Sunset Junction

Silver Lake

Zip Codes: 90026, 90029, 90039

In recent years, Silver Lake has become known as the ground zero for the young and hip.  While this may be true, it’s only part of the story.  Silver Lake is a vibrant and eclectic village with its own identity and personality.  It’s a mecca for young artistic types from all around the world, but families as well as longtime residents populate its charming hillside enclaves. The heart of Silver Lake is of course the lake, or in this case, the Silver Lake reservoir, which is the community’s focal point and a popular place for people to jog, bike, or walk. This sparkling body of water and the rolling hills surrounding it make for one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in all of L.A.

Silver Lake boasts homes that cover a broad range of architectural styles and price ranges.  Without question, though, the bottom end of the price range has gone up in recent times. Not so long ago it was a great area for first-time homebuyers to search for a starter home. And while it’s true that such opportunities still exist, the area’s ever increasing appeal, especially to a tier of buyers with deep pockets, has made it a little more difficult than in the past.

Market - Quick Stats 

  • Average listing price for home: $838,551   (Wk ending July 4 2012))

  • Median sale price for home: $580,000    (Apr 12 to June 12 2012)

  • % Change from 1 year ago:  -1.4%

  • % Change past 5 years:  -17%

  • Avg price per square foot: $398

  • Greater L.A. Avg price per square foot: $282

LOCATION AND HISTORY

Silver Lake is an area of 2.75 square miles situated east of Hollywood and five miles northeast of downtown with a population of approximately 33,000.  Its geographic boundary on the south is the 101, or, Hollywood Freeway; Benoit Way and Glendale Boulevard on the eastern edge; the I-5, or the Golden State Freeway to the north; and Hyperion Avenue to the West.

The district gets its name from the Department of Water and Power's Silver Lake Reservoir, which was named after Herman Silver, a member of LA's first Board of Water commissioners. LA-DWP established these reservoirs in the early 1900’s as part of the citywide system of water storage and delivery.

Before the turn of the century, Silver Lake was named “Ivanhoe” by Scotsman Hugo Reid, who was reminded of his native Scotland upon seeing the rolling green hills of the area. He chose the name after the famous Scottish novel Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.  The legacy of the area’s Scottish connection remains to this day, with many of the streets in Silver Lake having Scottish names or names that are related to characters from the novel, such as Herkimer, Rowena, Kenilworth, Ben Lomond, Hawick, St. George (as in St. George and the Dragon, a popular Scottish legend).

The majority of the neighborhood’s streets were laid out in the 20′s, following the contours of the hills. The era was the starting point for a great variety of architectural styles and modernist experimentation. Private homes and apartment complexes by Rudolph Schindler, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Gregory Ain, Harwell Hamilton Harris, Raphael Soriano, Allyn Morris, and other modern innovators are well represented. Many architects such as Lautner, Neutra, Morris, and Eugene Kinn Choy designed and built their own homes in the area.

For the past century, Silver Lake has been historically progressive in its acceptance of racially and ideologically diverse peoples.  Harry Hay’s Mattachine Society and the Black Cat Bar, thought to be originating points of the gay rights movement in Los Angeles, were also located in the neighborhood. 

Freeways and Public Transportation

Freeway access is a snap in Silver Lake. Its enclosed by the 5 freeway on it’s northern border, the 101 on its southern border, and the 2 freeway along half of its eastern border.  The two nearest Metro stations are Red Line at Vermont & Sunset and the Blue Line at Vermont and Santa Monica.

DINE, HANG OUT, SHOP

There are three primary commercial strips within Silver Lake – Sunset Boulevard, Hyperion Avenue, and Silver Lake Boulevard.  But without question the energy center for the neighborhood is Sunset Boulevard, with Sunset Junction being the nerve center.  Here are a sampling of places to go and things to do throughout various parts of the neighborhood.

