In a city that’s known as a “great big freeway”, some neighborhoods stand out as a testament to the notion that you get to know things better when they go by slow. The affluent village of Los Feliz is one such neighborhood, where its residents are likely to wear out their heels before their tires. And do so happily (as its apt name suggests). Amenities? You name it and Los Feliz probably has it. Not only is it loaded with the practical, but it also possesses many places of the sort that its residents, and Angelenos in general, treasure. And it has coveted elementary schools, to boot. Let’s break it down.
- Average listing price for home: $1,134,342 (Wk ending July 4 2012)
- Median sale price for home: $815,000 (Apr 12 to June 12 2012)
- % Change from 1 year ago: +9%
- % Change past 5 years: - 7.75%
- Avg price per square foot: $441
- Greater L.A. Avg price per square foot: $282
The hamlet of Los Feliz is nestled in an area just south of Griffith Park and its adjacent neighbors are Hollywood to the west and Silver Lake to its east. More specifically, its borders are Hollywood Boulevard to the south, Hyperion Avenue to the southeast, Griffith Park to the north, the L.A. River to the east, and Western Avenue to the west. Its terrain ranges from flat in heart of the village to quite hilly on its east and north.
Originally known as Rancho Los Feliz, the area was granted to Corporal José Vicente Feliz prior to California becoming a state. An adobe house built by his heirs in the 1830s still stands on Crystal Springs Drive in Griffith Park, named for Griffith J. Griffiths, another prominent figure in the area’s history. Griffith, a mining and real estate magnate, purchased a major portion of the Rancho and subsequently donated most of it to the city of Los Angeles for use as a park. Today, Griffith Park is one largest urban parks in the country, five times the size of Central Park in NY. Other sections of the rancho were later developed and became the communities of Los Feliz and Silver Lake. These communities steadily grew into today’s neighborhoods, which are chock full of architecturally significant homes and other structures by a long list of architects including the preeminent Frank Lloyd Wright, his son Lloyd Wright, R.M Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Raphael Soriano, and many others.
The Prospect Studios originally opened shop in 1915 and has grown and changed ownership a number of times over the past 97 years. It’s tucked away so neatly into the neighborhood that many people don’t even know it’s there. This ABC studio and transmission center (owned by Disney) has its entrance at the corner of Prospect and Talmadge Avenues and serves as a home for several television productions including General Hospital, which began production in 1963, and Grey’s Anatomy, now in their eighths season. For over 50 years the studio served as the West Coast headquarters for ABC before moving to Burbank. Many other classics were produced here including The Lawrence Welk Show, Barney Miller, Mr. Belvedere, Welcome Back Kotter, Benson and Soap.
The KCET Studios, located on Sunset Boulevard, is the longest continuously-producing studio in Hollywood. Established in 1912, the Lubin Manufacturing Company produced educational films. Subsequent owners included Essanay Film Company, Monogram Pictures, Allied Artists, and ColorVision. Since 1970 it has been the home of public television station KCET, but in April 2011 KCET announced the facility had been sold to the Church of Scientology. Dozens of classic films have been shot here including The Babe Ruth Story, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and El Cid.
The storied history of the Walt Disney Company begins in a garage in Los Feliz. In 1923 Walt was 22 years old when he moved into his uncle’s home on Kingswell avenue on Los Feliz. Within a few months he and his brother Roy began renting additional space, also on Kingswell Avenue, for their new business and a legendary company was born. By 1925 the Disneys built a studio at the northeast corner of Griffith Park Boulevard and Hyperion Ave. Within 8 years this studio grew from 1600 to 20,000 square feet and the early classics, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, were produced here. But by 1938 even this space was too small and a new studio was built in Burbank. Today, a Gelson’s market stands in the place of the former Disney studio with no trace of the former landmark. During their Los Feliz years, Walt and his wife Lillian lived at several addresses including:
- 1923: 4406 Kingswell Ave.
- 1923: 4409 Kingswell Ave.
- 1923-25: 4651 and 4649 Kingswell Ave.
