The bohemian vibe of Silver Lake

Silver Lake has retained the bohemian flair that marked its rise as a residential neighborhood near downtown a century ago. Also unchanged are the views of the Silver Lake Reservoir and the hills that surround it.

Beginnings

Silver Lake, named for Herman Silver, a member of the city's first Board of Water Commissioners, is sandwiched between Sunset Boulevard, Interstate 5, the Glendale Freeway and Hyperion Avenue.

Relatively close to downtown, the area's initial residential boom came in the 1920s and '30s, as actors and others associated with the film industry moved here to be near the first Walt Disney studio, at Hyperion and Griffith Park Boulevard, and other soundstages built in the area.

The community was considered fairly gritty as recently as the 1980s. And although it has cleaned up and property values have risen, the area has maintained a distinctly bohemian vibe. That's due both to the film, television and music industry folks who continue to live there as well as the gay and lesbian population that found it a welcoming, affordable area nearly a century ago.

Perhaps more than any other neighborhood of comparable size, Silver Lake has some of the best examples of L.A.'s diverse architectural styles. Initially dominated by Spanish-style homes in the 1940s and '50s, the area saw a wave of what have become known as Midcentury Modern designs from architects such as Richard Neutra and Rudolph Schindler.

What it's about

City Council President Eric Garcetti, whose 13th District includes Silver Lake, said the area "has been able to maintain its status as one of the most diverse and creative neighborhoods in Los Angeles."

Garcetti cited both city and private developments that have recently gotten underway or have just come to fruition.

The city is wrapping up work on a landscaped jogging path around the Silver Lake Reservoir and just broke ground on a new library.

Among the new, privately developed projects are two on Sunset Boulevard, including a loft-style condominium project developed by the Kor Group. Twenty-five units in the 43-unit building at 4111 Sunset Blvd. have been sold.

Prices ranged from $730,000 to $925,000.

Insider's view

Joe Mellis, a Silver Lake resident and agent with Prudential California Realty, John Aaroe Division, said he was drawn to the area in part by the strong sense of community that has built up in recent years.

"Silver Lake is having its own baby boom," he said. "It has a real community -- human scale to it. People are out on the street, they care about their neighbors and stay in touch with the well-being of the community and the area."

Garcetti echoed that view. Silver Lake's south side, along Sunset Boulevard, "is one of the few places in Los Angeles where people walk, taking advantage of the independent cafes and stores that make the neighborhood so appealing," he said.

Housing stock

Homes on the market now range from a low of just under $500,000 for a property in need of a full overhaul to more than $3 million for a 6,000-square-foot hilltop property.

Prices have declined slightly, and some houses are staying on the market longer, as they are throughout the region.

Also on the market now is a 2,700-square-foot Mediterranean home on a hilltop with canyon views. The three-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath home is listed for $1,495,000, reduced from its original asking price of $1,579,000.

Listed at $799,000 is a two-bedroom, one-bath English Country home built in 1925. The house, on a cul-de-sac, was recently remodeled to upgrade its period details and kitchen.

At the higher end of the active listings is a 6,400-square-foot contemporary house designed by architect Barbara Bestor. Listed at $3,495,000, the home, on about a third of an acre, sits behind gates and has views of both downtown and the reservoir.

Report card

Silver Lake is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Kindergarten through fifth- grade students can attend Ivanhoe Elementary, which scored 912 out of 1,000 on the 2007 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Thomas Starr King Middle School and John Marshall High School scored 628 and 653, respectively.

Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$327,500

1995...$250,000

2000...$399,000

2006...$872,500

* 2007...$887,750

*Year to date

Sources: cde.ca.gov; DataQuick Information Systems; Joe Mellis, www.prudentialcal.com/.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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