28/01/10 – Los Angeles – Townhomes

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Visit the Nominees for the Slowest townhouse in Los Angeles

Slow Test Results (PDF)
1200 Sweetzer, – Unit 08
Pier Point – Unit #501R
Rock Row – 
Unit 7C

  • Vickie

    Good morning John and Matthew.
    I tried to vote, but I am unable to make the selection. Is there something missing?

  • Paulina

    I like Rock Row! While all three plans were highly livable, I looked closely at other factors that weren’t readily apparent. Rock Row was a bus stop immediately adjacent, 2 doors down. Also, walking around in the area is easy since it’s not too hilly (I used the google street view). It is situated equally distant between downtown LA, Glendale and Pasadena – so that if it were my house I’d have a choice of workplaces within a 15 minute drive (barring traffic of course). I really like the fact that this is a LEED project, and that the density of the area and building aren’t too high. I think that 1200 Sweetzer’s price tag is inflated by its location, which is of course much better (and more walkable) that Rock Row’s, it is also twice the price of Rock Row.
    This was fun! thanks!

  • Matthew North

    Hi Vickie,

    Thanks for the note about the vote function not working. Our webmaster had a look at it and it should be operational now – can you try again? Let us know if you are still having problems.

  • Matthew North

    Hi Paulina,

    Your comment about the price is really important – I agree with you 100% as the Sweetzer project is right smack in the middle of West Hollywood so there is a real premium on the property. I am curious to know if other Slow Home viewers would be willing to trade off the location to be able to afford a great and well designed unit?

  • BradW


    I think location trumps everything. Unlike location, properties can be renovated.

    I agree with Paulina and also voted for Rock Row. We can argue about whether the project at 1200 Sweetzer is over-priced (it is) but that is beside the point. For me, the Sweetzer project like many other boutique infills are very appealing but are difficult to define as apartment/loft or townhouse. But forced to choose, I really think Sweetzer is more appartment/loft than townhouse.

  • Doug Roberts

    I am having a lot of trouble deciding how, or if, to vote, as I don’t really like any of the 3 finalists.

    Sweetzer — not much of an entry, powder room door swing is horrible, outdoor living area off living room is awkward to access and too small, wasted space in front of the stairs on both floors, master bedroom is too large, laundry room is too small, rooftop terrace is a nice size but is too removed from the living area to be of much use, etc.. I can’t even figure out how you get to the rooftop terrace, as the bedroom floor only appears to have one staircase leading down to the living floor.

    Pier Point — den on first floor is only proposed or optional, without den both entries simply dump you into a large amorphous space with no closets, with den both entries dump you into a jagged hallway with no closets and little natural light, huge amount of space is wasted on the second floor by stairs that do not overlap and across the front of all of those stairs, living room would be difficult to furnish with jog in exterior wall and intruding stair railing next to fireplace, location of fireplace would make it difficult to use as the focus of the living room, angled door to bedroom 2 makes its closet too small, windows in master bedroom and bedroom 3 are way too small, etc.

    Rock Row — On the first floor the entry is too narrow with no closet, the garage is too narrow and too intruded upon by the stairway leading up to the second floor (hopefully you could at least tuck the nose of the car under the stairs), the laundry closet is too small, the only possible bed location blocks your path to the bathroom and closet and does not have enough room for a night table on both sides of the bed, the closet is way way too big, the second closet in the bathroom is unnecessary, etc. The second floor is okay, but not much of a connection between the living room and the kitchen. On the third floor the master bedroom is way way too big.

    I would not have given any of these units a score anywhere close to 19.

  • Matthew North


    I agree that in the new reality, location trumps everything. I also think the Rock Row is a great project and is more accurately a town house than the Sweetzer project. I am playing a little bit of the “Devil’s Advocate” (hoping to generate some discussion) because the Rock Row project is more affordable (hence it is sold out) but still in a location that will require a drive to work for most people. Given Los Angeles traffic, the commuting time could be variable and I think could result in vehicle use of more than 30 minutes a day which was our cut off for Slow Home. Thoughts?