Akbar

Rated “LA’s Coolest Bar” by Los Angeles magazine, Akbar is a draw for hip gay and straight locals alike.  Its casual come-as-you-are vibe and eclectic jukebox selection keep this watering hole busy every night of the week.  The bar features a separate room for dancing that’s put to use on most nights. Akbar also plays host to an alternative comedy night on Tuesdays, which has seen the likes of Margaret Cho and other familiar faces from television and national tours.

Sawyer

Sawyer

The difficult choice at Sawyer is whether to sit inside or out because they’re both so damn beautiful and enjoyable. Inside, open brickwork and raw wood flooring gives the space an industrial loft sort of vibe, but it’s completely softened up by colorful, modern tile work. Outdoors, wooden seating wraps around the perimeter of a patio, more beautiful tile work adorns the floor, and there is an abundance a potted trees. And the food!…. scrumptious seafood/bistro fare, and delicious cocktails are what you’ll find here. Try the Chowder Fries!

Cliff’s Edge

Cliff’s Edge is a retreat to nature in the midst of an urban atmosphere.  Located on Sunset Boulevard, right next to Sunset Junction, Cliff’s Edge features a patio awash in greenery and built around a huge ancient tree.  The menu of elegant, rustic food is also seasonal with an emphasis on local organic ingredients. Cliff’s edge offers a delicious menu of signature cocktails in the summer, every Thursday night is Oyster night.

Lamill Coffee

LAMILL Coffee

This minimal, modernist hub feels like a café disguised as a coffee laboratory. Lamill is a place to visit if you love coffee.  Alongside its delicious breakfast, lunch and diner menus, they offer individualized, French-press tea or coffee selections with exotic names such as Burundi Kayanza, Organic Black Onyx, and Colombia El Meridiano Micro Lot.  But there’s no need to feel intimidated or overwhelmed: you can also fall back on a cup of their house blend.

Tomato Pie Pizza Joint

Offering one of the 25 Best Pizzas on Earth according to GQ food critic Alan Richman, this Silver Lake pizzeria is a slice of New York culinary excellence in a city where great pizza can sometimes seem scarce.  It’s worth enjoying it at the restaurant, for its colorful, mid-century modern patio, or on those nights when you’d rather not venture out, Tomato Pie Pizza Joint delivers.

Farmers Market

You can pick up your produce, bread, jams, and other goodies fresh on Saturdays from 8:00am – 1:00pm at the Silver Lake’s Certified Farmers Market.  Booths are set up on the green pavement of Sunset Triangle park (Sunset and Edgecliff). Its size is modest compared the Hollywood market, but the quality is very good. In addition to food, you can also find crafts and gifts made by locals.  

Edendale

The Edendale Grill is much like Silver Lake itself: simultaneously contemporary and historical.  Visitors immediately marvel at the structure itself of Edendale, which is an historic landmark that served as the Los Angeles Fire Department’s Station 56 from 1924 to 1989 and was converted into a restaurant/bar in 2002.  2010 brought a management change and a revamped menu that includes a fusion of tastes from the American South, Asia, the Mediterranean and Latin America.  They’ve still retained their happy hour, which is a lure for area hipsters.  But with its romantic setting and sophisticated menu and wine list, it’s a great place for a nostalgic date.   

Silver Lake Conservatory of Music

Silver Lake Conservatory of Music

While its name may evoke cello-playing prodigies, The Silver Lake Conservatory of Music is for everyone.  It’s been serving the community for ten years, with an aim of helping lower income local students with free lessons and instruments provided via grants and scholarships.  The school also offers one-on-one lessons for people of all ages.  And if you happen to be a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Metallica, you’ll be happy to know that Anthony Kiedis and Flea – both Red Hot Chili Peppers – are on the board of directors.  The original location was at the Sunset Junction, but it moved just a little bit up the street to Hollywood Blvd in Los Feliz.

The Silver Lake Picture Show

Every other Wednesday in the summer, you can join your Silver Lake neighbors for an outdoor movie screening in the Silver Lake Triangle Park, located at the intersection of Griffith Park Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard.  This free, bimonthly night of cinema under the stars is the collaboration of LA City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s office and the Silver Lake Improvement Association.  The park, which opened in May 2012, is Los Angeles' first "street-to-plaza" conversion.  Most of the new park originally was a two-lane swath of pavement that carried motorists along Griffith Park Boulevard.  History aside, it’s a fun night to enjoy contemporary and classic movies in a fun, unique setting.

