Real Estate newsletter: Where are all the fridges?

 Josh Steichmann stands next to his refrigerator
Josh Steichmann, 43, stands next to his refrigerator in his Los Feliz apartment.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter. This week, we’re tackling the tough questions.

The first question may seem like a joke, but to any battle-tested renter who’s had to hop from place to place in L.A.’s inhospitable market, it’s surely not: Why do many L.A. apartments come without a fridge?

We’ve written time and time again about how singularly brutal L.A.’s market is for renters, but one of its oddest quirks — that many units don’t come with a refrigerator — needed a deeper dive. So Liam Dillon dove, uncovering stories of new tenants turning to Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or the Yellow Pages just to find something to keep their food cold.

The long answer for the lack of fridges explores data, precedents and appellate court rulings. The short answer is that here in L.A., landlords simply don’t have to provide a fridge. Lucky us.

The other question is top of mind as the June weather heats up and the latest drought rages on: Does California have enough water to build new homes?


Spoiler alert: We will have enough — at least if residents keep up the good work of conserving water. Angelenos use 44% less water per person than they did 40 years ago, and experts say that conservation leaves plenty available for those moving in.

Speaking of droughts, Lisa Boone headed to Burbank for the L.A. Times Plants section, profiling a young adult author who ditched grass in favor of a low-water landscape with native flora bursting with color.

The effort took six months, but the owner was rewarded in the end with a $4,700 turf removal rebate check from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California that paid for almost the entire project.

On the luxury side, we saw two very different custom homes surface for sale. The first is found in Hidden Hills, where NBA star Ben Simmons is asking $23 million for a masculine modern farmhouse.

The small compound centers on a 12,000-square-foot showplace outfitted in charcoal-colored brick, and there’s also a guesthouse, a 65-foot-long swimming pool and a plunge pool.

The second sits a few miles east in Bel-Air Crest, where Grammy-winning R&B producer Babyface listed the custom abode he’s owned since 2004 for $8 million. He added a handful of amenities during his stay including a movie theater, music studio, gym and brick wine cellar.

As always, while catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

L.A.’s missing fridges

Josh Steichmann is photographed next to his refrigerator
The prior tenant left a refrigerator in his apartment, so Josh Steichmann was relieved that he didn’t have to search for one himself.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

When Michael Maloney was looking to move into an apartment in Highland Park in May, he made a list of must-haves. He wanted to live a short distance from restaurants and coffee shops. He needed an off-street parking spot and affordable rent, writes Liam Dillon.

There was just one problem.

“Two of my top choices did not have a refrigerator,” lamented Maloney, 43, who works in marketing for a beverage company. “It’s ridiculous. It’s the most backward thing I’ve ever heard of. I can’t wrap my mind around it.”

Maloney was facing a cold truth common for many renters in Southern California. Apartments here frequently lack refrigerators, pushing many tenants into an underground economy for appliances that have chilled the sustenance of generations of Angelenos.

Does California have enough water to build new homes?

an aerial photo of several homes, some with outdoor pools
California officials have imposed stricter rules on water usage during the latest drought. But they also have plans to allow more home building.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

To some, it defies common sense. California is once again in the middle of a punishing drought, with state leaders telling people to take shorter showers and do fewer loads of laundry to conserve water. Yet at the same time, many of the same elected officials, pledging to solve the housing crisis, are pushing for the construction of millions of new homes, writes Liam Dillon.

“It’s the first question I’d always get,” said Jeffrey Kightlinger, who until last year ran the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the agency that delivers the water ultimately used by half the state’s population. “How in the world are you approving new housing when we’re running out of water?”

The answer, according to Kightlinger and other experts, is that there’s plenty of water available for new Californians if the 60-year trend of residents using less continues and accelerates into the future.

Case in point: Angelenos use 44% less water per person annually than they did four decades ago, according to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Author crafts a drought-tolerant oasis

Sarah Lariviere stands in her backyard filled with drought-friendly plants
Sarah Lariviere in her backyard in Burbank. Lariviere and her husband removed their front and back lawns, replacing them with drought-tolerant, low-water plants and desert gardens.
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Long before the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California declared a water shortage emergency and ordered outdoor watering limited to two days a week, Sarah Lariviere, an avid gardener, was thinking about ways to conserve water, writes Lisa Boone.

When Lariviere and her husband bought a Burbank bungalow last year, she set about tearing out the lawn and creating a low-water landscape. Her goal? To increase biodiversity, conserve water, provide habitat for butterflies and birds, and enjoy the scent and beauty of native plants, trees and flowers.

The project required removing 2,500 square feet of lawn, and the pair even rented a sod cutter from Home Depot to finish the job.

But the final reward was even greater than the colorful new space filled with native flora: The couple received a $4,700 turf removal rebate check, which paid for nearly the entire project.

Point guard looks to pass in Hidden Hills

A house with a swimming pool and guesthouse
Built in 2021, the bold black farmhouse includes a swimming pool and guesthouse that has a pool of its own.
(Christopher Amitrano / CS8 Photo / Nobel Design)

NBA star Ben Simmons is keeping busy this offseason with a real estate selling spree. Days after unloading his New Jersey home for $4.55 million, the point guard has listed his Hidden Hills farmhouse for $23 million.

Simmons, who was traded from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Brooklyn Nets earlier this year, bought the brand-new mansion for $17.5 million last year and didn’t make any changes — not that he needed to. Built in 2021, the dramatic home features an exterior of charcoal-colored brick and vast, warm living spaces enhanced by wood, marble and brass.

A floating fireplace sits at the center of the open floor plan, separating a living room with a fireplace from a dining room with dual chandeliers. A stone staircase leads upstairs, where beamed ceilings cut across a catwalk.

Producer offers a custom residence in Bel-Air

The three-story home includes a movie theater, gym, music studio, brick wine cellar and waterfall-fed swimming pool.
Navigated by an elevator, the three-story home includes a movie theater, gym, music studio, brick wine cellar and waterfall-fed swimming pool.
(Ryan Lahiff)

Kenneth Edmonds, the Grammy-winning producer better known as Babyface, is asking $8 million for his Bel-Air home of nearly two decades.

That’s nearly double the $4.1 million he paid for the property in 2004, records show. The house has changed dramatically over the years, as Edmonds added custom skylights and a handful of amenities including a gym, music studio, movie theater and brick wine cellar.

It sits on half an acre in Bel-Air Crest, a guard-gated enclave with roughly 200 homes. Edmonds’ place covers more than 7,500 square feet and opens through a pair of antique carved wooden doors.

What we’re reading

As the raging real estate market forces renters into tight situations, the New York Times profiled a handful of roommates who crowd into spaces to save on rent. Setups include a vegan townhouse with seven people and three animals, a trio of renters who met on TikTok and a pair of Ukrainian refugee siblings living with a family in New York’s Upper West Side.

In the latest “weird amenity of the week,” we have an Arizona home with an indoor putting green. While most homeowners save their golfing for the backyard, the $1.02-million listing features a living room and dining room that have been converted into putting turf. Golf Digest has the story.