  • BradW


    Who is to say you would use your vehicle less if you lived at Sweetzer or Pier Point? If you could afford Sweetzer, you could probably afford a luxury car and all the associated operating costs. Right? Maybe at Rock Row all you could afford is an economy car and a bus pass.

  • BradW
  • BradW
  • BradW

    and, to be fair, Rock Row (caution some of the referenced comments are salty)


  • BradW

    The purpose of the above comments is not to influence voting but simply to give a local LA perspective. The comments focus largely on affordability and reflect individual bias for location.

  • BradW

    One last thing, the new architects at Latitude 33 (formerly Pier Pointe) are the KAA Design Group. Really excellent portfolio – for example http://www.kaadesigngroup.com/portfolio/architecture/residential/1-residential/801-18th-walkstreet

  • BradW
  • Vickie

    Why I didn’t vote for-
    Pier Point – too awkward to furnish in living room and don’t like the ‘optional’ den.
    Sweetzer was near winning, but the outdoor living space by Rock Row was much better.

    so my vote went to Rock Row.
    Although I agree with Dough Roberts about entry being long narrow without closet, garage a bit narrow, and first floor closet too big, I think having access to an outdoor space on each floor trumps the above. I find it important to access and enjoy an outdoor (semi private) space from home.

    I also like the circulation – having direct access from kitchen into outdoor space, and the connection between the living room and outdoor (well sized) living space on the second floor. You could be sharing both spaces at once. Everything else is fairly obvious – good bathrooms, a lot of kitchen working space, lots of natural light…

  • Molly K

    I couldn’t agree more with Doug’s comments. I found everything he mentioned in the three plans, even before reading his reply.

    Having said that I chose the Sweetzer unit because it had the best use of windows for natural light especially in the dead spaces on the landing in front of the stairs. Every room had a window. It also was the only one to offer a powder room on the living/dining floor. Yes, the door swing is horrible, especially when you realize that the tiolet and sink plumbing could have been reconfigured to join up with plumbing from the bathroom on the floor above, thus, allowing for a different swing on the door. I thought Sweetzer also edged out the others with better overall circulation. Several rooms in the other plans seemed too big to me which means wasted space. The only room that really stood out to me from either of the other plans was the laundry room at Pier Point–it had good room considering the square footage in townhouses.

    With respect to cost I am a die-hard for affordable housing. Yet, at this time there is no criteria to address this issue. If I could campaign for an additional scoring category I would push for a green or energy-efficient category which would investigate the use of energy-efficient appliances, insulation, low-E windows, updated HVAC units, tankless water heaters,etc. in residential housing.

  • Paulina

    I just checked out orangeopolis’ late post of Los Feliz tacked onto the end of the day 2 page. Since the two units posted also managed a 19/20, I wonder what Doug thinks of those units and why we aren’t including them as an option in the vote?

  • Louis Pereira

    In this case, location is the utmost important factor to me in choosing the slowest home. For the same reason our family chooses and pays more for organic produce over factory farmed processed corn products, we personally paid a premium for an infill lot that was close to amenities, work and school, knowing that this would improve our daily living tremendously.

    I like the Rock Row project for their emphasis on LEED practices and their ‘smart growth’ initiatives. However, if it’s necessary to drive any place you need to go, doesn’t this negate every effort you’ve made to improve the built environment?…

    I would lean either to the Sweetzer or Pier Pointe projects. I commend both Sweetzer and Pier Pointe for setting aside a portion to emphasize architecture and design, but Pointe loses a point (no pun intended) for using the ‘e’ word (exclusivity), which sounds either elitist or the buyer must meet a certain type of criteria to live there…

    So that narrows it down to Sweetzer. Although, it may be considered ‘over-priced’ by some, it is located within a very walkable neighbourhood, which means walking for most of your daily needs or shopping locally. It also sounds like it is within a ‘mixed income’ neighbourhood which is where i would prefer to live.

