L.A. Eco-Village Buying Property, Planning New Car-Free Mixed-Use Building

Interested party note: I, Streetsblog Los Angeles Editor Joe Linton, live at L.A. Eco-Village and am an owner in the Urban Soil/Tierra Urban housing co-operative. I don’t have any direct fiscal stake in the new development, but am nonetheless an involved party and very interested in seeing it improve my neighborhood. 

Los Angeles Eco-Village is purchasing its fourth building. The property, at present in escrow and expected to close in early September, is currently home to an auto shop with a very small cafe. LAEV intends to develop the site into a four-story mixed-use building. Eco-Village is seeking livability-minded investors to loan money to help purchase and develop the site.

L.A. Eco-Village is purchasing this site at the corner of First Street and Bimini Place in Koreatown. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
L.A. Eco-Village is purchasing this auto repair site in Koreatown. Photo: Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
The new property being purchased is at 3554 West First Street, at the corner of First Street and Bimini Place.
Sketch of development concept for new L.A. Eco-Village mixed-use building. Image via CRSP
Sketch of development concept for new L.A. Eco-Village mixed-use building envisioned for the site. Image via CRSP

The eco-village project is managed by a handful of non-profits which include the Cooperative Resources and Services Project (CRSP), the Beverly Vermont Community Land Trust (BVCLT), and the Urban Soil/Tierra Urbana housing co-op (USTU). CRSP is the organization spearheading the new purchase. 

L.A. Eco-Village is an urban intentional community that has played big roles in Los Angeles movements for livability, walkability, and bikeability. Starting in the mid-1990s, LAEV non-profits purchased historic apartment buildings along Bimini Place in Koreatown, three blocks south of the Beverly Vermont Metro Red Line Station. LAEV currently owns three apartment buildings consisting of 50 units of housing which are managed as permanently affordable and ecologically sustainable housing. The multi-building village includes fruit trees, gardens, bees, chickens, greywater, rooftop solar, traffic-calming, and a culture of getting around by bike, walking, and transit.

The 3554 West First Street site is 11,000 sq. ft. with two buildings: a 2600 sq. ft. auto repair shop and a 500 sq. ft. cafe. The auto repair business owner owns the property and lives in the neighborhood. He is planning to retire and return to South Korea. CRSP plans to preserve the small cafe building and to tear down and redevelop the auto-repair site. The new development will be a roughly four-story mixed-use building which LAEV founder Lois Arkin describes as a “car-free environmentally-sensitive mixed-use cooperative, providing 20 permanently affordable co-housing units and 10 small green retail and commercial co-op spaces.”

Running on the southern end of the site are the tracks of the historic H-line streetcar. Arkin’s vision for the site includes preserving the tracks with the possibility of a vegetarian restaurant located in a restored historic trolley car set on the tracks.

As with earlier LAEV property purchases, CRSP is using a novel grassroots approach. CRSP was doing expert crowd-sourcing before the term existed. With no bank loans, CRSP manages an Ecological Revolving Loan Fund (ELF). Investors make loans to CRSP’s ELF and, in 18 months to 10 years, are paid back with interest. Interest is paid out quarterly. If SBLA readers are interested in investing in the ELF in support of L.A. Eco-Village development, contact Lois Arkin at crsp[at]igc.org or (213)738-1254.

L.A. Eco-Village offers regular tours and frequent educational events.

  • How are you going to get a permit for a car-free building? I assume that means the building won’t have off-street parking for automobiles, which would violate LA’s zoning ordinance.

    Don’t get me wrong, its an awesome idea, but even with density bonuses/concessions for the affordable units that might be a stretch.

    Eager to hear how it goes though. Good luck!

  • Sludge

    I’m sure Lois is all over this: I thought auto shops can be remediation nightmares even if currently under responsible ownership. What kind of insurance/escrow & “due diligence” is there to protect EcoVillage/CRSP? Or am I wrong about this?

  • Joe Linton

    We’ll see – it’s certainly not by right… but the street is full of car-free multi-story housing that functions really well… so there are precedents next door.

  • Mike

    This is amazing, a development that doesn’t subsidize demanding automobiles or perpetuate car dependency. Surely, there’s ~75 people in the metro area that don’t require a car for their livelihood nor should they be required to pay the high price of “free parking” that plagues this city.

    I’d be curious to know how a new development with 100% usable GFA underwrites, seems like “affordable housing” is much more attainable when half the building is being wasted for expensive garage space.

  • chairs missing

    This rules! Especially the idea for a vegetarian restaurant inside an old trolley car. Are the streetcar tracks still in the street a few inches down?

  • Joe Linton

    They’re on the surface, very much visible.

  • I can see the roof of the house I grew up in at 312 S. Westmoreland and one of by best friends lived on White House Place when I went to Commonwealth, then Virgil – and then John Marshall & UCLA.

  • Is anybody for LAEV going to be at the NASCO Institute in November? I’d love to hear more about all the details of the project. Have you talked to the Shared Capital Cooperative about potential co-op financing? http://sharedcapital.coop/

  • Lois Arkin

    Thanks Zane. NASCO is a terrific organization, and no one from LAEV will get there this year, but we are promoting the conference on our website. Thanks for the lead to Shared Capital Cooperative. We will definitely keep them in mind.

  • Lois Arkin

    Hi Brady, Who was your best friend on White House Place and about what years. He or she might have been one of our early LAEV neighbors.

  • Lois Arkin

    And I hope by the time we’re able to have an old trolley car on the tracks, it’ll be half on the new property and half jutting out into the street as part of our on-going effort at traffic calming.

  • Lois Arkin

    Yes, Sludge, indeed, brownfields can be nightmares that go on for decades. We hope our Ph 1 and Ph 2 EIRs will show that ours will not be that serious. We’re planning to allow three years for remediating any toxics with plants, mushrooms, and maybe sound. We also plan to have a special kind of environmental insurance. If there are others out there familiar with bio-remediation, let us know who you are. There is no more “away.”


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