On October 17, Modative was fortunate enough to be featured in a Fox News National TV story on small lot subdivison in Los Angeles. Christian and I really enjoyed spending several hours with producer Laura Prabucki and her team, touring a few of our projects and conducting interviews with the two of us as well as a few of the residents that live in the projects we designed.
The story isn't really about architecture, but rather the larger impact that this trend has on society and the economy. We were really happy with the final cut and are thankful to the the residents that made themselves available for tours and interviews. The story was featured on Fox News (national) several times on October 17 and has made a few appearances on local news affiliates around the country. If you weren't able to catch it on TV, click the link to watch it online - Tiny homes trend: Narrow houses built on smaller lots
Projects featured in the story include 726 California Ave (project in the opening live shot in Venice), Cullen Street Homes (project with the open wood stair in the living room) , Fay 2X Homes (interior shot above) and Fay 3X Homes (project under construction in the video).
We are happy to announce that Modative is growing up! With nine new architecture projects this year, we felt it was time to take the next step and award some promotions. Krystal Návar, one of Modative’s earliest employees, is now a seasoned project manager. We’d like to thank Krystal for steering multiple projects in the office and raising a little one without even breaking a sweat. We’re also excited to announce Jesus Fernandez has accepted a new role as project manager and seems to be enjoying it. Lastly, it’s about time we officially introduce our newest employees: Katherine, Summer, Allison + Shaun. Modative is now officially a team of ten (plus two office dogs).
photo by Ivonne Maria Photography
On Sunday, July 14, The Los Angeles Times featured an article on the front page about the growing popularity of Small Lot Subdivision in Los Angeles. We were lucky enough to be included in the article along with Planet Home Living (our client on the Artis @Echo Park project) and the Heyday Partnership.
Sunday Los Angeles Times Front Page.
And the Rest of the article. The images are from our Artis @ Echo Park project.
Modative has been focused on Small Lot Subdivision since our founding in 2006 and we are glad to see this innovative ordinance gaining in popularity in Los Angeles (and hopefully some other cities soon).
To read the article online - http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-small-lot-homes-20130714,0,563473.story
To learn more about developing Small Lot Subdivision Projects, we recommend downloading our free guide here.
We also have a free Small Lot Subdivision Information Packet.
A list of Modative's Small Lot Subdivison Projects.
Fortunately, 2012 has been a very busy year for us, which is why there's been little time for blog updates. So we thought we'd let you know about four important things that happened at Modative in 2012:
1. Cullen Art District Homes Sold
Our three home, small lot subdivision project on Cullen Street sold very quickly at the following prices.
Home A (Front): $650,000
Home B (Middle): $650,000
Home C (Rear): $675,000
The Cullen Street project was initiated by our client during a very uncertain economic time so it's great to see this project's ultimate success.
2. Modern Homes Under Construction
We currently have four residential projects under construction:
A three-home small lot subdivision in Venice, CA. This project is currently wrapping up stucco, siding and interior finishes and should be complete by March 2013.
Home A along California Ave. Stucco and siding going in on 12.21.12.
Home C from the alley.
Construction of Phase I (8 homes) is underway on this 15-home small lot subdivision in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Artis is currently in framing and the first set of homes should be complete in the spring of 2013. Artis @ Echo Park was posted on Curbed Los Angeles earlier this week.
First floor framing on 12.21.12.
Phase I includes building the first eight homes.
A single family residence in Culver City, CA that overlooks a public park.
Three townhouse apartments. This is Phase II of III of the Fay Ave Art District Dwellings (a future small lot subdivision). Phase I, the Fay 2X Homes was complete in late 2011, featured in the Los Angeles Times in February 2012, and are still occupied by the original renters. Here's a bit more info on the design of the Fay 3X Homes. This phase is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2013. Also of note, Modative Build is the contractor on this project. And we will be building even more of our projects as we push into 2013.
Rendering of 3X homes (left) next to the existing 2X homes (right).
Framing started at Fay 3X Homes on 12.19.12
And this is what it looked like a day later on 12.20.12
3. New Projects in 2012
2012 brought a lot of great new projects into the office. Here are some highlights:
We signed up this project in the first week of 2012; a great sign for the year. Cardiff Cubes is a three-home small lot subdivison near downtown Culver City. This project is approved by planning and is currently in the permitting phase. Construction start expected in spring of 2013.
As mentioned above, this project is under construction.
Venice Boulevard Live/Work - Eight live/work apartments in Los Angeles. The likely future Modative and Modative Build world headquarters.
A four-home small lot subdivison in Los Angeles inspired by the nearby aviation and hangars of the Santa Monica Airport.
A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in a few months.
A single family spec home in Venice, CA. Scheduled to start construction in spring or summer of 2013.
A single family residence in Mountain View, Ca (that's up North). Scheduled to start construction in 2013.
4. New People in 2012
The new projects enabled us to add three new staff to our existing team of four, bringing our total to seven. We were very happy to welcome Dena, Jesus & Jesse to our team this year.
We didn't even ask them to smile. They did it on their own because they love working here.
Happy Holidays. See you in 2013!
Earlier today, USC posted an article by Allison Engel on our firm, USC Architecture Alums Make a Big Splash by Going Small
. It goes into some detail on our background, founding, Small Lot Subdivison
projects and surviving the recession. The three Modative founders
) all attended USC's School of Architecture
and feel very honored to be featured in this piece by the University.
Modative's founding partners in front of the Fay 2X Homes. Photo by Dietmar Quistorf
Many thanks to Allison and Dietmar for coming out to interview and photograph us for this piece.
We've had a busy year here at Modative and it's time to add to our team. If this looks like the position for you, please apply. If you think someone you know may be interested, please pass it along.
What you'll be working on
You'll be working under a project manager on design and construction documents (using ArchiCAD) on a few modern residential projects in the Los Angeles Area. You will gain extensive hands-on experience in what it takes to put a modern building together. This is a full-time position (40 hours/week), but is temporary, lasting about six months. If the project load in our office was to remain the same, this position could become a permanent position.
1. Must have ArchiCAD (not AutoCAD) experience and be ready to be productive using this software from day one. Our office is currently using ArchiCAD 15 & 16.
2. Degree in architecture
3. One to three years of professional experience in the architecture field using ArchiCAD for construction documents.
4. Only persons currently residing in and able to legally work in the US will be considered. No international applicants for this position please.
This is a a very focused position. Applications not meeting the outlined criteria will be disregarded. Since this position is temporary and needs to be filled quickly, preference will be given candidates currently residing in the Los Angeles area or those able to relocate very quickly and on a short-term basis.
How to apply
Send us a resume, portfolio and whatever else makes you look good to firstname.lastname@example.org . We're too busy at this time to take calls on this position. Please keep your email attachment sizes reasonable (under 5 MB or send us a link to download).
To avoid spam, and test of your ability to follow directions, please include "Modative Junior Position" in the subject line.
Applications will be accepted until 11:59pm PST on Monday, 08.27.12. Applicants must be available for an in-person interview on either 08.30.12, 08.31.12 or 09.04.12. The job will start the week of 09.10.12.
Click here to see this job posting on our site.
As we started design work on phase two of the Fay Ave project earlier this year, we had to keep in mind that the project’s overall mission was still the same: affordable, interesting, modern housing that pencils out as rental apartments or for-sale Small Lot Subdivision homes.
Keeping that in mind, whenever we start a new project, we like to take a fresh look at things. This is no different for a phased project. So, we hit the ground running, establishing the following new project goals.
One of the best things about a phased development is that we were able to analyze and learn from round one (Fay 2X Homes) and incorporate the new knowledge into phase two. Outside of internally looking at the project through a critical eye, we also received feedback from potential renters of the first phase. The Developer and Modative both talked openly with prospective tenants about what they liked and, more importantly, would like to see improved. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, but as problem solvers, we focused on the areas needing improvement. Slightly larger bedrooms, increased storage, more yard space, and a master suite topped the list of most-desired improvements.
For us, the project working in a spreadsheet is just as important as it working in architectural plans. Phase two wasn’t going to happen if it didn’t make financial sense.
