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More Entry-level architectural significance for sale

Our mid-century property guru hit the road again to find California Gold. Oh wait, that's Huell Howser. Our guru is a little less enthusiastic about his finds, but nevertheless travels the highways and biways to find the hidden gems in them thar' hills and valleys. His latest travels take him to two properties, the first, showcased below, is a Ray Kappe designed apartment complex. The other property will be featured tomorrow. Enjoy.

"Sotheby's had an open house at 3625 Fredonia Drive, a Ray Kappe designed apartment complex from 1963 that has been converted to condos. The two and two unit was listed at $524,000. A follower of the Mid-century masters, Kappe stated his long and storied career in Southern California in the early 50s, working through the 90s, founding SCI-Arc and becoming its first director.

Always excited about finding potential world-class architecture for about the cost of a median home in LA county ($490K in December 2005), I took the drive over the Hill. While technically in the 323, Fredonia is one of the streets that runs south of Ventura Blvd. near Universal City and into the Hills. Not far from Multiview, which is home to at least three John Lautners, a Buff Straub and Hensman, a Neutra re-model and several other significant properties.

The shame here is lost opportunity, given the passing of time, neglect and simply the "progress" of building in LA. Starting with the price of time and urban sprawl, both a four of five story commercial building, and the 101 freeway now mar the building's siting, views and noise levels, just two lots above Ventura. The double height glass walls in the town houses can't be opened as the hum of passing cars and soot is just too much. The buildings curves and facades are hidden behind the terrible 70s office building. Additionally, this is clearly a building in "transition" as the overall condition of the common areas and landscaping is poor and the cars parked in the owner-occupied spaces ranged from late model BMWs and Audis to beaters and economy cars. The unit for sale was a step above the building's overall condition, maintaining much that was good about the original design, but having some upgrades to new hardwood floors and stainless mid-level appliances. "

Overall, sadly, I'm bearish on the building and, by association, the unit. Priced well above the December 90068 condo average of $434,000, and just below the perhaps more appropriate Studio City condo average of $532,000, the run-down condition of the overall complex could only be solved by a very significant one-time assessment for improvements, perhaps in the area of $250,000, as well as a long-term increase in the monthly fees of $225, if you could get the clearly economically- diverse group of owners to agree and pay. And that wouldn't begin to solve the issues of noise and now-compromised siting.

I want to love it, but its just been buried under the short-sighted decisions of others, from freeways to office builders to condo boards who choose low fees and deferred upkeep over protection of what would make and keep the building special.

In areas like Silverlake, these buildings are occupied by the creative professional class, fairly-well monied and hyper-style conscious. The "Yurbans" as they are now called. While many of these people work on lots and offices in Burbank, the stated flaws are too deep to get them into the fold. And they are the only ones willing to pay the premium for the period touches and provenance. There were rumblings of offers already on the table from early in the week, but that the owners wanted to not respond until after the open house, indicating that they were low-ball.

If someone out there cares more about preservation than profit, buy it, take over the board, move your friends, get the building a historic preservation number, get taxes cut under the Mills Act and use the money to polish the gem."
· 3625 Fredonia Drive #6 [Sotheby's]