    With all that said, i also agree with Doug and would not have given any of these units a score of 19.

  • Laura K


    Townhome floorplan revise

  • BradW

    Can I change my vote to none of the above?

    Pier Pointe – by far the best location, come on who would not want to live near the beach in LA but comparatively poor design

    Rock Row – location is suburban, nothing to get excited about but townhouse design is the best of the three – most affordable but that reflects the location

    Sweetzer – location is walkable, the design is OK but it is not really a townhouse – nice roof deck

    I agree that all are overrated.

  • Molly K

    I’ve been thinking about floor plans with more windows vs. actual outdoors spaces since reading some of the comments.

    Can anyone tell me about the air quality of Los Angeles? What about smog? Is it more concentrated in certain areas or worse during certain times of the day? Would you take that into consideration when scoring a floor plan with more windows and less outdoor spaces? Does it make a difference? I don’t know because I don’t live there.

    When scoring the Orientation of a house we often consider not just the actual direction (north, south, etc.) the house faces but also the climate with regards to the sun. For example, sun exposure on the west side of a Toronto home is different from the same sun exposure at a Miami home. Would air quality influence any scoring?

  • Terri

    I was leaning towards Rock Row after looking at the three plans (and not hearing John’s discussion of them–my computer is painfully sllooowww, which gives “Slow Home” a new meaning).

    I like Rock Row’s access to the outdoors, and it has less wasted space where the staircases start and end. But as John talked about the upstairs bathroom, I realized that the second door was there for daily use, since the other two are located well within a bedroom.

    So Sweetzer’s inclusion of a powder room on the main floor clinched it for me– someone whose knees are now rebelling from earlier abuse.

  • Mid America Mom

    I am disappointed on these units.

    1. Each of these looks to be an end unit. I noted the other day we all seemed to like the end ones. Those units tend to be rare in a development, have more access to light, and cost more.

    2. The real challenge to the architect is the inner units for multifamily dwellings. How they address the light. Looks like the need for symmetry (be it for marketing, building cost of footprint, or current design fad) is a hindrance to a home being SLOW. There needs to be more consideration on light and orientation in regards to a particular unit. I liked seeing some of these smaller developments tackle that issue head on.

    3. We needed more variety in the living space. Each of these nominees had the living space cut in the middle with a stair. I had a hard time keeping track which unit was which.

  • Mid America Mom

    As for who got my vote- it was Pier Point.

    I found it admirable that they were able to fit 3 bedrooms and a den/bath in that footage and have a decent size living space. I do have issues with it (space in front of the switchback on living what are we to put there?, master window, etc).

  • Paul Peters

    I seemed to favour the Pier Point design the most. Possibly because of its proximity to Venice Beach. Of the 3 units being voted for, my favourite floor was the top floor design of the Pier Point. It was a very effective use of space and arrangement. The only thing that bothered me about this unit was the position of the fireplace in the living room. It would be awkward to use this as a focal point, especially considering it backs onto the stairs.

  • Jenny

    This was a tricky one and I voted before reading the comments. The access to the exterior spaces pushed Rock Row to the front for me. Not being familiar with LA at all I can’t really comment on the location of them.
    I was leaning towards the Pier Point one for the 3 bedrooms similar to M.A.M. but the lack of private outdoor space wasn’t great (maybe it’s an Australian fetish for the outside air).

    On reading Doug’s comments I thought initially he was a bit harsh but I went through the plans along with his comments I found them to be reasonable. I guess I just get so used to looing at stuff that is really badly designed that anything that is close to being good is a refreshing surprise and I can get a bit carried away.

    I think this has been a good exercise though in getting people thinking and talking about what is really important in these designs.

    I look forward to next week!