- 1925-27: 4637 Kingswell Ave.
- 1927: 1307 Commonwealth Ave.
- 1927-33: 2495 Lyric Ave.
- 1933-1949: 4053 Woking Way
Los Feliz is wedged in between two freeways, with the 5 on its eastern edge and an entry to the 101 freeway just beyond its western edge. If you ride the Metro, the Red Line has stops at Vermont & Sunset and Western & Hollywood.
When it comes to living in Los Feliz, there are two distinct lifestyles. At its center is an area known as Los Feliz Village. This is the commercial heart that provides the area’s pulse of life. Surrounding the village are several sub-neighborhoods, commonly hilly and quiet complemented by views of everything from downtown to Glendale, from the observatory to the ocean depending on the home’s perch. Below, we’ll start with a review of the village and then cover each of the surrounding sub-neighborhoods.
Los Feliz Village
People living in, or close to, the heart of the village tend to be a younger set with an urban sensibility, but not necessarily dyed-in-the-wool hipsters. These residents enjoy a lifestyle that provides for every need within a few minutes walk. In terms of housing, this area has a balanced mix of single-family homes and apartment buildings of all sizes. Most of the homes are rich in character, built in the 1920’s and 30’s and are predominantly Spanish style and classic California bungalows with period revival influences. Within Los Feliz, the village is a great location for first-time home buyers.
Franklin Hills is situated in the hilly area east of the village flats, south of Los Feliz Boulevard, and with Hyperion Avenue at its eastern edge. As with most of the hilly areas nearby, the streets are winding and its homes have panoramic views of everything from downtown to the coast. Homes run the gamut in style and include designs from many of the preeminent architects of the 20th century. The residents span a wide income range and are a generous blend of long-time residents and new-to-LA creative types that want the benefits of a quiet, family neighborhood while staying close to their artistic, hipster kin and colleagues in Silver Lake.
A charming point of entry into the hills is via Franklin Street, heading west from the village flats, traversing the iconic Shakespeare Bridge. Built in 1926 and named in honor of the playwright William Shakespeare, this concrete, gothic style bridge was designated an L.A. Historic Cultural Monument in 1974. In 1998 the bridge underwent a major seismic retrofit with special care to preserve its original appearance. To the east of the bridge begins the Franklin Hills Public Stairway system. This series of 14 stairways date back to the 1920’s, purportedly built to provide hillside owners with access to trolley lines below. Today these stairways provide residents and visitors with a fun way to combine exercise with getting to know the neighborhood. The longest in Franklin Hills is 167 steps.
Cloistered, luxurious, verdant, peaceful, and storied. All of these words accurately described the private, gated community of Laughlin Park which is bounded by Los Feliz Boulevard, Cummings Drive, Franklin Avenue and Hobart Boulevard. Established in 1905 by builder and entrepreneur Homer Laughlin, it has become one of LA’s top five neighborhoods according to Los Angeles Magazine. Homer Laughlin also has the distinction of building LA’s first fireproofed, steel-reinforced building, which still exists and houses the internationally diverse Grand Central Market at 317 S. Broadway downtown. The relatively small community area is packed with homes that both architecturally and historically significant. The who’s who of past residents drawn by its appeal include Charlie Chaplin, W.C Fields, Basil Rathbone, and Cecil B. DeMille. And among its current residents are equally prominent figures in the contemporary film era. For those who enjoy architecture, the area includes homes brought to life by Gordon Kaufman, Julia Morgan, Roland Coate, and most notably Lloyd Wright, who designed at least 5 homes within its boundaries. Unlike some areas, such as Whitley Heights, which were created with a specific architectural theme in mind, the homes in Laughlin Park are deliciously varied, including Craftsman, Spanish, Italian, Mediterranean, French, English Gothic, Traditional, and Moderne.
