Nearly four decades after developers first began dreaming up plans for an idyllic L.A. community near the beach called Playa Vista, construction there has begun in earnest on its second and final phase.
Thousands of homes are in early stages of construction, with the sales effort for the master-planned community, which is nestled between Westchester and Marina del Rey, slated to begin later this month. The mix of single-family homes, condominiums, apartments and senior living facilities, will bring an additional 2,800 residential units to Playa Vista. The majority of the first phase, with 3,100 units, was completed six years ago.
Canadian homebuilder Brookfield Residential Properties Inc., which in 2012 bought Playa Vista developer Playa Capital Co. for about $250 million, will build two of six total for-sale communities. One, called Trevion, will offer the largest and most expensive options in Playa Vista, with a series of two- and three-story detached homes with small private yards and two-car garages. The other, dubbed Camden, will offer the smallest and least expensive floor plans in a series of sixplex condominium buildings, also with private two-car garages.
While Brookfield Residential has held on to some parcels, it has sold off pieces of the sprawling site, once owned by Howard Hughes, to KB Home of Westwood, Irvine Co. and Tri Pointe Homes of Irvine, Lincoln Property Co. of Dallas and the Los Angeles Jewish Home of Reseda, all of which have begun developments.
Marc Huffman, vice president of planning and entitlements for Brookfield Residential, said the homes are a necessary component of the overall plan for Playa Vista, which aims to provide residents a unified live-work community. Covering roughly two-thirds of the site’s developable area, the nearly 6,000 homes will complement approximately 3 million square feet of office space already built at the east end of the project, including the Hercules Campus and the Bluffs at Playa Vista. Those Class A office campuses have become home to technology companies such as YouTube, Facebook and Belkin. And so many ad agencies have moved into the area that people are beginning to refer to it as a mini-Madison Avenue, as reported in the Business Journal’s Jan. 6 issue. Employees at those companies are squarely in developers’ sights.
“West L.A. is very jobs rich; you’ve got something like three jobs for every housing unit out here,” Huffman said. “People who want to live closer to where they work can’t, so we’re making that possible.”
Efforts to develop Playa Vista on what was then the largest undeveloped plot of land in the city of Los Angeles began in 1978, just two years after Hughes’ death. The 1,076-acre expanse of oceanside property, largely grassy wetlands, was where Hughes built his aerospace empire, including the legendary Spruce Goose jumbo jet.
In the years that followed, the site passed through the hands of a series of developers, from Maguire Thomas Partners to Playa Capital – a venture of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and Oaktree Capital headed by current Los Angeles Police Commission President Steve Soboroff – which was sold in 2012 to Brookfield. Previous owners’ plans were stymied by both poor economic times as well as lawsuits and protests by environmentalists who worried about wildlife, native tribes who worried about ancient burial sites and residents who worried about traffic, to name a few.
Construction on Playa Vista’s Phase 1 finally began in 2001 and the majority was completed in 2008. Six years later, Phase 2 is under way.
Alison Banks, marketing director for Brookfield Residential, said plans for the second wave of homes to be built in Playa Vista evolved over the years as the development company recognized that the community was changing. The first wave of residents to move into Playa Vista largely consisted of single people, childless couples and empty-nesters. Now, the wide sweeping streets are dotted with parents pushing young children in strollers.
“When people first moved in here, they had dogs, but most didn’t have kids,” she said. “But we’ve had a baby boom here over the last five years and now there are families on their third child.”
While housing options in Phase 1 included smaller one- and two-bedroom condominiums, apartments and homes, Phase 2 will put more emphasis on detached single-family homes with three- and four-bedrooms.
With options coming in at less than $590 a square foot, the housing in the latest phase will be above Los Angeles County’s median price but still below that of most nearby Westside communities.
The smallest, least expensive single-family option, in a residential development by Tri Pointe called Woodson, will start around $1.2 million, or about $561 a square foot. The smallest and least expensive condo option, in Brookfield Residential’s Camden project, will start around $950,000, or about $593 a square foot.
By comparison, in Venice, a hot Silicon Beach market a short jaunt north of Playa Vista, the median square-foot price of the 27 single-family homes sold in December was $955; the median square-foot price of the three condominiums sold in that period was $613, according to Seattle brokerage services firm Redfin. In Westchester, which borders Playa Vista to the south, home prices are significantly lower. The median square-foot price of 26 single-family homes sold there in December was about $489, with the median square-foot price of six condominiums about $305.
Banks said Playa Vista offers an independent small-town feel neighboring communities might lack. In addition to having its own ZIP code, Playa Vista has its own school, fire station, parks and a free shuttle service to and from the beach. Furthermore, Lincoln Property is expected to open Runway, a 220,000-square-foot retail center with a Whole Foods, a nine-screen Cineplex movie theater and at last five restaurants, before the end of the year.
“In the morning you can see hundreds of little kids streaming across the street to the school with their mom and dad on their little scooters, which they just lean up against the bike rack without even locking it,” she said. “We’re in the city, yet we’ve got sweet, small-town charms.”
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