Adding a backyard home in Los Angeles is now nearly as easy as buying a barbecue.
Homeowners who for years have wanted to build a granny flat in their backyard, but dreaded the red tape, can now choose from 20 pre-designed homes that the city has already approved for use.
The shift, made official last week, will speed up a weeks-long process and bring more badly needed units to an overpriced market. It also has the potential to elevate the 14 startups and firms building the next generation of homes.
The designs for the stand-alone residences range from a 200-square-foot studio to a 1,200-square foot, two-story, two-bedroom unit. And many of the homes are filled with design flourishes, reflecting the diverse architecture of the city, from a house in the silhouette of a flower to one with a spiral outdoor staircase leading to the roof.
It's no surprise. The program was spearheaded by Christopher Hawthorne, a former architecture critic at the Los Angeles Times and now the city's chief design officer.
The firms are primarily local and startup architecture and design firms, while others are well-known with a history of building granny flats, also know as accessory dwelling units, or ADUs.
The standard plans avoid the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety's typical four-to six-week review process and can allow approvals to be completed in as quickly as one day.
Some aspects of the plans can be modified to fit a homeowner's preferences. Eight other designs are pending approval.
Mayor Eric Garcetti believes by adding more such units, the city can diversify its housing supply and tackle the housing crisis. Recent state legislation made it easier to build the small homes on the lot of single-family residences. Since then, ADUs have made up nearly a quarter of Los Angeles' newly permitted housing units.
Because construction costs are relatively low for the granny flats – the pre-approved homes start at $144,000 and can go beyond $300,000 – the housing is generally more affordable. The median home price in L.A. County in January was $690,000.
Here's a quick look at the designs approved so far:
Abodu, based in Redwood City in the Bay Area, exclusively designs backyard homes. In 2019, it worked with the city of San Jose on a program similar to the one Los Angeles is undertaking.
In October, it closed a seed funding round of $3.5 million led by Initialized Capital.
It has been approved for a one-story 340-square-foot studio, a one-story one-bedroom at 500 square feet, and a one-story, 610-square-foot two-bedroom.
The pricing for the studio is $189,900, while the one-bedroom costs $199,900 and the two-bedroom is $259,900.
Amunátegui Valdés Architects
Escher GuneWardena Architecture
Fung + Blatt Architects
Fung + Blatt Architects is a Los Angeles-based firm founded in 1990.
The city has approved its 795-square-foot, one-story, one-bedroom unit with a roof deck. It estimates the construction cost to be $240,000 to $300,000, excluding landscape, site work and the solar array. Homeowners can also expect other additional costs.
Taalman Architecture/ IT House Inc.
Massachusetts-based Jennifer Bonner/MALL designed a "Lean-to ADU" project, reinterpreting the stucco box and exaggerated false front, both Los Angeles architectural mainstays.
The design has been approved for a 525-square-foot one-story, one-bedroom unit with a 125-square-foot roof deck.
sekou cooke STUDIO
New York-based sekou cooke STUDIO is the sole Black-owned architectural firm on the project.
"The twisted forms of this ADU recalls the spin and scratch of a DJ's records" from the early 90s, the firm said.
Its design, still pending approval, is for a 1,200-square-foot, two bedroom and two bathroom can be adapted to a smaller one-bedroom unit or to include an additional half bath.
New York-based SO-IL was founded in 2008. It has completed projects in Leon, Seoul, Lisbon and Brooklyn.
Its one-story, one-bedroom 693-square-foot unit is pending approval. It is estimated the construction cost will be between $200,000 and $250,000.
Los Angeles-based Welcome Projects has worked on projects ranging from buildings, houses and interiors to handbags, games and toys.
Its ADU is nicknamed The Breadbox "for its curved topped walls and slight resemblance to that vintage counter accessory."
It has been approved for a one-story, one-bedroom 560-square-foot unit.
LA Tech Updates: Fisker to Go Public; LA Bars, Gyms and Salons Go Dark Again; Apple Gives $400M to Stem Housing Crisis
- LA Bars, Gyms and Salons Go Dark Again
- Fisker set to go public with $2.9b valuation, EV SUV to roll out by 2022
- Apple Allocates $400M to Affordable Housing in California
Southern California Bars, Restaurants, Salons, Gyms, Places of Worship Must Shut Down Indoor Operations Amid Surge in COVID-19 CasesImage courtesy of Musso & Frank's
Bars, gyms, places of worship, salons and offices for non-critical sectors will largely go dark again in Southern California. As coronavirus cases surge, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a list of new statewide restrictions and targeted closures in 30 counties including Los Angeles.
Statewide, all bars, dine-in restaurants, wineries, movie theaters, museums, card rooms and entertainment centers must close indoor operations, Newsom said on Monday.
"This is a new statewide action effective today," he said.
In counties on the state's watch list, which include Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties, personal care services including salons and barbershops, along with indoor malls and fitness centers must close indoor operations.
Effective immediately, CA is closing some indoor business operations statewide and additional indoor business operations in counties on @CAPublicHealth Monitoring List for 3 consecutive days.
📍Find the updated list of counties here: https://t.co/snYe5v55Rw pic.twitter.com/W3wBJp2ap5
— Office of the Governor of California (@CAgovernor) July 13, 2020
Those on the watchlist are among the most populous parts of the state, containing about 80% of Californians.
Restaurants are still allowed to stay open for outdoor dining and takeout.
As of Monday, California had more than 329,000 cases and 7,040 deaths.
Fisker Set to Go Public with $2.9b Valuation, EV SUV to Roll Out by 2022
Electric car startup Fisker is set to go public through a merger that values the company at $2.9 billion and allows it to begin producing its first vehicle by 2022.