Los Feliz Estates
Dating back to 1960, this relatively young tract of homes is referred to simply as “The Estates” by locals. This development is unique among hillside communities in that its streets are straight and configured as single-loaded terraces, which means the homes are situated on one side of the street only. This terraced hillside layout, combined with predominantly one-story homes, provides most of its residents with broad city views. Another benefit to the unique design is that it provides flat yards, allowing for the easy installation of swimming pools, which are present in most of the homes in this community. In keeping with the era of construction, the homes’ layouts typically include large kitchens, family rooms, and garages. The community has a homeowner association with dues. This includes a 24-hour security patrol car, which is a factor in the very low crime rate that this community enjoys.
The Oaks and Hollywood Grove
The only part of Los Feliz that that falls outside of the 90027 zip code, The Oaks residents’ address ends in 90068. This hilly and amply shaded area is populated with beautiful homes and embodies a character that its residents appreciate sufficiently enough to keep them there for extended stays, often several decades. The strong civic pride of its residents is reflected in the very active, voluntary homeowners association which works to preserve the area’s beauty and order. The neighborhood is bordered by Foothill Drive on the south, Griffith Park to the north, Canyon Drive on the west, and Fern Dell Drive to the east and its moniker is derived from the winding streets named after various types of oak trees (e.g. Live Oak, Red Oak, Verde Oak, etc.) Another popular area among Hollywood’s elite, past and present, The Oaks offers homes that are a generous mix of revival styles dating back to the ‘20s, balanced by modern architectural gems, so anyone (with an income somewhere north of the national median) can find something that they like here. As with other hilly parts of Los Feliz, many of the homes offer great views, while others are tucked into wonderfully shaded pockets, creating an idyllic retreat from the city. Having a GPS when navigating your way through the neighborhood for the first time is a good idea.
Wedged between Franklin Ave and The Oaks is a small area called Hollywood Grove, Los Feliz’s only area that’s registered as a Historical Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ). A relatively small HPOZ, it consists of a mere 139 homes and its east-west borders are St. Andrews Place and Canyon Drive. The area, most notably along Canyon drive, contains one of the most significant concentrations of Craftsman style homes in Los Feliz. Colonial and Mediterranean style homes from the early 1900’s are also well represented.
North of the Boulevard – Los Feliz Hills
The area of Los Feliz that lies in the hills east of The Estates is commonly referred to simply as “north of the Boulevard”. As with most other hillside communities, the streets in this area are twisting and winding lending to a sense of quiet seclusion. But unlike many other hillside communities, many of these streets have generous widths and even boast sidewalks. At the confluence of Vermont and Hillhurst Avenues is the Vermont parkway. This roadway, with its otherworldly sized trees that span the huge grass median that divides it, provides one of the most idyllic and picturesque streetscapes in LA. The homes in the Los Feliz hills are predominately larger houses selling at the upper end of the area’s price range. Of course, many of the homes come with splendid views. But, even better, these are views to be used. Given the proximity to Griffith Park, which abuts the neighborhood, there couldn’t be a more ideal location for those with a penchant for hiking, golf, and the many other outdoor activities that the park affords.
For day-to-day needs the village has it covered with markets, a full service post-office, library, cleaners, banks, boutiques, and so much more. But it’s all the other places that truly define its character. Running north and south thru the village are two commercial strips, Vermont Avenue and Hillhust Avenue. Along Vermont, where pedestrians are shaded by massive ficus trees lining both sides of the street, a cluster of venerable institutions are packed into a four-block stretch. These two avenues are connected at their south end by Hollywood Boulevard. These are just some of the destinations around the neighborhood...
Dresden Room - Though it has appeared several films, this restaurant and lounge crept into the greater consciousness after being featured in the movie “Swingers”. As much for its food, people head over to “the Den” to experience the timeless Marty and Elayne, a couple who have been performing their musical lounge act there five nights a week since 1982.
