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Real Estate newsletter: Downtown L.A.’s coolest hotel room

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, where the week’s top story isn’t about what you can buy, but what you can rent — assuming you have $10,000 to drop on a hotel room.

That’s the single-night price of the prized suite in the new Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel. The historic 1920s building has been relaunched as a luxury hotel, and the crown jewel is a 2,777-square-foot suite complete with its own indoor swimming pool. The sprawling space is bigger than the average single-family home, and the 35-foot pool is bigger than the communal one up on the roof.

Let’s not linger too long on luxury news because The Times published two great stories this week on affordable housing. The first takes a look at Article 34, California’s barrier to affordable housing that requires cities to get voter approval before they build “low-rent housing” funded with public dollars. It’s been tough to kill; lawmakers have tried to remove or weaken the article three times, but all the efforts were defeated at the ballot box.

The second story looks on the brighter side, as a cabin village for homeless mothers is on the way in San Diego County. The development was passed two years ago and construction began last month. Activists are hoping it can serve as a model for alternative options to homeless shelters.

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Another suite has a enough room and height to play basketball — because it used to be a basketball court, back when the Renaissance Revival-style tower on Broadway was a private club for the city’s business elite that included athletic facilities, fine dining and rooms for overnight stays.

The building, completed in 1926 as the Commercial Club, has regained those elements after changing a lot over the years, usually not for the better. Now it’s owned by a Santa Monica company that specializes in large-scale makeovers of historic properties to create uncommon inns for travelers weary or wary of upmarket chain hotels.

“We call it a looser kind of luxury,” said Brian De Lowe, president of Proper Hospitality. “It’s our unique take” on deluxe urban hotels.

But it has been difficult for California to repeal Article 34, a state constitutional provision that requires cities to get voter approval before they build “low-rent housing” funded with public dollars.

No other state constitution similarly requires voter approval for public housing, according to the California Constitution Center at the UC Berkeley School of Law. Earlier attempts to repeal or weaken the provision faltered, and now a plan for seeing its repeal this year might be delayed.

“We’ve been working so hard for so many years, and now we’re here,” said Lisa Kogan, treasurer of Amikas, a nonprofit that has organized the construction next to Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon. “And we’re going to do it.”

Amikas was formed in 2009 with a mission of housing women, children and female veterans, and in the last five years it has advocated for using cabins to provide a safe and secure shelter for homeless people who otherwise may be living on sidewalks and in canyons.

Then two years ago, Steve Goble brought the idea before his fellow El Cajon City Council members after seeing a demonstration cabin Amikas had built at Meridian Baptist Church a year earlier. Council members in August 2020 unanimously approved a pilot program through December 2023 that would add five more cabins, plus one for security.

Joyce Rey
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