To keep costs down, we knew that we only wanted to add square footage where we needed it. Most of the spacial concerns were in the private rooms, so we knew that the additional area should be on the second floor. We accomplished this by cantilevering above (front unit) and bridging across (rear units) the carports. This move shifted the spacial balance, which was essentially 50/50 public/private in phase one, to lean towards the private space. We offset this shift by connecting the ground level living areas to large (by urban standards), usable outdoor spaces, creating a nice indoor/outdoor flow.
Upgrading one of the bedrooms to a master suite was another high priority item. This meant a larger bedroom area, an upgraded bathroom and a walk-in closet. At the minimum, we wanted the upgraded bathroom to have a dual sink, but we were also able to fit a larger shower and a linen closet. We also placed the wet walls back-to-back, a move that will make the plumbing subcontractor very happy.
So, after adding all this area to the bedroom level, we crunched the numbers and found that the master bedrooms are 32% larger and the secondary bedrooms are 11% larger in phase two than phase one. While the walk-in closet naturally increased the master storage, we also grew the storage in the second bedroom by over 50%.
We kept the elements people liked from phase one: simple forms, interesting facade treatments and a cost-effective building design.
Phase two has three units and three door and window types, thus earning it the nickname 3X Homes, which is a spin-off of the 2X Homes concept of phase one. Construction on this phase will start in the fall of 2012 with construction completion scheduled for spring 2013.
Post by Michael Scott. Contributors to this post include Krystal Návar, Derek Leavitt and Christian Návar.
A while back, we posted about our design process for developing master suite floor plan options for the Cullen Street Small Lot Subdivision project. We presented 6 different layout options, but there were countless variations. Usually, on a project, we decide which layout to run with based on our own design preference and direction given to us by our client.
Our 14-home Commerce Villas Small Lot Subdivision project in Tujunga, however, presented a unique set of challenges. To lay out 14 homes on the site in the most efficient manner, taking into consideration setbacks, driveway widths, vehicle backup requirements, etc., each home ended up being a mere 15’-0” wide, measuring from the exterior face of the north wall to the exterior face of the south wall.
Site Plan of Commerce Villas project
The Cullen Street building footprints are generally square, whereas the Commerce Villas building footprints are long and skinny. So, unlike the Cullen homes, where there were many variations of floor plan layouts, the narrowness of the Commerce Villas homes limited our options. There are only so many ways to lay out a home like this, fitting in the programatic requirements given to us by the client: 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, outdoor decks/patios, and 2 covered parking spaces in 1200-1500 square feet.
First of all, the narrowness of the homes necessitates that the parking be tandem. (We can discuss the pros and cons of tandem parking all day long, but we’ll leave that to another blog post.) Also, we decided early on through discussions with the client that the living level (kitchen, dining room, living room, and powder room) would be located on the second level and the bedrooms and laundry located on the third level due to the age of the anticipated potential buyer. We expected this buyer would not want to haul their groceries up two flights of stairs. (Many times, though, on other projects, we will locate the living spaces on the upper level when the project is appealing to a younger demographic and the views from the upper level warrant being appreciated during daylight hours and not while you’re sleeping in bed.)
Early first floor plan
Early second floor plan
Early third floor plan
So, keeping these constraints in mind, after locating the parking in the footprint, there is only one space to locate the stair without having the stair separate the living spaces from the deck or yard space. Once the stair is located, the big decision is on which side of the home (east or west) to locate the kitchen or the living room. Should the kitchen have direct access to the deck (so the user doesn’t have very far to travel when bbq-ing) or should the living room? The client chose Option 2.
Option 1 showing the kitchen next to the deck. (See Option 2 above with living next to the deck.)
We also developed a second option for the bedroom level with a walk-in laundry room instead of a stacking washer/dryer in a laundry closet. Ultimately, we decided to locate the bathrooms next to one another so they could share a plumbing wall. The client also decided that a walk-in laundry room was not a priority.
Option 2 showing the kitchen next to the deck. (See Option 1 above.)