Los Angeles-based Fisker announced the deal with Spartan Energy Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company backed by private equity firm Apollo Global Management on Monday. It comes as investors look for the next Tesla Inc, which has seen soaring valuation in recent weeks.
The deal - expected to close by the end of the fourth quarter - will give Fisker more than $1 billion in gross proceeds to jumpstart production of Fisker Ocean, the vision of founder Henrik Fisker, CEO and chariman of the eponymous named startup. The arrangement spotlights the use of special purpose acquisition companies, known as a SPACs. Another SPAC enabled electric-vehicle startup Nikola Corp to go public last month. Nikola shares have soared since their debut.
The Fisker Ocean, which premiered at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, starts at $37,499 and is being billed as the most sustainable vehicle, replete with a vegan interior and recycled carpet. Reservations for the either purchase or lease start at $250.
"This vote of confidence from investors, coupled with our exciting progress on the development of our first vehicle, lays out Fisker's path to 2022 and beyond," said Fisker, a one time Aston-Martin designer.
He told CNBC that the agreement was the best way to get the line of vehicles produced, but said the company does not intend to build its own plant. While the EV market is expected to soar in coming years, startups struggle to find funding for the capital intensive demands of building a car.
"Our funding, product plans and brand development actions are on course," Fisker said in the announcement. "Prototype vehicles are expected to start durability testing by the end of this year, and we continue to make significant progress on the development of our sales and service proposition."
Fisker's previous venture, Fisker Automotive, fell into bankruptcy in 2013 and was bought by a Chinese group that rebranded it Karma. That company, which has been struggling after several layoff rounds and restructuring, last week secured $100 million from investors. It hopes to use that to raise a total of $300 million and roll out a line of electric vehicles.
Apple Allocates $400M to Stem California's Housing Crisiswhite and brown wooden house during night timePhoto by Carl Nenzen Loven on Unsplash
Apple announced today that it has allocated its first $400 million toward addressing California's housing crisis. The Silicon Valley giant had said last November it would commit $2.5 billion to the effort over multiple years.
Apple first partnered with Housing Trust Silicon Valley in hopes of bringing affordable housing and mortgage assistance to the Bay Area. Now, they're expanding their partnership to California House Finance Agency (CalHFA), a state agency that supports renters and homebuyers in two ways: Their single family division allows families to apply for loans and work with loan officers directly to tailor a plan to their income. Their multifamily division helps housing developers apply for loans to create more affordable housing.
The funding is heavily concentrated around the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area, but cities statewide will be able to apply for their housing assistance in areas throughout the state where the company is present, including Culver City.
"Affordable housing means stability and dignity, opportunity and pride. When these things fall out of reach for too many, we know the course we are on is unsustainable, and Apple is committed to being part of the solution," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, in a press release.
The company is dividing its financial assistance to have the broadest possible impact: $1 billion for an affordable housing investment fund, $1 billion for first-time homebuyer mortgage assistance fund, $300 million Apple-owned land for affordable housing, $150 million Bay Area housing and $50 million to support vulnerable populations.
The low-cost housing efforts will roll out over the next five years across the Bay Area, but two of the four programs are already underway.
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Culver City-based United Dwelling, which aims to help alleviate California's critical housing shortage by helping homeowners turn their garages into stylish studio homes they can rent out to tenants, announced Tuesday it has raised $10 million in series B funding to be able to build more units.
"This is the biggest problem facing California," said Steven Dietz, founder and CEO, before pausing for a moment to add: "Well maybe it's the second biggest problem right now."
United Dwelling, which has gotten glowing press in The New York Times and Fast Company, was born out of a loosening of California laws in 2016, further relaxed this year, that allow more homeowners to build Accessory Dwelling Units, or ADUs. The company says there are more than 250,000 underused two-car garages in L.A. County, the vast majority of which are simply being used to store junk. "That's a really bad use of residential space," said Dietz.
United Dwelling partners with homeowners to find a contractor for construction, find qualified tenants and manage and maintain the property. It leases the garage or land for a set number of years (usually 15 years) and the homeowner gets a cut of the rent or can choose to buy back the ADU at any time for $79,900.
To save on construction costs, United Dwelling will only build when it has secured contracts on five properties within two miles of each other. The company targets lower-income neighborhoods and so far all of its projects have been along the Expo Line west of the University of Southern California.
"What we do is not appropriate on a four million dollar million property," said Dietz.
The interior of a converted garage.Ben Kessler (United Dwelling)
Westwood-based Alpha Edison led the round, which included investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners. The funds will be used to support the installation of over 150 ADUs in 2020 and 1,500 in 2021.
Dietz's career has gone in the opposite direction of the traditional tech trajectory. He was a founding general partner at Upfront Ventures in 1996 and stayed at the firm for two decades before leaving to become an entrepreneur in 2016.
Dietz started raising the series B at the beginning of the year. Just as the round was ready to close, COVID-19 hit. "I had term sheets and the world started to change," he said. "I thought the valuation had to adjust. We took it down 10% and moved forward."
The company paused construction for five weeks but is now ramping up again. Some practices it adopted during the pandemic will become permanent. For instance, the company saw no drop off in conversion rates when it switched from visiting people at their homes to virtual consultations, so that will stay.
Dietz acknowledges it is a strange time to be building a new company, but he notes that even though it has taken a temporary backburner, the state's housing problem is not going away. He also says a recession could make the company's thesis even more appealing.
"I think the economic situation makes a second source of income more interesting to homeowners," he said.
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- These Granny Flat Designs Are Pre-Approved in LA - dot.LA ›