door isn’t exactly “going outside for a fresh breath of air.”

SPACE ITSELF

PROS

12 foot ceilings are nice. And do open the head. Also there are washer/dryer machines in each unit.

CONS

I don’t have the imagination necessary to build shelving, storage and room dividers to keep an open loft space from turning into a whirlpool of shit. I also like greenery and there’s not much here except for the planters by the sales office.




NEIGHBORS



PROS

I would be living near Jih-Fei, Kennedy and maybe some other new friends… many of which are homeless…



CONS

Don’t know if I can deal with the daily irony of living in an urban luxury fortress that is so purposely built to shield you from the realities outside.



SOUND FINANCIAL INVESTMENT?

PROS

The neighborhood is changing. A condo unit could be worth something if I sat on it for ten years.



CONS

Condos don’t appreciate much in value and those HOA fees don’t come back to you when you sell the place. You can’t write them HOA fees off in taxes either. The economy has slowed down the growth of downtown. So who knows if this is an investment that would actually appreciate.

Final Verdict: Could I see myself living here?

I think I’m more a green neighborhood gal and would miss the presence of trees and parks. While I’m adventurous, I need to feel safer where I live. And I want to be able to engage in my neighborhood in a meaningful way, not feel forced to drive because I need the metal armor to navigate the surrounding streets. I may take a look at some other lower- frills condos with lower HOA fees in Downtown or Koreatown, but am passing on these lofts for now.



Category: Open House

One Response to “Open House #2: Living in Public Storage, ie The Downtown Lofts…”

  1. Christopher says:

    Good logic Kristina. Developers can sometimes be as sly as the serpent himself. Also, when others fall into F.C. the lone condo owner's still on the hook to pay the bills even though those amenities might not be there anymore. It's a scary world out there.

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