Hot Property

Neighborhood Spotlight: Los Feliz

Los Feliz is — like its name implies — a happy place to be.

Angelenos have been attracted to living on the ruggedly beautiful slopes below what is now known as Mt. Hollywood since at least 10,000 years ago. The arrival of the Spanish in the 1780s began a transformation when the coastal basin — which would be named Los Angeles, after the river that flowed through it — was carved into ranchos under the colonial land-grant system. Cpl. Jose Vicente Feliz, received the first gift — 10 square miles of semiarid land that would become some of the priciest, most sought after real estate in the world.

But before movie stars descended on the Rancho de Los Feliz, the land acquired a legend fit for Hollywood. Real estate huckster and horse racing magnate Lucky Baldwin bought it and sold it at a loss, and it eventually fell into the hands of Col. Griffith J. Griffith, a mining tycoon whose military title was wholly bogus. Griffith's drunken attempt on his wife's life in 1903 scandalized polite California society and landed him in San Quentin for two years.

Griffith tried and failed to market the scenic hillsides to home buyers who, it turned out, preferred to buy land that came without a family curse. He eventually gave up and ceded most of the seemingly ill-fated rancho to the city of Los Angeles, which turned it into one of the country's largest urban parks.

Eventually, the legend of the curse lost its potency, as the motion picture and oil industries began to produce prosperous individuals whose desire for seclusion trumped rustic superstitions. They built large homes in the hills above Los Feliz Boulevard, where only the coyotes of Griffith Park could see what went on behind their privacy hedges and stuccoed courtyard walls.

Below the boulevard that still bisects the neighborhood, a commercial district sprang up to cater to the well-heeled residents above, while more modest tracts of homes were built to house the grips, cameramen and other workaday employees of the movie studios clustered around the intersection of Talmadge Street and Sunset Boulevard.

Though the epicenter of the movie industry eventually shifted, Los Feliz has remained a popular celebrity enclave. It also proved an irresistible draw to masterful architects challenged to design spectacular homes on a rugged, eroding hillside.

Neighborhood highlights

Incredible architecture: Wallace Neff, Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, Gregory Ain, R.M. Schindler — the list of renowned architects who have left their mark on the hills of Los Feliz is impressive.

Los Feliz Village: One of L.A.'s most walkable commercial districts, this collection of historic storefronts along Vermont and Hillhurst avenues has it all, including dive bars, restaurants, a neighborhood movie house, an independent bookstore and hip clothing boutiques.

Griffith Park: A mile's walk up Vermont from the village is one of the largest urban parks in the U.S., a rugged, semiwild patch of deep canyons and circuitous hiking trails, thick with coyotes, home to the landmark Griffith Observatory and one of the very few pumas left in the Santa Monica Mountains.

Neighborhood challenges

Traffic: As convenient as Los Feliz is to downtown, Hollywood and the Valley, it is a long, trafficky slog to the Westside. Street parking can be tough to find. The closest Red Line station is just far enough away to discourage subway travel to and from Los Feliz.

Pronunciation: There are two schools of thought on how to pronounce Los Feliz; the Spanish pronunciation Los Feh-LEES or the SoCal-via-the-Midwestern drawl of Los FEE-liss.

Expert insight

"Los Feliz has a very eclectic, varied architecture. There's a real diversity of culture. It's like a microcosm of the city itself," said Boni Bryant of Bryant l Reichling Real Estate at Sotheby's International Realty. Homes on the market need to be camera-ready: "When buyers open the door, they want to see a home that is done, and complete."

Market snapshot

In January, based on 12 sales, the median price for single-family homes in the 90027 ZIP Code was $1.153 million, down 15.9% from January 2015. The median price for condominiums was $595,000.

Report card

Franklin Elementary tops the charts for the area with a score of 916 out of a possible 1,000 in the 2013 API ranking system. Thomas Starr King Middle earned a score of 843, and John Marshall Senior High scored 757. Los Feliz Elementary came in at 792.

hotproperty@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 19, 2016, in the News section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Happy in Griffith Park's shadow - Ruggedly beautiful slopes offer privacy for celebs, but there's life in the flats too." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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