Skylight Books and Skylight Theatre - Skylight books is a beloved, independent store. Established in 1996, it replaced another bookstore landmark, Chatterton’s. Although relatively small, this place has survived because of their selection and their staff, who can expertly help you find exactly what you’re looking for. The store is actually split into two storefronts, the larger of which features appearances by authors several nights a week. Between the two storefronts is an alley, fronted by a wooden gate, leading back to the Skylight Theatre, an intimate 99-seat playhouse that often features accomplished stage/tv/film actors in its productions. And if you’re not a bookworm or a fan of the stage, right next door is the Los Feliz 3 movie theatre.
Fred 62 - Classic 50’s diner feel complete with retro booth seats, but with a menu that’s been updated for modern California tastes. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, Fred 62 draws a mix of pierced and tattooed, button-down executives, families, small business owners, artists, writers and late-night club-goers. Sit inside or out (overhead misting water is provided when its hot) and be sure to give yourself a several minutes just to get through the menu.
Figaro Cafe - Figaro is a bistro from another time and another part of the world – France. Inside, it has an authentic European atmosphere and there is a good reason for it. This bistro was purchased in Montmartre, shipped to L.A. piece by piece, and finally reassembled in Los Feliz. If it’s cold out, sit inside and marvel at the fin de siècle décor, including a zinc bar and cast iron chandeliers. Otherwise, the outside tables provide for great people-watching along Vermont.
Little Dom’s - Little Dom’s is classic Italian and the vibe is all east side. It opened its doors in 2008 and very quickly became a favorite. Its dim and cozy atmosphere are perfect for a family dinner, or a first date. Although, it can get a little loud inside. But that’s merely a reflection of the fact that the place is busy - from breakfast to dinner, including nightcaps up to midnight on the weekend. And, if you’ve read through this page from the top, you’ve likely noticed a common thread of dining that happens as much indoors as out. Little Dom’s joins that list.
Alcove Café and Big Bar - Although the Alcove offers seating inside, outside is the place to be. The café and bar are in what was once a bungalow home and the patio was its font yard. Enclosed by a wavy brick wall at the sidewalk and populated with large trees wrapped in tiny lights, the patio creates the perfect setting for a mini escape from the rest of your day. You may go to Alcove for food the food or the drinks, but many make the Alcove a ritual for their cakes, which just happen to be the first thing that greet you as you walk thru the door.
Home - At Home the menu is - you guessed it - comfort food. Stuff like Mac & Cheese, Cobb Salad, and Meat Loaf. They also offer great vegetarian options on the menu, including the Meat Loaf. Unlike the other restaurants noted above, this one does not offer both indoor and outdoor seating. It’s only outside. But this outdoor seating is not your average café table. At least not all of it. The patio decks are lined with fully cushioned booths. Comfort seating for comfort food!
Vista Theatre - An historic movie house, the Vista is a beautiful single-screen theatre that’s been in continuous operation since its opening in October of 1923. A first-run theatre, it features the latest big-name films on a fairly quick rotation. Rarely will a film be shown here for more than two weeks. Filmgoers are ensured a great experience by the comfortable seats and ample leg room that’s been created by the removal of every other row of seats. At a film’s opening you may be greeted by the manager dressed in a costume befitting a role in the film.
Wacko / La Luz De Jesus Gallery - A pop-culture shop with punk-rock attitude, Wacko offers a cornucopia of gift ideas from the sublime to the ridiculous. Books, vintage lunch boxes, Japanese robots, jewelry, postcards,… you name it. With an inventory of over 2 million items, this is the place to go for that unique gift idea that will stand out and be remembered. Housed in the same space is the La Luz De Jesus gallery known for its “Lowbrow” art and launching the careers of previously little-known artists such Manuel Ocampo, Joe Coleman and Robert Williams.
Sweeny Todd Barber Shop - Drop back in time and get lathered up for a classic straight-razor shave by a white-jacketed barber at Sweeney Todd’s. If there is a wait, you can browse current periodicals and vintage men’s magazines while listening to standards by the likes of Stan Kenton and Duke Ellington. And don’t forget to turn off your cell phone while you’re there. They’re not part of this world.