As we spent more time looking at the buildings three-dimensionally in our computer model, we tried ways to spice things up. We couldn’t do anything too crazy as keeping the cost of construction low was a priority. In an attempt to make the 6’-0” spaces between the buildings a more interesting space to occupy, we angled the exterior walls facing those gaps. However, because the walls could not be angled out to make the buildings greater than 15’-0” wide, the walls had to be angled in, making the already limited interior spaces smaller. When your home is only 15’-0” wide, every inch counts. Ultimately, we decided that the angled walls were not angled enough to be worth the effort (or implied cost), so we straightened them back out.
Second level floor plan showing angled walls
In the latest layouts, we did keep the angled walls on the front of the units in order to give the elevation a bit of shadow-play and interest. As you may have already noticed, we also staggered the building pairs. We did not want to present the street or the interior driveway with a flush wall of 3-story homes. Staggering the homes gives these elevations a bit of relief and creates a more interesting pedestrian experience.
Latest first floor plan
Latest second floor plan
Latest third floor plan
Post by Krystal Návar. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .
At the tail end of 2010, we realized that the worst of the recession was over for us. Things were getting better. New marketing leads were coming in and we needed to better manage them if we were to take full advantage of this potential increase in business.
As with most small architecture firms, the three principals split up the core roles of running the company. As a principal, one of my roles is marketing manager. So, as 2011 approached, I worked with Christian and Michael to come up with a system for managing leads coming into the office.
When it comes to lead generation, our office is a bit different than most architects in that about 90% of our leads come through our website. So, unlike many older offices that get high probability referral leads, we have to sort through significant noise in our web leads to find the valuable ones. This only increases our need to be more organized.
We began this process by generating two simple diagrams. The first diagram is a simple breakdown of how Modative acquires projects.
The basic idea in this diagram is that you get leads and filter them down to determine which ones become RFP (Request for Proposal) projects (a small win) and then, after proposals and contracts, which ones become real projects (a big win).
The second diagram describes our process of organizing and managing active leads.
Let's take a closer look at what each step entails.
Document and Assign Lead
1. Add Lead to Master List - This is a simple Excel spreadsheet (we use Numbers, a Mac program) that tracks the basics and is used to give incoming leads a number. Lead numbers begin with an "L" for "Lead" and the last two digits of the year, followed by three digits - L11-001. Here's a sample of the Master Lead List.
||First Contact Date
||W. LA Home
2. Create Lead Folder - Active leads are assigned to managers and the following folder structure is copied into the lead managers folder (on the server) and given the appropriate name - "L11-044 John Doe 06.12.11".
In the "Lead Log and Checklist" folder, there is a word processor file that is filled out with the same info from the Master Lead List and most often, a copy of the the web form data. Below that is a log for the lead manager to keep track of all correspondence with the lead.
3. Add Lead to Clothesline - If you missed last year's post on "The Clothesline", check it out to see one of the ways we stay organized. Similar to the Master Lead List, the lead info is added via permanent marker (old school, I know) to the Clothesline in the office for everyone to see.
As marketing manger, this provides me with a quick visual on how leads are progressing.
4. Email Lead Assignment to Manger - After the lead has been documented and assigned, we send out a simple email to the lead manager, letting them know that they now have an active lead.
Contact Lead & Follow-Up
1. Initial Lead Contact - It is the lead manager's job to contact the lead within 24 hours and log this contact in both the Lead Log and Clothesline. Most lead managers print out the Lead Log and hand write in the information while on the phone.
2. Lead Follow-up and Determination - After contacting the lead, it is the lead manager's job to determine whether the lead is "Dead", "Inactive" or has the potential to become an "RFP Project". If the lead has potential, the next step is often an in-person meeting. If that goes well, the project graduates to become an "RFP Project" when the potential client asks for a proposal.
3. Weekly Updates - At our regular Monday morning meetings, we review all active leads and managers give a quick update.
Does This Lead Management Process Work?
I'm sure for many, this process seems like overkill. There are several steps and many of them accomplish similar things. But for us, this system has created a series of checks and balances that has worked well versus the alternative of Post-it notes and haphazard internal conversations. No matter how you look at it, without proper lead management, we would be lucky to get any new projects. Besides, any aspect of running our office where we can be more efficient, only leaves us more time to better serve our existing clients.
What systems do you have in place at your office for lead management?
Post by Derek Leavitt. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Krystal Návar, and Michael Scott.
