Gangs in Echo Park? A Compendium to the New Pocket Park

I may well be the female companion to the Geico Caveman.  There’s a Rockwood gang Echo Park-adjacent? And, better yet, they have their own MySpace page?!

A work function kept me away from the recent Community Meeting, notice given from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks via fliers on Echo Park doors 24 hours before the 4/20 (yes, I know) 5:30 pm event.  I only drove by to see a group of local denizens as they fulfilled their civic duties.  A pleasant conversation with Melinda Gejer the following day educated me on these matters:

  • The top 3 (of 10 proposed) names for the pocket community park is as follows:

1.  Rockwood Park

2.  Bienvenidos Mabuhay Park

3.  Colton Park

  • Option no. 1.  City officials, especially local police, are leery of Rockwood Park as a name, as it belongs to a local gang.  The gang may demarcate/reclaim the park as their own, while rival gangs would have graffiti fun with the signage.   The kind folks at the Bureau of Engineering would work repeatedly if it got tagged.
  • Option no. 2. “Welcome” in both Spanish and Tagalog, is supported by the local neighborhood council.  I’m taking a wild guess that a rep from the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council was in attendance. The translated “Welcome Welcome” Park, does not resonate with me, but the joint Hispanic-HiFi reference does.
  • Option no. 3.  A neighboring street bears the name Colton, so it is neither gang-related nor a non-double negative.

Feedback from local citizens and those on an interested parties list are appreciated.  Ultimately, the park’s namesake is in the hands of the Board of Commissioners.  A name will be be bestowed on the Echo Park pocket park sometime in June.

If you’re interested in being on that list, or have recommendations, send me a note at .

Ready, Set… Broker Caravan!

(pictured above: the exclusive, glossy MLS guide for Brokers only)

Every Tuesday from 11 am to 2 pm, the Eastside Los Angeles real estate community is in a frenzied spell, and rightly so:  it’s Tuesday Caravan Day!  Newly-minted homes listed on the MLS as “active” open their doors to realtors from all brokerages… and the lucky passerby who leisurely have Tuesdays off.  If you’re a writer-producer-trustafundian-homemaker-entrepreneur with motivation and a specific home in mind, this day is also yours.

Broker Caravan serves as an exclusive preview of the weekly real estate inventory, homes that have just come on the market or are newly reduced in price.  As the name implies, a caravan — ensconced in Porsche, Benz, BMW, the inveterate Prius, in lieu of camels and elephants — encourages us within the community to take a peek at homes.  If you spot a sleek European sled meandering through the Hollywood Hills, Mt. Washington or the Moreno Highlands of Silver Lake, it’s most likely a vehicle full of  real estate agents with several purposes in mind:

(1) sign the guest registry, (2) walk about the house with discriminating tastes, (3) nibble on lunch, (4) socialize with other agents, (5) appraise the market value of the home and, (6)  ideally, make the call and set the appointment to have a client take a private tour of the home shortly after.

Each home visit takes 10 to 15 minutes.  After 3 hours of open houses and traversing the Eastside, exhaustion creeps in.  There are Tuesdays when the inventory is slim, while there are other unexpected days where 3 of 10 homes shine out of the pack — in price, fit and finish, desirability.  Those are the days I delight in, and the ones that end with a phone call.

Greed, Misdeeds Surround Stalled Echo Park Project

330 N. Union Avenue (also 1700 W. Temple Street)

I remember the mid-1980s when this V-shaped strip of Echo Park real estate housed cute Victorian and Craftsman bungalows.  No longer.  The homes have long been bulldozed and verdant greenery grows alongside rebar on the vacant lot.  Today, its makeshift boarded walls are littered with movie and TV posters, while the below-ground concrete pillars lay open to graffiti talent.  So much for the “No Entry Without Permission” sign.  I drive past daily and, in response to inspired queries from clients and friends alike, here’s the rundown on the little-parcels-that-could:

  • since 2000, the property has transferred ownership 5 times
  • an erstwhile owner and officer of 1700 Temple LLC died in a 2007 plane crash
  • a 2007 mechanics  lien was filed on the property
  • a notice of default and foreclosure sale occurred in late 2008 and early 2009
  • Although permits are filed with the LA Department of Building & Safety, the last permit expired in August 2008
  • ADI (Advanced Development and Investment Inc.) purchased the land from Union Bell Partners (an REO  private lender)  in June 2009 with plans of finishing Temple Union Apartment Homes, a 52-unit, 4-story project subsidized by public agencies for low-income housing

Like other classic Los Angeles real estate stories, enter the true game-changer: divorce.  The civil proceedings of ADI’s former president, Salim Karimi, and Jannki Mithaiwala, the daughter of company founder Ajit Mithaiwala, opened up federal and city investigations into the company’s (and its subcontractors’) improper use of taxpayer money for substandard housing projects, totaling millions, as well as fraudulent invoices, little-to-no bookkeeping, and extraneous contributions to public officials.  The LA Times noted that ADI “received $29 million in subsidies for 15 projects and built dozens of other developments using state tax credits in neighborhoods such as South Los Angeles, Echo Park, Westlake and Historic Filipinotown.”  In October 2010, a court-appointed receiver traced 400 bank accounts and gold bullion (valued at $600,000) to the company’s assets.

Pending litigation, the Echo Park project is stalled.  At present, the only activity on the vacant lot is the application and removal of advertisements.  Banksy, if you’re still in town, have at it on the concrete.  The value of real estate is sure to appreciate.

Echo Park Via Park Encino

I call it the “perfect short sale storm. ” A Buyer calls saying she’s in the market to buy, we preview numerous properties within her parameters, and — lo and behold! — we find the perfect condo community in Encino.  Yes, that’s a neighborhood located very northwest of Echo Park and in the San Fernando Valley.  The 2+2 penthouse unit, with loft, shares no common walls and has its own private rooftop patio.  To my client’s fancy, it also has 4 spacious closets.

After waiting months, an all-cash Buyer walked away when short sale approval was imminent with Bank of America.  Our offer was rewritten to replace theirs.  3 backup offers waited in line behind us.  After additional months of waiting for our approval, we closed escrow late March.

5325 Newcastle Avenue #302, Encino

Sold Price: $238,000 for 2+2 in 1,137 sq. ft.  The previous owner purchased the condo for $410,000 in 2005.

A Pocket Park Within Echo Park

Echo Park welcomes a new community pocket park, Rockwood Park, a triangular half acre sited north of Beverly Blvd., west of Glendale, which now houses playground swings, benches, climbers, tables, and slides — oh, my! — for the athletic, high-energy Eastsider tyke.  A water fountain,  swishy floors, and solar-paneled lampposts complete the outdoor playground.  A friend’s 3 1/2-year-old had no problem making friends and joyously swinging about.

In production since 2001, the EPA granted $400,000 from the Federal Brownfields program towards the site, furthered by Eric Garcetti’s Council District 13, the Department of Recreation & Parks, and the City Brownfields Team.  Abandoned oil extraction wells were once housed on the park’s real estate.

Location: the southwest portion of Echo Park in “HiFi” (Historic Filipinotown); hipsters and locals, add that to your urban dictionary.  Official signage for the park has not yet gone up, but take Belmont Avenue off Beverly, then head east where Rockwood and Colton intersect.  For super adventurous parents and kids, head on down the street to the Echo Park Pool.