Photo: Small House Swallowed By Bigger Development In Echo Park

Here's a photo that tells an increasingly common story about development in Los Angeles: new developments that take up almost their entire lots are going up in residential neighborhoods all around town. Whether it's McMansions in wealthier hoods or "small lot" developments in denser hoods, neighbors are complaining that these new buildings are out-of-proportion with the neighborhood and look kind of funny. This recent photo from Echo Park—taken near the intersection of Echo Park Avenue and Morton Avenue—shows that they kind of have a point.

The development pictured above is a new gated community called Morton Village. The photo was sent to us by a tipster who says the older home is a rent-controlled building with two units that is now butting up within five to 10 feet of the new homes on two sides. Morton Village is now advertising 15 single-family residences and 3 bungalows starting in the low $800Ks. Each home has its own rooftop patio (which, can't lie, looks kind of sweet). The website says these homes offer amenities that those cute historic homes that dot Echo Park don't: "This gated community of 2 and 3 bedroom contemporary style residences are brand new, giving homeowners all the benefits that come with today’s energy-efficient, environmentally friendly technologies that just aren’t found in decades old cottages."

Los Angeles passed a small-lot ordinance back in 2004 that allowed developers to build narrow homes like these—these developments are denser than the typical type of single-family homes but not quite as dense as apartments or condos. They're nice for people who don't want yardwork or spendy fees. Unlike condos, none of the homes share walls. So where there once was a lot housing a single Craftsman, you'll soon find four new homes.

Policy-makers say that developments like these are necessary to offer more housing in a city that is running out of housing (particularly of the affordable variety).

Some residents in Echo Park, Elysian Park and Silver Lake say that they're also concerned about some of the so-called "small lot" developments ruining the character of their hoods. Some of the critics are clearly uncomfortable with denser developments. But other critics say they're not NIMBYs who are opposed to anything new, but aesthetes who wish their new neighbors didn't look so boxy and out of place. One petition complains, "We are not against development. We are for well-designed projects that blend with our neighborhoods to produce new housing opportunities for a range of residents."

That same block of Morton Avenue is slated for more small lots. The Eastside LA reports that a smaller home built in the 1920s and purchased for $612,000 last year will be demolished and carved up into three separate lots. Rob Anderson, who is with the developer Rocking Horse LLC, told The Eastsider that his development will do a better job taking its cues from the surrounding community:

Some of these projects are out of place in the neighborhoods they’ve been built in. As an eight year resident of Echo Park (literally steps from 1625 Morton Ave) I’ve watched how a lot of these projects have come together. Some are just plain misfits. That aside, our project will integrate well with the surrounding properties.

KCET did a nice overview of the issues springing up around small lot developments: