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Monah Li, Clothing Designer

Monah Li is in the process of selling her Silver Lake home, where
she’s lived for four years. She is moving to a 2,000-square-foot loft in downtown
L.A.

“I don’t know how I got myself into buying a house. I don’t
want to fix anything or work in my garden. I am not up for the responsibility
anymore . . . I just thought living in a house was the right thing to do. You
grow up and you buy a house. I have a daughter, and I didn’t think you could
bring up a kid in downtown. Thirteen years ago in downtown it was very grim
and scary. Now it is really changing. Since it has a swimming pool, it is all
right with her. There are barbecue areas, and interesting people living here.

“I always lived in lofts downtown or in big communes in Vienna.
I don’t like living in a house by myself. I like the community. It is a certain
way of living, in a loft. It’s a lifestyle choice. I will be working and living
there. Other people will be doing that. Those are the people I want to live
near.”

Vladimir Mkrtchyan

Western Carlton Way/Metro Hollywood

Vladimir Mkrtchyan, 33, lives at Western Carlton Way/Metro Hollywood
apartments and townhouses on the corner of Western Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard.
Mkrtchyan, a handyman, has lived in the 122-unit apartment/townhouse complex
with his wife and two sons for four years. He got his two-bedroom apartment
through a lottery in 2001, in which only low-income residents could apply. He
pays $650 a month. Mkrtchyan said the building is very multicultural: 25 percent
Armenian, 25 percent Spanish. The remaining tenants are African-American and
Korean. Amenities include 24-hour security, washer and dryer in every unit,
indoor parking, fitness room, play area, and barbecue pits.

“If you don’t make a lot of money, this is a good place to
live. It is just difficult to get in. No one moves out. The rent is cheap, and
the building is nice, clean and quiet. No one leaves here unless they die.”

 

Corrie Caster

Palazzo at Park La Brea, 6220 W. Third St.

Corrie Caster, a talent scout, has been living at the Palazzo
for one year. She lives there with her photographer husband and two kids, ages
5 and 3. Her family was in transition from selling its home to looking for a
new one. She lives in a two-bedroom and pays $3,000 a month. Palazzo offers
a boutique-style gym, full spa with Jacuzzi, steam room, massage services, manicures
and pedicures. There is also an outdoor heated pool, which is open all year
around, a 24-hour business center with free Internet and computer access, and
a snack area and coffee bar.

“It is like living in the Four Seasons Hotel. The grounds
look like Hawaii. There are flowers everywhere. It is across the street from
a park and the Grove. It is going to be hard to leave. You see a lot of young
Hollywood.”

 

Elizabeth Davis-Hepker

Palazzo at Park La Brea East, located at 348 S. Hauser Blvd.

Davis-Heptker, designer and manufacturer of a home-furnishing
line called Indigo, moved to L.A. from Ohio last September with her children,
ages 17 and 11. They live in a two-bedroom plus loft.

“We moved in here because of the community. They have a Saturday
brunch. The children watch TV in the spa area. My daughter works out with a
trainer. She can use the spa for free. We tried for several weeks to look for
a house. I went as far south as Palos Verdes, and through Beverly Hills and
Brentwood. We were looking to rent initially. Now we are looking to buy. We
would like to put our money towards an asset. The houses are so expensive out
here. We keep raising the bar at how much we can spend, and we still can’t find
anything. It is expensive rent, but you get so much for it. And it’s amazing
how many places we can walk to.

“As a busy working parent, time is very important. I think,
for someone who is brand-new, it is really nice having everything set up for
you. It is a trade-off of time. I am not in the car commuting all the time,
shuffling them back and forth. I am not out there mowing a lot of grass. I can
spend great quality time now with my family. I am a happy camper. We don’t have
a yard and probably less space, but it doesn’t feel like that. We really have
a big yard and a giant swimming pool. And we don’t have to maintain it.”

 

Heath Finn

Palazzo at Park La Brea East

Heath Finn has been living at the Palazzo for seven months. He
grew up in St. Louis and now works for U.S. Bank as a commercial lender. Finn,
37, pays $2,300 a month for a one-bedroom he shares with his wife. They both
work from home and use the Palazzo’s business center. Their apartment is 800
square feet and includes a fireplace, granite counters, a deck large enough
for a grill, and dual sinks. “The hallway and elevators smell good,”
he says. Oh, and there’s a spa with hot tubs and a heated pool, free spinning,
yoga and kickboxing classes, hip-hop dancing, Pilates, and personal trainers.