  • Paulina

    In light of the comments made so far, I think that clearly there is a personal factor that biases how we interpret and use the test. While Doug, MAM, Molly, Louis, BradW agree that none of the units satisfy the 19/20 rating they’ve been given, my decision came down to a certain ambivalence toward driving (hey, it’s LA), a lightened environmental impact through the LEED rating, and the price factor. It seems weird not to bias the test. I imagined myself actually selecting a unit to live in. This automatically calls into question my frugality. Does that harm the test? Should I be able to interpret the test and say that a less than perfect entry is ignorable if I have some really great outdoor spaces with windows I can open to let the wind flow through my suite? I also wonder too if I’ll become more stingy with my marking the more units I see and the more tests I do.

  • Matthew North


    I think the thing that makes the Slow Home Test interesting is that it does come down to a matter of personal interpretation – which hopefully will generate discussion, thought and further insight. While there are obvious “truths” that we can all agree on – not a good idea to have a bathroom open directly onto the dining room for example – there are many other factors that do need the person who is using the test to interpret in their own way – I think the point brought up by Molly K about air quality in Los Angeles is a great example of this. I think the Test provides a basis for this discussion and I hope that the conversation continues to grow as we continue along on the project.

  • Leo

    I agree with Mid American Mom. It is the inner units that define how good a townhouse development is. (Although I thought that the project I chose was as good as these, and I too chose an end unit)

    I chose Sweetzer but I agree with the general consensus that I expected the townhomes to be a little more efficient with their designs.

  • kaigou

    I feel like I was really just voting for the least worst.

    Sweetzer is wasting space all over the place on the second floor, between bathrooms and walkin closets. Is there no attic storage, either? Is what you see the only storage you get? Where do you put things like xmas ornaments and wrapping paper and luggage and the other strange-sized objets de vivre that you only use once a year or so?

    What is up with Pier Point’s wacky laundry room? Between that and the multiple closets, are they assuming people a) can’t get a W/D set that stacks — in LA, you’d think of all places, people would be using the low-water-use stackable frontloaders, these days, and b) own that many clothes? Big point against it: no elderly relatives will ever be able to come visit, because what old knees can handle that many flights of stairs (not to mention coming in from vacation and having to lug a heavy suitcase all the way back up to the bedroom, ugh). Okay, wait, on second thought: the dissuading element for elderly relatives is probably a plus, not a minus.

    Rock Row: who wants to sleep with the bedroom door behind them? That’s the only place a bed can go. Forget not having a nice wide entry-way: you put your bed on the only other possible wall, and you’re looking right down the hallway at the front door and out into the street! Sure, if you keep your bedroom door closed all the time… but that turns the front entry into an absolute cave. (Not to mention, a bedroom on the first floor with street access in LA? That’s the last place I’d put a child or a single woman come to visit. Unsafe.) And the two-doors to master bath is a nice touch, but what about a bathroom window? They’d put a bathroom window on the ground floor (security issues), but not one on the upper floor?

    (Also: I use NoScript with Ffx, and every one of the links gave me, well, nothing. The first shows me a blank screen but with a link to Facebook, what now?; the second shows me a lot of broken links that I can’t fix because NoScript won’t trigger on an inset frame like that; the third tells me I need to get the newest version of Flash, and I *have* the newest version of Flash. I get that ya’ll are linking to the sites instead, but those are some heavy-graphics sites… can you do just static screenshot floorplan options in future, for those of us running anti-virals and/or folks on slower systems?)

  • John Brown

    Thank you for posting the link to the Pier Point project. I am sorry that I didn’t see it before taping Friday’s segment. I would have liked to have given them credit. From their website they do nice work.

  • Mid America Mom

    Few more things on Pier Pointe. We will see if the new firm did this or keeps this:

    Looking at the photos I love the canal at pier point.

    I do not know if it is “good design” but I like how they oriented the entry of the units on the side of the development with the canal. Reminds me of the old FRONT porch.

    The public walk is next to the canal. There is your only outdoor space for the unit- a dedicated terrace at street level. You enter your unit here. Feels like they tried to foster a sense of community. Are you going to wave HI to a neighbor 5 rooftops over? Probably not but if you pass by their terrace you just might. I like it.