Little Pine

Little Pine

There are many great Vegan restaurants throughout this city and the Eastside is fortunate to have one of the best in Little Pine. As described by it’s owner, musician Moby, “little pine exists for two really simple reasons: 1-as a place in our neighborhood for our friends to have wonderful vegan food; and 2-as a way to generate money for the animal rights organizations we love and support.” 100% of the restaurant’s profits go to animal rights organizations.

Gingergrass

Gingergrass is a cool, yet casual, Vietnamese restaurant that attracts a lot of the area’s fashionable residents.  Atmosphere aside, people keep coming back for their excellent food and signature beverages, including the Basil Lime Elixir, Blood-Orange Elixir, and Gingergrass Ginger Ale.  They also serve classic Vietnamese dishes such as pho, Vietnamese spring rolls and Vegetable Curry Clay Pot.  Herbivores will delight at the abundance of vegetarian options while there is still plenty of fare for the meat-eater. 

Parks and Recreation

Silver Lake Reservoir

Silver Lake Reservoir – the actual “Silver Lake” - is a source of water to 600,000 homes in downtown and South Los Angeles.  But it has also emerged as a community focal point for socializing and recreation.  The Silver Lake Recreation Center, which features a basketball court, is on the south side of the lake.  There is also a walking and jogging path, which stretches 2.2 miles around the reservoir. In April 2011, the City of Los Angeles opened up a three-acre park on the east side of the lake, modeled after the Sheep Meadow in New York's Central Park. Named the "Silver Lake Meadow," it immediately became a welcome addition to the area.

Silver Lake Dog Park

Just because we live in a big city, that doesn’t mean dogs can’t enjoy running around in wide-open spaces.  Silver Lake Dog Park is a 1.25-acre off-leash dog park where your four-legged friend can socialize with other dogs and run around and burn off all their extra energy. The dog owners are friendly and social, and the double-gated entry makes sure that dogs and their owners can safely enter and exit the park without any worry about runaways.  There is also a doggie pool for those hot Los Angeles summer days.

Secret Stairs

Los Angeles is marked by hills that offer stunning views and breezes that refresh, particularly in the summer.  So, naturally, people have wanted to live in them from the get go.  As the city’s neighborhoods pushed their way into the hills, the residents needed a way to easily get to and from their homes.  The solution was a network of concrete stairways, built mostly in the 1920’s. Some of their locations were chosen for their proximity to trolley lines. Although the trolleys are gone and the hills’ slopes are lined with paved streets, many of these stairways remain today.  In fact, there are still many homes today whose access is solely dependent upon a staircase.  With over 50 staircases, the eastside (Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Los Feliz) has the highest concentration of these stairways in the city.  And some of them are doozies – with the longest being 231 steps. “The Music Box” steps were made famous by Laurel and Hardy in their 1932 Oscar winning short film of the same name. In the film, the duo flounder and crash their way up a 131-step climb from Vendome Street to Descanco Drive while moving a piano.

SCHOOLS

Silver Lake residents are zoned to the following schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District:
·     Allesandro Elementary
·     Betty Plascencia Elementary
·     Micheltorena Street Elementary
·     Clifford Street Elementary
·     Mayberry Street Elementary
·     Rosemont Avenue Elementary
·     Bellevue Primary
·     Lockwood Avenue Elementary
·     Dayton Heights Elementary
·     homas Starr King Middle
·     Washington Irving Middle
·     Virgil Middle
·     Washington Irving Middle
·     Virgil Middle
·     John Marshall High
·     Belmont High

Noteworthy Silver Lake Architecture

Though the area of Silver Lake is not that large, it is chock full of exemplary residential architecture. In fact, the area has been a sort of mecca for many of the most highly regarded architects of the 20thcentury. Schindler, Neutra, Soriano, Ain, Lautner, Harris, and others have all made a mark here. Not only are the hills surrounding the reservoir dotted with homes that they designed, but many of them chose Silver Lake for their own homes.