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“We like the area because it is centrally located. I haven’t
embraced the car lifestyle — L.A. is a great place to be if you can stay off
the freeway. The convenience is nice. We saw all the Oscar-nominated movies.
We can drop off our dry cleaning with the concierge. If you play your cards
right, you don’t have to move again till Monday.

“We make good incomes. We have money saved. And the apartment
option was attractive because we fear that housing bubble. We don’t want to
buy and have it pop and lose 20 percent in the first year. Especially coming
from anywhere else in the country, you can’t really buy what you are accustomed
to. We are coming out of St. Louis. The sticker shock is still very significant
for us. In St. Louis we can buy twice the house for half the price.”

 

Mark Shunock

Santee Court Legacy, downtown, located on 7th and Los Angeles
streets

Shunock, an actor, has lived at Santee Court for four months.
He has a 1,000-square-foot loft, which he pays $1,800 a month for. Amenities
include rooftop pool, Jacuzzi, basketball court, driving range, barbecue gas
grills, fitness room, hot tub and driving range. It is all free wired, with
DSL and two or three phone lines in each apartment. There’s 24-hour security,
and parking is available. Apartments have cement floors and 25-foot ceilings.

“By chance I took a tour of downtown and fell in love with
the big lofts. The complex is very appealing. They have taken over an entire
city block and created a little community. There is a courtyard. A market is
opening up. A food court is coming. We don’t have to go anywhere. Everything
we possibly need is downstairs. Everyone is 40 and under and in the entertainment
or fashion business. It is a cool, funky group of people. We knew we weren’t
moving into a seniors’ home.

“It was a financial thing. I wasn’t in a financial position
to live in a house. Here, there was a small security deposit. I lived for seven
years in New York. If this apartment was for rent in New York, it would be triple
the rent. This place would be $8,000 a month in New York.”

 

Edber Mamisao

Santee Court Legacy

Edber Mamisao, 30, moved into Santee Court Legacy in February
2004. Originally from Canada, he’s been here for two and a half years and works,
by day, at Disney as a production coordinator; by night, he is a filmmaker.
His wife is a painter. They pay $1,650 for an 800-square-foot loft.

“There is a lot of support for artists. There was a show
held in one of the lofts recently. Santee Court sponsored the event. There is
space for my wife to paint and have clients come in and check out her artwork.
We are close to a lot of art galleries. One of the galleries wanted to see her
work. It was really convenient. They walked over, and she has a show in May.

“I am a creative person, and it’s a creative space. I am
happy when I go home. I feel inspired. There is something about being downtown.
It is so alive. So many things are accessible. It is also the architecture.
I love seeing buildings. Forms. I get excited driving through downtown. Just
passing Disney Hall excites me.”

 

Katie Bogue

Santee Court Legacy

Katie Bogue, 25, is co-owner of Label Los Angeles, an online boutique
that promotes L.A. designers. She runs her office out of the loft space, for
which she pays $2,200 a month for 1,400 square feet.

“The lofts are also advertised as workspaces. We hold our
meetings here. We have a fashion designer and photographer who work and live
here. Half of the people are running their businesses here.

“We love the downtown area. We are right in the middle of
the fashion district. It has a New York loft vibe. Cement floors, a bit of an
edge. It is hipper than being on the Westside. It has a very homey feeling.
We are really happy with it.”

 

Brad Gold

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Villas at Park La Brea, 5551 W. 6th St.

Brad Gold, 24 and a native of Chicago, has lived at the Villas
for almost two years. He is a USC Law student and does Web development, marketing
and paralegal counseling on the side. He pays $2,550 a month for a large two-bedroom.

“When I moved to L.A., I did not know a single person who
lived here. My dad and I took a trip two months before and rented a car. We
picked up an apartment guide and zigzagged from Santa Monica to the east. After
looking at 30 or 40 different places, I decided that this one was the best.
It was nice to see a bunch of people hanging out. They do a good job of trying
to create a community feeling here. They have barbecues by the pool. Movie night
for little kids. I looked at that and thought it would be a good way to meet
people. There are a lot of graduate students. The vast majority of the people
are singles or couples that aren’t married or are in their 20s. A few scattered
retired people.

