But then Stone, 35, remembered an ad he had seen in Dwell magazine about a new part of downtown near the corner of Industrial and Mateo streets, where a couple of old industrial buildings had been converted into lofts.
Downtown development: An article in Saturday's California section about L.A.'s downtown industrial district said the City Council imposed restrictions on residential development in industrial areas. Those restrictions were issued by the city Planning Department and redevelopment agency and supported by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. —
There, he found the Biscuit Company Lofts, a hulking building that was the former West Coast headquarters for Nabisco, which developers had restored into lofts.
While much attention has been focused on the downtown revival going on around the Staples Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Old Bank District, a transformation of a different order is occurring to the east in L.A.'s gritty warehouse district.
Here, away from the bustling sidewalks and skyscrapers of the city center, narrow, quiet tree-lined streets intersected by old rail lines have become magnets for urban residents looking for a different downtown experience.
Low-slung cement and brick buildings house fashionable loft spaces, only a few hundred feet from their architectural cousins, many of which still function as the warehouses and manufacturing spaces for which they were originally intended. Birds chirp over the low rumbling of trucks. Residents say the area reminds them of New York's TriBeCa or Chelsea districts when they were just becoming residential hot spots.
Stone, a singer-songwriter, likes the area because it is quiet enough for him to record music inside his loft -- but once he ventures outside, he said, he finds an almost instant community.
"You can't get your mail without having five conversations," he said.
Stone often starts his day getting milk at the gourmet market across the street, on the ground floor of the Toy Factory Lofts, and ends it at Royal Clayton's restaurant a few doors down.
The area's separation from the rest of downtown can be seen as its biggest asset or its biggest drawback. Some potential residents have bypassed the area, saying that it's too far removed from public transportation and most of the retail services meant to support downtown dwellers -- and that surrounding streets are not made to handle pedestrian traffic.
Living next to operating factories and warehouses can also take some getting used to.
There has been much debate about how much of the downtown industrial area should be rezoned for residential purposes. While developers have been eager to convert old warehouses into lofts, critics argue that the trend is taking needed industrial jobs out of the city center. Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council placed strict limits on such conversions.
Still, the industrial zone east of downtown is booming. The area has lured several high-profile retailers from other posts downtown and in other parts of the city.
The Barker Block, a set of buildings that once housed the furniture company Barker Bros. and is now being converted into retail space and nearly 300 live-work units, will eventually house a half-dozen retailers as well as arts organizations including Arte Calidad and the Downtown Film Festival.
Sunset Plaza restaurant Caffe Primo is opening Primo Cucina, a gourmet restaurant and market that promises homemade pastas, gelato and a wood-burning oven for pizza. Organic coffee and tea company Urth Caffe is building a headquarters across from the Barker Block. The operation's coffee roasting will move from Northern California; baking, tea-blending and administrative offices will relocate from other parts of downtown.
The move, admits Urth Caffe co-founder Shallom Berkman, is "risky." But, he said, "We really wanted to be part of the rejuvenation process. . . . We love being part of grounded communities. And we jumped at the chance to develop a community from scratch."
That's a sentiment that seems to unite many of the retailers and residents who chose the area.