Neutra VDL Studio and Residence  -  2300 Silver Lake Blvd.   1933 / 1964    Richard J. Neutra

The home and studio of architect Richard Neutra is at 2300 Silver Lake Boulevard.  The home was originally completed in 1933 and doubled as his office until opening a design studio nearby on Glendale Boulevard. Considered to be extreme at the time, it set a new standard in design and is a much beloved structure today. Damaged by a fire in 1963 it was rebuilt by his son Dion.  Named for Van der Leeuw, a patron of Neutra’s who loaned him the money to build the house, it has been named to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s currently owned by Cal Poly Pomona College of Environmental Design and tours are available weekly.

Colony of Neutra Houses –  Richard J. Neutra

Just down the street from the VDL is a series of homes, one after the other, all designed by Neutra between 1948 and 1961.  Half of them are along Silver Lake Boulevard and the other half are found on, you guessed it, Neutra Place, which runs directly behind the homes on the Boulevard.  You won’t find a more dense collection of his homes anywhere on the planet.

Kambara Residence - 2232 Silver Lake Blvd. Richard Neutra 1960

This is one of the houses that make up the colony.

How House - 2422 Silver Ridge Ave.   1925   Rudolph Schindler

Built in 1925, the How House stands out as one of Schindler’s more distinctive homes in the area of Silver Lake.  The home has a great balance of concrete, redwood, and glass and has been skillfully restored to original beauty.  It was named a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 2007 and it most recently sold in April 2012 for $1.3 million.

McAlmon House and Guest House - 2717-2721 Waverly Dr. 1936 Rudolph Schindler

Orans House - 2404 Micheltorena St. 1941 Gregory Ain

Avenel Housing Cooperative – 2839 Avenel St.   1948   Gregory Ain

A 10-unit housing cooperative built in 1947, the Avenel complex is a distinct accomplishment in design toward efficient living.  Situated on a hillside, each unit enjoys views, privacy, and a fluid indoor-outdoor design ingeniously accomplished through the use of sliding interior walls and sliding floor-to-ceiling glass doors that lead to the patio. These homes are a work of art, evidenced by the number of years its owners remain as residents. The homes were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

Burchill-Reiner Residence, aka ‘Silvertop’ - 2138 Micheltorena St.  1957   John Lautner

Resting atop a hill overlooking the Silver Lake reservoir is the Reiner Residence, also commonly known as “Silvertop”.  This signature work of Lautner’s is easily spotted by the prominent and graceful line of its concrete dome roof.  Between design and construction, the house was 10 years in the making and marked a new direction for Lautner with his “discovery” of concrete. Unfortunately, the best view of the house is  through a pair of binoculars from the other side of the lake.

Martin Residence - 2173 Redcliff St. Albert P. Martin 1952

Situated practically in the shadows of Silvertop, this gorgeous post-and-beam home underwent an amazing rehab in 2018, including an additional guest studio.

Manifold House - 2327 Duane St. Aaron Neubert 2013

There are many fantastic A-N-X designed properties around L.A. and this steel-skinned home is one of my favorites. The front-facing design has a totally unique shape, which, unfortunately is only partially visible due to trees. You can see photos, though, on the A-N-X website.

Fernwood Quartet - 3108, 3112, 3116, and 3200 Fernwood Ave. Stephen Alan Siskind 1959 and 1960

Over two years, Stephen Siskind designed this row of four mid-century homes along Fernwood Ave. Taken together, they really make a great statement regarding his talents.

The Fischer residence - 1966 Lucile Ave. Eugene Weston III 1957

Unlike many of the homes along Lucile, this post-and-beam beauty is set back far from the street and is situated on a lush18,382 square lot gives this home a serene sense of privacy and seclusion.

Lautner Residence - 2007 Micheltorena St. John Lautner 1940

The home of one of the 20th century’s finest architects. Unlike his commissions, this home is rather understated.

