Daily Archives: September 21, 2013

‘Round Palms: Hughes Av

In a previous post, I explained why the low-rise and mid-rise development of neighborhoods like Palms is the best development pattern to promote affordability, and a recent article in Design Intelligence confirms that three-to-four story buildings are the most cost efficient. Today we’re going to take a closer look at Hughes Av, which runs from Venice to the intersection of Palms, National, and Exposition.

It’s important to highlight places like Palms as examples of LA density, because this is the way neighborhoods grow when they’re allowed to do so organically. Unlike the contrived density of modern planned districts, high-rises don’t spring up everywhere all at once. Single-family houses and small buildings are gradually replaced with larger structures, resulting in a neighborhood with a wide variety of buildings sizes, types, styles, and ages. This is the natural way that cities develop.

Alright, off we go. Characteristic of Palms diversity, there’s a Korean church (built 1937) just north of Venice.


This four-story block (built 1981) is one of the taller structures on Hughes, and in Palms in general.


This block (built 1988) is only three stories tall, but has a larger footprint.


As you work your way up towards Palms/National/Exposition, single-family residences (SFRs) start to pop up (this one built 1939).


Here’s another SFR (built 1923), holding its own next to a three-story apartment building (built 1991) with a small footprint.


And on the other side, there’s an apartment block (built 1986) with a footprint twice the size.


A couple older style SFRs (built 1924 and 1925).



Two SFRs (built 1925 and 1931) with three-story apartment building (built 1987) in the background.


Now, Hughes Av isn’t going to capture many urbanist imaginations. It doesn’t present the uniformity that gives so many old frozen-in-time districts or contrived modern districts immediate curb appeal. But dig out your Jane Jacobs on diversity of buildings, and you’ll find her extolling the virtues of a street that features everything from a one-story Laundromat to a fourteen-story apartment building.

From a more political and pragmatic perspective, Hughes Av should be an easier sell than skyscrapers. So much of the debate about density in the US has been fouled by the equation of density with Manhattan-style development. And as much as I rip on NIMBYs, they do have a point about skyscrapers. Dropping a twenty-story building into a neighborhood of SFRs is going to create a lot of localized impacts. That’s why the headline contrived urban districts, from the Pearl District to the South Boston Waterfront, are all built on former industrial land.

And that’s the real beauty of Palms. No one is being forced out of their SFR, and even decades after upzoning, there are still many SFRs available in Palms. If you want a condo or to rent an apartment, there’s plenty of those too. People who own SFRs didn’t have their property values ruined, because the ability to build an apartment building creates value. Every year, many owners choose to keep their SFR, while others decide to build apartments. In other words, the city is growing and providing people with a  variety of economic opportunities and choices. As it should be.

Note: the buildings I selected on Hughes Av date to two eras (20s-30s, 80s-90s) but as we’ll see in future posts, other decades are well represented in Palms as well.