At 4310 acres, Griffith Park, which occupies the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Los Feliz, is one of the largest urban parks in the country. The park is open from 5:00 am to 10:30 pm and is bustling with hikers daily starting at the crack of dawn. Though it’s an urban setting, it’s wonderfully untamed with sightings of coyotes, bobcats, and rattlesnakes being commonplace. In the evening, most head up Mount Hollywood for the shimmering views of LA below and the skies above. The latter of which is best witnessed through the telescopes at the famous Griffith Observatory.
Resting on a mountaintop above Los Feliz is one of L.A.’s most iconic images – the Griffith Observatory. The beautiful art deco building is a fully functional observatory with public telescopes and a state-of-the-art planetarium and has been drawing stargazers since 1935 when its doors first opened. After a 4-year renovation, completed in 2008, the building and grounds are more beautiful than ever. One of the walls inside the building is covered with the largest astronomically accurate image ever constructed – 152’ long x 20’ high – called “The Big Picture”.
The Greek Theatre is a 5700 seat amphitheater built in 1920. Consistently voted as one of the best small outdoor venues, its summer concert series is a beloved tradition within Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens
This 133 acre zoo opened in 1966 and is home to over 1,100 mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. Highlights incluee Elephants of Asia, and a Gorilla Preserve. The Botanical Gardens are spread throughout the zoo. For those more intrigued by history, a lesser known outing is to explore the nearby caves, cages, and other ruins of the original zoo built in 1912.
The list of activities goes on and on and includes the Gene Autry Western Heritage Museum, horseback riding, a golf course, tennis courts, swimming, camping, and of course, plenty of areas for picnicking.
This isn’t your typical, crappy park snack food stand. Trails offers a menu of hearty, healthy, freshly made, and…. oh yeah, delicious food that you can feel great about indulging in after a vigorous hike. The pastries are killer.
Los Feliz residents are zoned to the following schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District:
· Franklin Avenue Elementary
· Ivanhoe Elementary
· Los Feliz Elementary
· Cheremoya Avenue Elementary
· Thomas Star King Middle School
· John Marshall High School
Ennis House – 2607 Glendower Ave. 1924 Frank Lloyd Wright
Looking up into the hills of Griffith Park from a vantage point on Vermont Avenue, one can’t miss the landmark Ennis House by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1924, this Mayan Revival design is the last and largest of his four “textile block” houses in the Los Angeles area. At 6200 square feet and constructed of over 27000 blocks (handmade from the granite on the site), its presence on the hillside is unquestionably palatial. The property is currently undergoing renovations to restore the blocks that have deteriorated over time. Though it’s been in many films, it’s most widely recognized from the Harrison Ford classic, Blade Runner.
Lovell House – 4616 Dundee Drive 1929 Richard Neutra
Perched on a hilltop is Richard Neutra’s gem, the Lovell House. One of Neutra’s preeminent works in Los Angeles and an example of the early International Style in Southern California, this house was built in 1927-29 and it represented an entirely new direction in architecture. At 83 years old, it has a style that feels as modern as many homes built today.
Lycée International de Los Angeles - 1960 John Lautner
Tucked away in the valley of Franklin Hills on the south side of the Shakespeare Bridge is the Lycée International de Los Angeles, (LILA - French American School). Designed by architect John Lautner in the International Modern style and constructed in 1960, this bilingual college preparatory school is a Los Angeles Historic Cultural monument and was the only school ever designed by Lautner.
Schrage House – 2648 Commonwealth Ave 1951 Raphael Soriano
Located just south of an entrance to Griffith Park this one-story International Style design in plywood, glass, and steel is considered by some to be one of Soriano’s best. The home has been painstakingly restored by the owners to its original condition.
Sowden House – 5121 Franklin Ave. 1926 Lloyd Wright
Sometimes called the “Jaws House” because of its imposing façade that, to some, has the appearance of a shark’s open mouth – with a magnificent window inside of it. Nicknames aside, this Mayan Revival home is considered to be a showcase of Lloyd Wright’s work. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places has been featured in popular films including The Aviator and The Rocketeer.