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Apartments we love: the Los Altos

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The Los Altos was built in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst for his mistress, actress Marion Davies, who of course got the penthouse apartment. Once glamorous, it is rumored to also have been home to starlets Clara Bow, Judy Garland and Bette Davis. But the Los Altos, like so many other grand buildings on Wilshire Blvd, fell on hard times. Some sources say it started to go to seed during the Depression (although Judy was 17 in 1939, when the Depression officially ended. Maybe she lived there with her mom). In any event, by the time of the LA unrest/riots in 1992, the Los Altos was a wreck: outdated electrical and plumbing systems, a failing roof, and a hole, they say, that went clear from the 5th floor through to the lobby.

In a feat of superhuman strength, a nonprofit was formed to save the Los Altos apartments. Called Neighborhood Effort, it wrangled millions of dollars from the city redevelopment agency and foundations to restore the Los Altos. The result is a meticulously repaired and lovingly maintained (from what we can tell) classic Los Angeles Spanish revival apartment building, with a cool sign to boot. The only catch? The funds were made available so the Los Altos would be a mixed-income residence. About 40 percent of the 69 apartments will always be rented, at greatly reduced rates, to individuals and families whose incomes are only half of the area's median income. The rest are rented at the going market rate to anybody who can afford to pay.

Well, not exactly anybody. We love the mixed-income idea, see, and apparently we're not the only ones. A couple years ago, when we were looking for a place, we called to find out if they had anything available. We qualified for a market rate apartment, they said, but we'd have to go on a waiting list. There was a pause on the phone as the manager scrabbled through some papers; turns out he could put us down as #72. We're still waiting.

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More pictures of the Los Altos apartments are here on Flickr.