architecture blog

Modative in LA Planning Newsletter

Posted by Krystal Navar on Wed, Dec 10, 2014 @ 06:12 AM

During a recent trip to City Hall, I stumbled upon pLAnning, the quarterly newsletter of the LA City Planning Department. In this edition, Simon Pastucha, a City Planner with the Urban Design Studio, presents the City’s newly-issued Citywide Design Guidelines and Small Lot Design Guidelines. Both of the images included in the article are of Modative projects: The Cullen Street Art District Homes + Artis @ Echo Park!  

Modative contributed project images and participated in review sessions for the creation of the Small Lot Design Guidelines. In fact, both Cullen and Artis were featured on the cover. We are proud that two of our projects have been selected by the Urban Design Studio as being representative of thoughtfully-designed projects that contribute to the urban fabric of Los Angeles.

LA City Planning Newsletter Cullen Modative

Cullen on the front page of the newsletter 

LA City Planning Newsletter Artis Modative

Artis on the back page of the newsletter 

Modative has created our own Small Lot Subdivision Guide, a "how-to" for developers interested in Small Lot Subdivision. Check it out and contact us with any questions.

Tags: Residential, Development, Small Lot Subdivision, Modern Design, Housing, architecture resources, real estate, los angeles architects

Modative Featured in LA Times Article on Small Lot Subdivision

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Mon, Jul 15, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

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.

Los Angeles Times Small Lot Subdivsion Architect Modative

Sunday Los Angeles Times Front Page.

LA Times Small Lot Home Architects Modative

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 onlinehttp://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.

Tags: Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing, small homes, Small House, los angeles architects

Modative Featured by University of Southern California

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Oct 30, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

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 (& Krystal) all attended USC's School of Architectureand feel very honored to be featured in this piece by the University.

usc architecture firms modative resized 600

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.

Tags: Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Architectual Practice, Housing, Starting an architecture firm, los angeles architects, modern architecture firm

Small Lot Subdivision Branching Out of Los Angeles?

Posted by Christian Navar on Thu, Apr 26, 2012 @ 06:04 AM

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 AngelesAt 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). 


Small Lot Subdivision Illustration

 

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

Thanks,

-Christian

 

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.

Tags: Property, Residential, Development, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Subdivisions, Housing, los angeles architects, Planning

Modative Architecture Impacts Culver City Arts District

Posted by Krystal Navar on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 @ 06:10 AM

In our last post on the Roberts Avenue Residence, we took you through the schematic design process -- at least how our office goes about it.  If you remember, the client picked Scheme A, which consisted of a series of shifting bedroom boxes on the ground floor, visibly and audibly sheltered from the neighboring park. The living level and guest bedroom were located on the upper floor, taking full advantage of the views over the park and beyond to Baldwin Hills.

 

Los Angeles Residential Architect 

To refresh your memory, here’s an image of Scheme A during Schematic Design. 

 

You will see that the driving concept remains in the final design: quiet, spa-like spaces on the ground floor and open, airy spaces on the second floor. Although, there have been some adjustments. For instance, the guest bedroom and the master bedroom swapped locations. The client felt that the master bedroom, with it’s own private balcony on the second floor, would better benefit from the views. The bedroom volumes also shifted to alleviate the need for excessive steel structure to support unnecessary cantilevers. 

Los Angeles Residential Architect Floor Plan 

First Floor Plan


Culver City Residential Architect Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan


Culver City Modern Architect

Rendering

 

Los Angeles Modern Architect

Rendering 

 

We have submitted for permits and are now waiting to receive comments back from the City. Once that happens, and we make the necessary corrections, bidding begins. Construction is expected to start by January 2012. Look for more updates to come with photos of the construction process.  

But, before we part, this is the perfect time to introduce our next project. As many of you know, a happy client on one project can lead to a happy repeat client on a new project. Our client on the Roberts Avenue Residence recently purchased a property on Fay Avenue -- a mere 0.2 miles from our office -- on which he wants to build 4 small-lot homes. This property is in Los Angeles, so it can take advantage of Los Angeles’s Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance. I know! What a great fit for Modative! (If you’re not familiar with the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance in Los Angeles, click on the link and read up! It’s pretty cool (and, really, my only hope for brand-new home ownership in LA.) 

Small Lot Subdivision Architect

Fay Triangle Site Plan


Small Lot Subdivision Project 

Photo of Fay Triangle site taken from adjacent building


We are excited about this new project for two main reasons. First, we have been eyeing this triangle-shaped property for the entire five years our office has been in the area, long before it was even up for sale. (I was hoping it would somehow be left to me in someone’s will, but that would have been highly unlikely.) Second, this property is only four properties down from our Fay 2x Homes project. To have so many projects located within a mile radius of one another (in our own neighborhood, nonetheless!) has been really special. We have the rare opportunity to inject this area with thoughtful, modern design. (Check out our other projects in the area: Cullen St. Homes, Fay 2x Homes, Roberts Avenue Residence, Venice Urban Dwellings.) Stay tuned for updates on this new project we’re calling Fay Triangle


Culver City Arts District Project Map

Map of Modative projects in our neighborhood

Post by Krystal Návar. Contributors to this post include Christian Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .

Tags: Residential, Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Modern Design, Architectual Practice, Architecture portfolio, Housing, real estate, los angeles architects, culver city

Modative Architecture Wins Homeless Housing Development Competition

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 @ 14:06 PM

If you've been following along with us here over the last few weeks, you've surely noticed that we've been bashing open architecture competitions and even suggesting alternatives to these time wasters.

So you may find it a bit hypocritical that today I'm announcing that we won a competition. That is, until you note the following differences between this competition and a typical open architecture competition.

Not Just an Architecture Competition

The competition we entered was through the Urban Land Institute (ULI)  to develop housing for the chronically homeless. As I posted back in April, it was a team development competition consisting of other young real estate and social work professionals. Architecture was only a piece of the proposal. Our team had to find a property, create a program, design a project, determine the services offered, and develop a detailed pro forma of how the project would be financed. The process simulated a real project compressed into six weeks.

homeless housing los angelesThe site we selected in Glendale.

 

The Competition Wasn't Open

Our team had to apply in order to get accepted to participate. There were only five teams competing.

homeless housing glendale ca

We even got to make our own cool logo. We were called Team HETED (Homeless Empowerment Through Efficient Development)

 

Collaboration

Each team was assigned a city to work with in Los Angeles County: Pasadena, Whittier, East Dominguez Hills, Long Beach and our sponsor city, Glendale. We also worked closely with homeless non-profit advocates and developers, Path Achieve Glendale and Path Ventures. The city and these organizations acted like our clients. By working with them we got to make real connections. Connections that could lead to future work.

homeless housing bungalows los angeles

The project concept is a hybrid of preservation of 1920's bungalows and modern intervention of adding new elements to bring the project up to code and provide services for the residents.

 

Team Aspect

Our team really enjoyed working with each other on this. I think we will collaborate again on future projects.

Exposure

The Urban Land Institute is a diverse organization. It reaches all types of real estate professionals. We prefer this type of exposure over showcasing our work to a bunch of fellow architects.

homeless housing competition win

 

Pro Bono

This competition was our launch into pro bono work. We spent 130 hours working on this competition. This gives us a real gauge as to the level of commitment required to do future pro bono projects. We already have an idea for our next pro bono project. It won't be through a competition.

permanent supportive housing

Overall view of the project

 

Whether or not you buy our arguments for entering this competition, I encourage you to check out our winning proposal. You can also view our online press release.

 

What do you think of our proposal?

Tags: Residential, Los Angeles, Multi Family Housing, Affordable Housing, Architecture Experience, Architecture portfolio, Housing, Architecture Competitions, Homeless Housing

Modative Architecture Joins Homeless Housing Competition Team

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Apr 27, 2010 @ 09:04 AM

We're big believers in incorporating personality and creativity into our professional brand. In our Rethink Your Resume guide, we encouraged integration of personal interests and photos into professional resumes.

But a resume is just one step in a career. There are so many opportunities to use this strategy.

Once such opportunity was our recent team application to participate in the Urban Land Institute's 1,000 Homes Competition for Housing the Chronically Homeless in LA County.

This annual development competition asks young professionals with different backgrounds to form teams of four to eight members and submit a group application. From those applications, the judges  select five teams to participate in the competition.

Our team, called Team HETED (Homeless Empowerment Through Efficient Development), consists of five members with a variety of experience in development, construction, real estate finance, social work, and architecture. While we were confident in our chances of being selected based on our backgrounds (resumes were part of the application), we took no chances and got creative and personal with our statement of interest.

Instead of the typical, bland, corporate sounding group statement, we split our statement of interest into short blurbs about our individual personal interest in entering this competition. Our statements also include our role on the team, education background, and a small picture.

Here's a sampling of our statement of interest page for the competition application, reformated for this post:

1,000 homes homeless housing competition

Team HETED homeless housing competition
The decision to enter this competition is very personal for each member of Team HETED. While our goal is to combine our skills to create an innovative solution for the homelessness issue in Los Angeles, we feel compelled to share our individual motivations for entering this competition.
Jed Tarr Developer
Jed Tarr  Development + Project Feasibility
William Warren Group
Development Associate

Arizona State, B.A. Economics + Real Estate, 2007
I think this competition will be a great exercise and experience working together as a team and with the various city agencies to confront a serious issue that not only affects city budgets but more importantly people’s lives.  I personally expect this program to inspire my career as a developer, to include non-profit and low-income projects. I bring to the team experience in overall development, including project feasibility & management.
 