Derek and I recently spoke at a mobile workshop on LA's Small Lot Ordinance at the American Planning Association's (APA) National Conference in Los Angeles. At the conclusion of the workshop, we were asked, by an attendee of the workshop, a question about affordability (we like to use “attainability” because when people hear “affordability” they tend to only think of low-income housing). The attendee who asked the question turned out to be a City Council member from the capital city of a state, outside of California, with a population of over a million people (for the sake of privacy and the future of this person’s political career, the person and the city will remain nameless in this blog entry... for now).
At the conclusion of a very brief back-and-forth dialogue with the councilman, I offered an open invitation to discuss the issue in greater depth. I suggested modative help him figure out if the economics within his district warranted what we feel is one of the greatest city ordinances in the United States. He gave me his card and asked that I get in contact with him.
In today’s blog post, I would like to share with everyone my initial e-mail to the Council District representative in an attempt to follow up and get this innovative planning method and practice into another great city:
Hello [City Council member],
I hope the rest of your stay in Los Angeles and your travel back to [your city] was great! It was nice briefly meeting you on the APA Small Lot Subdivision tour. Thank you for joining us and I hope you enjoyed our brief presentation regarding a few of our Small Lot Subdivision projects.
Your question regarding "affordability" was a fantastic one and I would love the opportunity to discuss it further with you. Here, in our office, we utilize Small Lot Subdivision as a means to practice architecture and construction. However, our true passion lies in better understanding the economics involved in the ordinance's implementation.
Our goal is to develop these projects and provide an attainable housing alternative that will help stop the mass departure of our own friends from Los Angeles. All of us at Modative attended the University of Southern California. Our friends and colleagues from USC are now Architects, Engineers, Lawyers, Doctors, Professors, etc. Unfortunately, due to the high cost of housing in Los Angeles, homeownership is no longer attainable, even for those who practice in top-tier professional fields. Many of our closest friends can no longer afford to live in the city and state they grew up in. We are tired of attending going away parties for friends and family moving to more affordable cities like Portland, Austin, Denver, and Phoenix. We see the potential in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance to solve this problem.
Our involvement in the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance has been a great experience thus far. We have become experts in this ordinance and have ideas about how it could be modified to better achieve what it was originally intended to do. We are still firm believers in this housing alternative and think that, with a few small changes or by thinking a bit out of the box, we will soon be able to develop a housing stock that keeps L.A.'s professional class from migrating elsewhere.
From your website, I gather your city is experiencing some growth and you are very interested in future planning while providing opportunity that is mutually beneficial to your constituents and those looking for new possibilities. We believe [your city] would be a great place to adopt a similar ordinance and provide a better, attainable housing alternative. After an initial quick glance at your Planning and Zoning website, it looks like your [medium density residential 1] through [medium density residential 2] zones would be ideal zones in which to implement a Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.
Reviewing some aerial maps, I found a project at the termination of [This] St. and [That] St. that looks to be an approximately 15-unit residential project with "adjoining walls". This may have been a perfect opportunity to provide a "fee-simple" alternative to new home ownership (see below).
When are you available to talk more about the economics of this type of project? Please let me know when you are free to schedule a follow-up phone call. I look forward to talking to you soon.
Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access the guide we developed regarding developing small lot subdivision projects in Los Angeles.
Small Lot Subdivision Guide - Free Download
Here is a link to a page on our website where you can access useful documents from the City of Los Angeles pertaining to the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance.
Free Download of Small Lot Subdivision Information
On a side note, if you are a City Council member or city planner, have come across today’s blog post, and are interested in discussing or adopting a similar ordinance in your community, feel free to contact modative. We would be happy to help you draft a similar innovative planning policy or conduct a Small Lot Subdivision housing needs assessment for your city. It is possible to provide a creative “attainable” housing solution that will help create better living environments for you and your community.
For any developers, architects, or concerned citizens out there who feel there is inadequate attainable housing in your city, feel free to contact us as well. Or, use my letter above as inspiration to contact your own City Council or planning representative.
We will keep you updated on the Council District representative’s response!
Post by Christian Návar. Contributors to this post include Krystal Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott.