Will L.A. Become Another Manhattan?

Candy Spelling’s decision to “downsize” from her 56,500-foot Holmby Hills estate to a new, two-story penthouse condo in The Century, the luxury-condo high-rise under construction in Century City, has piqued the interest of The New York Times. Its story, “Downsizing in Los Angeles,” wonders if condo living is becoming a trend among well-off Angelinos seeking a simpler lifestyle.the-century.jpg

Los Angeles is becoming a more vertical area at all income levels as land for development becomes less plentiful and traffic congestion, and now high gas prices, steer more people to cluster around mass transit stations and more community-like sections, like downtown and West Los Angeles, said Delores A. Conway, director of the Casden Real Estate Economics Forecast at the University of Southern California. For 2006 and 2007 in Los Angeles County, condos sold better than single family homes, even as the market was dipping, real estate data shows, although sales above $5 million are still few. Last year, 59 percent of new home sales were condos.

The article says that the bad economy has not affected the ultra-luxury real estate market. At Candy Spelling’s soon-to-be home, The Century (pictured; photo is from the L.A. Times), half of the units have already sold, even though the building won’t be ready for more than a year. Prices range from $3.5 million to $29 million. So far, buyers are mostly locals, according to the story.

At least six projects are going up on the west side between Beverly Hills and Santa Monica alone, including hotels with a residential component. The Montage Hotel Beverly Hills, opening later this year, has 20 condos with hotel services, for $9 million to $32 million.

What’s the draw? Here’s what Robert A.M. Stern, architect of The Century, believes:

Mr. Stern…said wealthy Angelenos were ready for apartment living as long as they got “that outdoor-indoor type of living.” He said Californians, unlike New Yorkers, felt entitled to space, light and fresh air, which he translated into spacious rooms and big balconies.

“People are ready to live in a more urban way,” Mr. Stern said. “They’re sick of driving everywhere.”

Believe it or not, Candy Spelling’s $2,848 per square foot for her condo — a record for L.A. — would be a bargain in New York City, where the most sought-after units can go for thousands more, the story said. But the jury is still out as to how many ultra-luxury condos L.A. can handle.

“The premium condo market is unproven in Los Angeles,” said Paul Habibi, a developer who also lectures in real estate at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Amenities are certainly a draw, but are they any better than what they already have?”

The thought of more condos on the Westside brings to mind one word: gridlock. These condo owners won’t be riding the bus, or even walking: They’ll be driving, despite what Mr. Stern says. Maybe they should be required to contribute a few mil to a road-improvement fund.

  • Doris

    A major earthquake a la Northridge will cure this insanity to build up in an quake prone area.

    Yes, LA will become like NYC as it relates to worsening traffic and ridiculous home prices but the similarities end there. NYers are rude, LA people are cool.

  • SoCalJim

    If you have ever lived anywhere else besides suburbia LA, you will know the answer is most certainly: no. Apples and oranges. No pun intended. If you have doubts, live in NYC for a year, and you will know how “easy” it is to live in this LAnd of endless shopping malls and freeways, and you will return to LA crying b/c your wallet is empty. But then again, just a perspective from someone who has lived in many different parts of the country and can tell you that LA is not even close to, and will never be, NYC. Simply no comparison, except for traffic, bad public schools, etc., which are issues in every other major city and, therefore, are not really relevant in the comparison. LA people are too “sensitive” and, quite frankly, not very cultured, and NYC people tell you how it is (maybe it is honest, maybe it is rude…), or maybe it is the LA sensitivities that can’t handle the truth. Who knows… Disclaimer: I am not from NYC.