Connor Humphreys Finance
Connor Humphreys  Finance
Budget Finance Co.
Director of Acquisitions

Emory University, B.A. Sociology, 2006
This competition provides a chance for me to expand on the real estate related community work I have been involved with in Los Angeles. The competition will allow me to use my expertise and experience in order to provide a valuable service to a section of the community that often goes overlooked. Through my work in residential mortgage finance, I have been involved in efforts to provide counseling and housing solutions to Los Angeles communities that have been hardest hit by the recent wave foreclosures stemming from the mortgage crisis. I have done extensive work building financial models and projections related to real estate and mortgage investments. I hope to bring this skill set to my team to strengthen our project through building a solid financing foundation for our development. I am excited at the opportunity to work with other young professionals across different professional disciplines to bring positive change to the problem of homelessness in the Los Angeles area. I think that the wide array of expertise that each member of my team brings to the table will allow us to create a strong, comprehensive plan that will not only provide shelter for the homeless, but will provide empowerment for members of the community who have, in many cases, been forgotten.
 
Laura Leavitt Social Work
Laura Leavitt, MSW  Social Work
Columbia University School of Social Work, Masters of Social Work, 2009
                                                      
Kenyon College, B.A. Psychology, 2005
With over five years of experience as an advocate for disadvantaged communities, I have seen the life changing effects of providing housing and social services to individuals and families in need. For the homeless, housing does not simply imply having a roof over one’s head.  Housing means safety, health, community, job productivity, educational opportunity, and most of all, hope. With the same vigor that I organized a nationally recognized campaign against homelessness for survivors of domestic violence, I will use my skills in program development and community outreach to establish an innovative, comprehensive and sustainable program that will change the lives of the homeless community in Los Angeles.  My complex understanding of homelessness will strengthen our inspired multidisciplinary team and help guide the project towards a model that is both relevant and tangible, as well as effective and efficient.

derek leavitt architecture
Derek Leavitt, AIA  Architecture + Development
Modative, Inc.
Principal + Founder

University of Southern California, B.Arch + Minor Business, 2000
I love being an architect, but often feel that something is missing from my professional life. My industry is primarily geared towards designing buildings for the wealthiest sector of our population. One of the reasons I became an architect was to use design to make a difference in the lives of people whom need my help the most. This competition is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for to use my design and development skills to assist both the people that lack the basic human need of shelter and the communities that seek creative solutions to homeless issues. I am enthusiastic about the diverse skills of Laura (my sister), Jed, and Connor and our ability to create an innovative and appropriate concept for the competition.
 

Our fifth team member, Idalia Santos, was added to our team after this original application was submitted. Her knowledge of development and construction combined with her passion for homeless issues makes her a highly valuable part of our team.

Going creative and personal can be difficult. The easier approach is to play it safe and go with what's been done before. However, for Team HETED, the creative route worked as we were selected as one of the five teams to participate in the competition. Our team is now  partnered up with the City of Glendale and Path Achieve Glendale and over the next six weeks we will develop a proposal for a permanent supportive housing project in Glendale.

 

What are your thoughts on professional applications?

 

 

Tags: Announcements, Innovation, Communication, Affordable Housing, Housing, Inspiration, Architecture Competitions, Homeless Housing

Small Home Sizes

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 @ 11:06 AM

Our last post about the advantages of small homes got me thinking,  what really constitutes a small home? What is the size cutoff for a home to be considered small?

LEED for Homes (the industry standard for green homes) quantifies this well. Before you can even begin counting points for certification, your level is adjusted according to the size of your home. The smaller your home, the easier it is to get certified.

The chart below shows the home sizes they consider to be "neutral". If your home is larger than the "neutral" size, you're penalized; smaller, you're rewarded.

 

LEED for Homes Rating System

Threshold Adjustment Equation - "neutral" home sizes

 1 Bedroom
2 Bedrooms 3 Bedrooms
4 Bedrooms  5 Bedrooms
 900 sq. ft.
 1,400 sq. ft. 1,900 sq. ft. 2,600 sq. ft. 2,850 sq. ft.

 

I was relieved that my 1,400 sq. ft. two-bedroom townhouse falls directly into the "neutral" home size threshold. How does your home stack up?

 

The following is the full chart as it is found in the LEED Homes Rating System.

small home sizes

Tags: Housing, architecture resources, small homes, home size, LEED, green homes

Small Lot Project Added

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Sun, Jan 11, 2009 @ 10:01 AM

The Fay Ave. Art District Dwellings small lot subdivision project has been added to the projects section of our website. This project is currently in the tract map process in the City of Los Angeles. The design for these seven homes is inspired by the growing art district in the project's surrounding area.


Tags: Los Angeles, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing, Fay Ave Art District dwellings

Small Lot Subdivision Info

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Thu, Jan 8, 2009 @ 09:01 AM

We have recently added a few pages of dedicated Small Lot Subdivision Information to our site.

Small Lot Subdivision is an ordinance in the City of Los Angeles that allows you to subdivide lots into small residential parcels (as small as 600 sq. ft.) for the purposes of devloping fee simple housing (meaning you own the land your home sits on verses a condo where it is tied into a home owners association.)

The new Small Lot Subdivision section also shows the small lot projects our office is working on.

If you have any questions about Small Lot Subdivision, please don't hesitate to contact Modative. The code is a bit tricky and we feel that we have learned a lot about its intricacies by going through the process on a few projects.

Tags: Innovation, Los Angeles, Multi Family Housing, Small Lot Subdivision, Housing