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It’s urban life plus suburban life, squared

Times Staff Writer

Is it real, or is it a Hollywood set? With Spaulding Square, in the heart of Hollywood, it’s hard to tell. The neighborhood, stocked with mint-condition period revival homes and pristine Craftsman bungalows, reflects the creative influence of the burgeoning movie industry, whose actors and technicians were among the first to buy houses here.

Beginnings

Spaulding Square, a small Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, or HPOZ, is tucked between Sunset Boulevard and Fountain Avenue to the east of Fairfax Avenue. It was the brainchild of real estate speculator Albert Starr Spaulding, who purchased and subdivided the land in 1914.

To get potential buyers to the site, Spaulding offered a free streetcar ride, lunch and a lecture on the allure of the area, which was midway between the studios and up-and-coming Beverly Hills.

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Lacking the grandeur of the West Adams District or the mansions going up in Hancock Park, this enclave nonetheless attracted buyers who sought revival architecture, and got it, in miniature. Lucille Ball and director Hugo Haas were among the Hollywood notables who lived here.

What it’s about

Outstanding architecture is a big draw to the neighborhood. Spaulding attached specific covenants to the original deeds of trust requiring that every home of two stories have three rooms on the second floor and a construction price of at least $4,000, according to former HPOZ committee member and longtime resident Joan Adler. The result was sound construction.

Current Spaulding Square residents like that they get a taste of suburban and urban living: The quiet neighborhood, full of bicyclists and dog walkers, is a stone’s throw from Sunset Boulevard clubs and restaurants and 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles by subway.

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Insider’s viewpoint

Jim Tartan, 76, fell in love with Spaulding Square 50 years ago, when he first laid eyes on it. The love affair didn’t translate into a home purchase, though, until 25 years later.

The actor-director and his musician wife, Christine, 63, settled in “the most convenient place we knew of,” Tartan said. “Our kids could ride their bikes, and I could walk to the Directors Guild building on Sunset to see movies.”

Locals hold an annual harvest festival before Halloween, featuring a baking contest, a barbecue, a kids’ costume parade, live entertainment and local firefighters who meet and greet the children and let them climb on the fire truck.

Good news, bad news

The strip of Sunset Boulevard adjacent to Spaulding Square was a shady area about 25 years ago, Tartan said, and prostitution was a big problem.

Tartan and other concerned neighbors raised funds to build a small, storefront police station nearby on the boulevard, where officers used the free phones and restroom facilities provided there. The presence of police helped curtail the problem.

“Today this area is full of young families,” Tartan said, “and we all have a good relationship with the police.”

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Housing stock

There are about 164 single-family homes in Spaulding Square. They don’t come on the market often; none are listed for sale now. Most of the recent sales have been in the $1.1-million to $1.3-million range.

Report card

Spaulding Square students may attend the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Gardner Street Elementary School, which scored 838 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Bancroft Middle School scored 689; Fairfax Senior High, 668.

Historical values

Residential resales: Year...Median Price

1990...$250,000

1995...$261,750

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2000...$515,000

2006...$1,150,000

2007...$1,242,500

diane.wedner@latimes.com

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; cde.ca.gov; agent Mark Meyer at Keller Williams Sunset, markwaynemeyer.com; www.spauldingsquare.org /history.htm; www.laconservancy.org /initiatives/hpoz_spaulding sq.pdf.


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