“The Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) implemented the Standard Plan Program to provide LADBS customers a simplified permitting process for the design and construction of ADUs that are built repeatedly. The use of standard plans reduces the time required for plan check resulting in faster permit issuance.

Under the Standard Plan Program, plans are designed by private licensed architects, and engineers to accommodate various site conditions. Plans are then reviewed and pre-approved by LADBS for compliance with the Building, Residential, and Green Codes. When the applicant selects an approved Standard Plan, LADBS staff will review site-specific factors for your property, including compliance with the Zoning Code and foundation requirements.” -LADBS

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Christopher Hawthorne, Chief Design Officer.

Under the authority of Mayor Garcetti’s Chief Design Officer Chris Hawthorne, a whimsical man, a new menu of backyard house designs, produced by various local architects, has appeared like magic. Mr. Hawthorne was previously involved in architecture writing at the Los Angeles Times and in the re-design of our civic lampposts. He is a frequent guest speaker at international architectural events from New Zealand to Miami and a recurring guest on KCRW Frances Anderton’s radio show on design.

Rather than concentrate on coming up with emergency housing for 100,000 unhoused Angelenos who live in trash piles and tents inside parks and along freeways, mayoral efforts were waged to come up with ironic design concepts in lighting.

The International House of ADU Menu seems to be an attempt to inject some fashionable urgency, flavored with irony, into the critical need of providing housing for a city where it is expensive and rare.

Pre-designed and pre-approved, these ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) are intended to hurry up the construction of the second house in back of the first house transformation of Los Angeles.

Let’s look at what the architects have come up with.

Welcome Projects “The Breadbox”

Is a play on the traditional mission house with an oversized arched roof. Perhaps the closest to classic of all the designs, it has a cute appeal for those who are tired of the box.


A 1967 Laurel Canyon type intoxicated with rough wood siding and a slanted roof, not especially pretty to look at, but outfitted in white interior with blond wood floors. Picture Janis Joplin in a hot tub drinking whisky out of the bottle with Abby Hoffman and Jimi Hendrix.

Taalman Architects’ IT House

Perhaps the most Bauhausian of the group, this glass and steel box will allow its inhabitants full exposure to sunshine during the day and illuminate inside activities for outside spectators and neighbors at night.

Amunátegui Valdés ADU

Los Angeles zoning allows ADU’s to be built four feet from the back of property line.

So imagine how delightful it will be for neighbors who encounter a 15’ foot high building with an outdoor roof deck allowing partygoers and drunk revelers to float above all adjoining backyards like devilish angels? Here the architect has abandoned all pretense to privacy by designing a house where dozens of people can look down other people’s backyards from the top of a badly conceived back house. Imagine a house of YouTube influencers living here. What fun!

LA Más 

“is a non-profit based in Northeast Los Angeles that designs and builds initiatives that promote neighborhood resilience and elevate the agency of working-class communities of color.”

Here virtue signaling meets up with 1980s post-modernism in gaily painted houses whose designs look like fast food outlets along the boulevard. The golden arches, the multi-colored column (kids eat free?), the decorative woodwork, these are FUN places with bright colors. And even if they are not especially attractive, and look like Walmart brand doll houses, they are immune from criticism by a vaccine of political correctness. 

When Los Angeles is done bulldozing every backyard to “produce more housing” will the net effect be to put more cash in the pockets of those who already own houses?

Why not up-zone the miles and miles of one-story commercial buildings and huge parking lots that blight our city?

Why not leave in place the gardens, which are the only park system we have, and really ramp up the production of moderately priced residential units near public transportation? 

Something to think about. 

Below, in B&W, are current aerial photos of “downtown” Van Nuys.

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