“I definitely considered buying a house. But not being familiar
with real estate, I figured I would just rent and get settled in. I wasn’t planning
on staying here for the entire year, but it has worked out so well I didn’t
want to worry about moving. Whenever my friends visit, they say it looks like
I am living in a hotel. It is one of the few things I can’t complain about.”

 

Elle Mansfield

Villas at Park La Brea

Elle Mansfield, 57, author of the novel Don’t Touch My Heart,
has lived at the Villas at Park La Brea with her husband for just over a year.
They own a home in Nevada City and are here temporarily for the duration of
her husband’s two-year contract as an information-systems analyst. They have
a two-bedroom plus loft for which they pay $3,087.

“It is much better for our dollar to live in an apartment.
It wasn’t our first choice. It wasn’t till we researched it that we realized
we could get security and amenities and a pristine living space in an apartment.

“If something goes wrong, you make a call and someone fixes
it. When we leave town, the women in the leasing office feed our cats. I look
out the window and see this expanse of aqua. I really feel like I am living
in a hotel, and for a temporary period of time it is a kick. It is nice to not
be responsible for anything.”

 

Heidi Moore

Villas at Park La Brea

Originally from South Africa, Heidi Moore and her husband have
lived in the Villas at Park La Brea for one year and three months. He is a diplomat
and is stationed here for four years. They pay $2,600 for a two-bedroom with
loft.

“We looked at houses and apartments, but were keener on apartments
because of the lock-up-and-go aspect. We don’t have to worry about safety and
security. This way we close the door, and everything will be fine when we get
back.

“It is rather nice getting to know the other residents. You
don’t really get lonely here. It really is resortlike. They serve brunch on
Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. They have coffee going throughout
the day. In the afternoon, they have freshly baked cookies. I have a few friends
who live in houses, and they live so far away. They are very isolated, but here
I always have someone to chat with.”

 

Emy Ellis

Santa Fe Lofts, 121 E. Sixth St.

Emy Ellis, 31, works in project management with LAUSD. She has
lived at the Santa Fe Lofts for three months now. Before that, she lived two
blocks away, but the management was horrible. The boiler was broken. She didn’t
have a heater for four months. The loft cement floor was very cold. She stayed
there nine months. Prior to that, she lived with her ex-husband in a rental
home in Pasadena. Her loft now is 620 square feet. She pays $900. There is no
pool, but there will eventually be a gym. There are also free Internet access,
basic cable, and security at the front desk.

“It targets young professionals. Artists. The style is more
urban than retro. It definitely has that Manhattan-meets-Brooklyn feel.

“I wish we could attract more people. Downtown is really
cleaning up, and I wish people wouldn’t look at downtown as an ugly place. There
is a lot to do and see if you can be open-minded. These lofts are artsy and
affordable. They suit urban lifestyles.”

Behind the Curtain at Sunset & Vine

For a nonresident, trying to make your way into Sunset & Vine, the 300-unit apartment
complex at the northwest corner of those storied streets, is no easy task — especially
with a 24-hour lobby attendant monitoring your every move. Unless you have an
in or a very tall ladder or, on special occasions, you are a member of
the glitterati — Matt Damon threw his Bourne Supremacy VIP party
poolside — you are pretty much out of luck getting into the ’60s-retro-style,
mixed-use development. But at least you’ll be able to wander the aisles at Borders
or Bed, Bath and Beyond on the boulevard below.
Say the magic words, though (“I’m interested in an apartment”), and the doors open — to 10-foot ceilings, polished concrete floors, posh appliances, a 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor fireplaces, a gigantic chess set, a billiards table, a TV room, a hot tub and a sauna. The pool, open year-round and kept at a temperature of 80 degrees, features additional amenities like DSL and Internet access and food service from the neighboring downstairs restaurants, Schwab’s and Kabuki Sushi. There are also monthly movie nights, and Sunday brunches. All this comes at a price, of course: $1,400 for a studio to $2,500 for a two-bedroom, which ain’t bad considering ArcLight and Amoeba are just across the street.

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