New Housing at Old Bank.

Last week, the LA Planning Commission approved 179 townhomes and 8 low-income apartments built partially out of the old North Hollywood Savings and Loan (later Chase) Bank at 4445 Lankershim Bl. at Riverside Dr. according a recent story in the Daily News.

The 1961 building will be readapted for residential use, and include over 5,000 SF of ground floor commercial space along with 263 car spots and 237 bike spaces. The architect is Winston Chang, principal of Next.

For years I have driven past this building as I traveled on the 134 or along Riverside Drive. 

Curious about its history, I dug up some old LA Times articles.

Roscoe W. Blanchard, Sr. (1882-1977) owner of the Blanchard Lumber Company, founded the North Hollywood Savings and Loan in 1923 when the San Fernando Valley was in its earliest boom days. 

Here is his 1977 obituary:

After WWII (1945), the boom in residential building made the bank prosperous, and in 1960, with over $40 million in assets, they announced a new $2 million dollar, six-story tall skyscraper with 73,810 SF of space. Earthquake resistant and fireproof, it was also the tallest structure in the San Fernando Valley. 

In a 1963 ad, the bank stated they would pay depositors 4.80% interest, a tidy amount for the time. In 1969, they promised 5% interest for new deposits.  Those were the days when a person could save money by opening a savings and loan account, and count on a guaranteed level of annual growth.

But the go-go 1960s ended with a decline in the Los Angeles realty boom. And the days of a secure savings and loan specializing in residential housing loans was numbered.

A Feb 9, 1969 LA Times article entitled, “Realty Boom is Fading as Prices Stay Stable” lamented high interest rates of 7-8%, and the inability of many families to afford the average $25,000-$35,000 SFV home, with more than 2/3 of SFV families earning less than $10,000 a year.

Overbuilding in 1965-66 had resulted in rental vacancies of 22% and almost 2,000 new homes unsold. One-third of the new, un-bought homes in Los Angeles were in the San Fernando Valley.

In 1969, both rents and residential prices fell as supplies increased, a widely accepted fact of economics which seems to have been forgotten by modern Angelenos who believe that building more housing is only for “greedy developers.” 

But back when the developers were allowed to develop, this was the result:

1970: In Woodland Hills, the average rent was $172, the highest in the Valley. 

Encino had the most expensive homes, averaging $50,000 in value.[1]

Today we have this:

According to CoStar, the price of an average apartment in the Woodland Hills sub-market—which includes Warner Center—stood at $2,200 per month. 

In 2018, Redfin said the average Encino home was $980,000.

In 1979, Proposition 13 froze property tax rates at the original level a home was sold at, not currently assessed at. Lucky owners of homes bought in 1974 for $40,000, which became $300,000 properties in 1980 (or $3,000,000 in 2019) were still taxed at 1974’s $40,000 purchase price. 

The tax rebellion was partially a white reaction against the increase in illegal migration and resentment in paying taxes for darker complexioned students. Today, most people who can, drive their children out of “bad” school districts to “good” ones thus exacerbating our air pollution and traffic problems. 

People who once rode the bus now take Uber or Lyft, thus exacerbating our air pollution and traffic problems.

We don’t build enough housing. Our housing is in short supply because many of the occupants here don’t legally have a right to be here. But that is stating what should not be said.

Part of our hypocrisy is being liberal and being racist and wanting good education for our children. And none of these traits can co-exist in modern Los Angeles without being hypocritcal. This is not an indictment, just merely a statement of fact from speaking to white parents who live on my street in Van Nuys and drive their kids out of the area to attend school.

The great shortage of homes in Los Angeles began its 40-year ascent and has now culminated in the lovely sight of human beings, unable to afford shelter, sleeping under bridges and along sidewalks. 

Mental illness is blamed for some of this but I wonder how mentally healthy I would be after eating out of garbage cans and sleeping in an alley for a year.

That some of the fortunate inheritors of parental properties, and low property taxes, are also some of the biggest opponents of new residential construction, especially in wealthy sections of Los Angeles, is a cruel irony. 

In the 1980s, the Savings and Loan crisis, brought on by government policies that bankrupted local S&Ls, resulted in the consolidation of many small banks into the large regional ones such as Chase or Bank of America.

In 1976, North Hollywood Savings and Loan was incorporated and merged into San Diego’s Central Federal Savings and Loan Association. 

So in the next few years, a building that once housed a savings and loan which played an instrumental role in lending money to young families buying homes in the San Fernando Valley, will become itself a home for some 179 families, (and 8 units or 4% of the total units will be low income).

Los Angeles, here in Van Nuys, and here in North Hollywood, and all around the city, will move along and build expensively and sluggishly until its leaders accept that it must become denser, higher, and less car dependent. An enormous push for more affordable and multi-modal transport accessible housing is paramount for our survival as a viable metropolis. 

Because we don’t build enough housing, we cannot afford to live in areas we might want to, which leads to more segregation and more bitterness and more helplessness in a city where homelessness is never far off and being housed is conundrum of insanity and indebtedness.

That we need to build more was something Roscoe W. Blanchard, Sr. would have understood with his expertise and success in building materials and financing homes 100 years ago.

We are trapped between the reality of our city and our dreams of its potential. We know what it is. We see this place with our own eyes.

But we really don’t want to accept its degraded condition, or the responsibility for how grotesque, unequal, cruel, barbaric and sadistic it often is. To look at the ugliness in this city we would have to accept that ugliness in ourselves. And why we make illogical and self-destructive choices and choose prerogatives that hasten the decline of Los Angeles.

[1]Valley Population Near Million; Growth Slows

–LA Times, April 29, 1971

2 thoughts on “New Housing at Old Bank.

  1. “One big Norma Desmond”. I like that, Orca…..
    As to the building, this is Panorama Tower, South. Mid-century is the new black. There are hundreds of buildings like this around LA. Adaptive re-use is easier, less expensive and less vulnerable to NIMBY blockade than new construction.


  2. As adaptive reuse (I think that’s what the planners call it) it’s a pretty good effort. Ideally it should piss off absolutely no one (it’s an existing structure so you are not all of a sudden shading your neighbors (or even throwing shade….=)), it’s on major arterials, so it comports with most transit dreams, etc.)

    LA’s gonna be chasing its tail for a long time. Just about everything is at cross-purposes with something else (Need for more housing = more housing (eventually, but takes years, and helps increase costs — it also “ruins” original neighborhoods — and puts even more cars on the road).

    Most people – ignorant of history – really can’t get their heads around the fact that LA was THE NUMBER ONE boom town of the planet for the first half, and well into the second half of the 20th Century. The county had 170,000 people in 1900, 2.2 million by 1930, and nearly 6.1 million by 1960. That’s insane.

    And during those six decades, much of it was built with about as much long-range planning and forethought as an Old West mining camp. The street layouts, the actual buildings themselves, everything. Get in get out get paid.

    Very little was designed to last, nor did anyone expect LA to become the colossus it now is. That’s not an indictment, it was just a feature of the age. Do you think carpenters nailing together blue collar bungalows in the 1920s down on south Vermont and Slauson thought people would still be living in them nearly 100 years later? I don’t think they thought much about it. But here were are. LA’s just…….tired. One big Norma Desmond.


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