Skinner Residence - 1536 Easterly Ter. William Kesling 1937

Sited next door to one another, and built 1 year apart, are two of Kesling’s best streamline moderne homes, the Skinner and Vanderpool residences.

Vanderpool Residence - 1530 Easterly Ter. William Kesling 1936

Otero Residence - 1986 Lucile Ave. Nino Otero 1961

Hugging the street, I love the ultra clean lines in this home designed as the architect’s own residence.

Residence - 3228 Fernwood Ave. Lorcan O’Herlihy 2000

This home, designed by Dublin-born Lorcan O’Herlihy, really stands out among its neighbors - both in its perch and its modern design. Cantilevered on a very steep hillside, this boxy and window-filled home is simultaneously simple and bold in its design.

Lexan-McCarthy Residence - 1975 Micheltorena St. Frederick Monhoff 1950

The Adams House - 3217 Fernwood Ave. William Kesling 1936

As seen from the curb, this home is somewhat diminutive with modest streamline moderne features. But from the inside (and rear), the fuller beauty of Kesling’s design is loud and clear.

Austrian Spencer House - 3056 Landa St. Raphael Soriano 1937

Borrowing from his mentor Richard Neutra, with whom Soriano interned, the home’s entry is elegantly framed with signature bands of steel-framed windows.

Canfield-Moreno Estate – 1923 Micheltorena   1923   Robert D. Farquhar

Also known as The Paramour or the Crestamount, the Canfield-Moreno Estate is a historic residence built in the Mediterranean Revival style. Dituated at the top of hills on the west side of the reservoir, this area came to be known as the Morena Highlands. Built in 1923 as a residence for silent film star Antonio Moreno and his wife and oil heiress, Daisy Canfield Danziger, the sprawling villa was the setting for lavish high society parties. At 22,000 square feet of living space, it’s a perfect example of 1920’s grandeur in Los Angeles.  Today the mansion is used as a recording studio.

Bubeshko Apartments - 2036 Griffith Park Blvd. Rudolph Schindler 1938-41

Of the three apartment complexes that are close to one another, this one is the most well-known, perhaps due in part to its prominent location on Griffith Park Boulevard and the decorative patio walls (designed by Sculptor Gordon Newell) set upon above the tops of the garages. But the fuller story of these apartments is what makes them a city treasure. Designed for clients that wanted living spaces that were flexible enough to be re-arranged as needed in the future, Schindler delivered a collection of five units, each with its own outdoor space, in the model of a “Greek hillside’ and the units could be divided in different ways into seven units if desired. It remained the Bubeshko’s family home for sixty-five years and served as a gathering place for artists over the decades. Architect Gregory Ain was once a tenant. One has to wonder if living here inspired his home designs, which commonly incorporated sliding walls allowing the homeowner to reconfigure the living spaces.

Sachs Apartments - 1826 Lucile Ave. Rudolph Schindler 1926-40

Falk Apartments - 3631 Carnation Ave. Rudolph Schindler 1940

Landa Apartments - 1780 Griffith Park Blvd - A.E. Morris 1966

A.E. Morris was a South Pasadena-based architect. Not sure if his design of this complex was inspired by Schindler’s Bubeshko Apartments right up the street (though it’s hard to imagine that not being the case), but it certainly is a nice complement to it along the boulevard.

Astro Coffee Shop –  Glendale Blvd & Fletcher Dr.   1958   Louis Armet and Eldon Davis

Louis Armet and Eldon Davis are known for their contributions to Southern California’s wonderful supply of Googie architecture and have been referred to as “the Frank Lloyd Wright of 50’s coffee shops”.  A fine example of their work can be found at the southeast corner of Glendale Boulevard and Fletcher Drive. Built in 1958, Astro’s coffee shop has gone thru a few changes in ownership over the years (originally it was Donly’s, and then Conrad’s), but its essence remains.  Among the many famous designs of Armet and Davis are Johnie’s Coffee Shop on Wilshire and Fairfax, and Norm’s on La Cienega.