Glamorous Granny Flat.

All photos: Eric Staudenmaier

The Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) is a second house built in the backyard of a first house to provide additional income for a “single family” homeowner.

Los Angeles has now legally liberalized the lawto allow these types of dwellings to go up all over the city. The moral reasoning: this will increase the supply of housing in a city where rents, not to mention costs, are skyrocketingly expensive. 

The so-called maximum square footage of the ADU is 1,200 SF but the one on this page is 1,600 SF.

One can imagine less beautiful and less artful types of ADU’s going up all over this city. 

The $99,000 vinyl and stucco ones that will go up in Van Nuys will be built without architects. Hector and his crew will dig, hammer and nail and the Home Depot and Ikea will supply. Four recent college grads from film, acting, and comedy schools will move in and split the $4600 a month rent with parental assistance.  

So the tenants will not be someone’s granny.

What will likely occur is a kind of typical Los Angeles situation. Property owners will build in the backyard and in a slapdash way shove driveways in front, destroying trees and lawns to create more parking. Security gates and cinderblock fences and concrete will serve as front yard landscaping.

More renters will mean more cars, so almost every street that once was clean of vehicles, will have bumper-to-bumper cars belonging to renters who live in the backyard house. Curbs will be full of McDonalds wrappers and discarded beer bottles.

That’s the Van Nuys way.

I don’t, ironically, object to ADU’s. If every ADU looked like the one on this page, it would be wonderful for architecture in Los Angeles to see a proliferation of fine design.

But the bottom of the barrel ugliness that is the norm, not to mention the cost of construction, ensures that the homely, crowded, poorly thought out ADU will prevail. 

And the ADU on this page will never become the home of a working family. It is, most likely, a guest house for an affluent owner, or perhaps an $8,000 a month rental. So increasing the ADU supply will hardly affect the supply of normal, affordable rentals in Los Angeles.

Credits: Architizer




Residential › Private House 






Eric Staudenmaier

Blight Walk.

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6552 Columbus Avenue; owner: Marinel C Agbunag

6522 Columbus Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91411 Alex Barker, owner.

The houses are unoccupied, neglected. The parched grass grows high, bottles and cans are everywhere, and their owners are seemingly oblivious to their blighted properties.

This is not a slum. This is Columbus Avenue between Hamlin and Kittridge, where some absentee owners have allowed large parcels of land to fall into abuse, or permitted and set up illegal businesses towing and storing cars.

For many years, complaints from residences about the eyesores have flooded into Former Councilman Tony Cardenas’s offices and are now on the desk of Nury Martinez, whose Field Deputy, Guillermo Marquez, joined LAPD Lead Officer Erica Kirk for a walking tour of the shabby, un-chic area.

Both Officer Kirk and Field Deputy Guillermo Marquez are consummate professionals: responsive, articulate, hard-working and complete attributes to our area. They spent hours yesterday listening to the gripes and the stories of crime and neglect.

6522 Columbus Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91411 Alex Barker, owner.

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Yet responsibility for the empty houses goes back to the owners who created, selfishly and without logic, properties that do not produce income and bring down the value of other homes around them.

In Los Angeles, it seems impossible to find affordable houses for purchase for people who make less than $100,000 a year. And others sleep in their cars, or in RVs, or on park benches. Rents are over $1500 a month, for two bedrooms, even in Van Nuys.

And the law says you cannot clear homeless people and their belongings off public sidewalks.

And the law also says you cannot compel errant property owners to fix up their private homes and rent them out or sell them.

So all around our neighborhood, where the average house sells for over a half million, some have decided that just letting their houses sit empty and open for crime and vandalism is the best policy.

And that is why we went on a walk yesterday, a walk that went around in a circle along Columbus, Haynes and Hamlin and ended up in the bright, hot sun with promises and handshakes.

“Better Call Marty” Re/Max Grand Central Marty Azoulay 818-424-5045

15102 Haynes/ 15105 Hamlin; owner Kathy J. Bauer.

Alleys and Architecture.

Day 4-Near Hotel Celestine  48 Day 2-Shinjuku-ku 40 Arrival at Hotel Celestine 13

(Photos: Andrew B. Hurvitz)

Last year, on a visit to Japan, I discovered alleys that were vibrant, clean and functional.

In a country where 127m live on land mass that is smaller than California, space is put to good use.

Little houses, imaginatively designed, are integrated into narrow streets and alleys. (Photos: Dezeen)Cave-by-Eto-Kenta-Atelier-Architects_dezeen_1sq dezeen_Small-House-by-Unemori-Architects_0sq House-by-Tsubasa-Iwahashi-Architects_dezeen_1sq House-in-Fukasawa-by-LEVEL-Architects_dezeen_3sqa KKZ-House-by-International-Royal-Architecture_dezeen_ss_50 Monoclinic-House-by-Kazuko-SakamotoAtelier-Tekuto_dezeen_sq Switch-restaurant-and-residence-by-Apollo-Architects_dezeen_3sqa

Whether an entrance is in front or back makes no difference to a Japanese house.

What counts is the integrity and artistry of the architecture.

LA, and the entire state of California, has an extreme shortage of affordable and civilized housing.

Why not emulate Japan and make use of our alleys, the back of our buildings, and enormous asphalt parking lots to create civilized spaces for residential development?


Sherman Oaks alleys below.

Photo credit: Andrew B. Hurvitz


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Califa Between Kester and Natick.


A block south of Oxnard, between Kester and Natick Avenues, four residential streets dead end at Califa.

A time capsule of a neighborhood; neat, tidy, middle-class, without trash, graffiti, mattresses and old sofas; this section of Posoville (Part of Sherman Oaks) is either Van Nuys or Sherman Oaks depending upon your biases.




The sunny aura along these streets, a dependable and somnolent monotony of the middle 1950s, is of people working and keeping up their homes, raising their kids and taking pride in their community. This could be Culver City or Burbank, so absent are those markers of decay that afflict Van Nuys only two blocks north of here.

Enormous landscaped parking lots, far too big for the modest amount of workers who work here, sit behind the white cinderblock boxes lining Oxnard.

In any European nation, or Japan, such decadent defacement of land would be unacceptable and put to denser use.

But in Los Angeles, the old American Way holds forth, but for how long?






In the future, an architect might imagine that the asphalt would be ripped up to grow local fruits and vegetables, and the acres of pavement would sprout little villages of modular homes, five or ten or twenty houses arranged around xeriscaped gardens. Residents would ride bikes, walk to the corner market and board the Orange Line to ride out to Woodland Hills, or east into North Hollywood and downtown. Shady spaces between buildings would provide great outdoor seating for cafes, benches and even fountains.

For now, the houses and the white cinderblock industries meet in oversized parking lots in an average place stripped of personality, but grateful for its fragile place on the social ladder.