Bird Streets Blog

Rod’s Autotech

Rods Autotech and marine


999 N. La Brea Ave


Located near the Corner of La Brea and Romaine is Rod’s Autotech- Rods is the second automotive shop in from the corner, to the north of the Rods is the South Parking entrance to Target/Best Buy. I had difficulty finding Rods the first time I went there because the address, 999 N La Brea, suggests that Rod’s has frontage on La Brea, but Rod’s is actually on Romaine. Rod’s has been there for over 20 years. Rod does excellent work and is a very savvy Mechanic. I recommend Rod’s to everyone. Rod’s is the best! You won’t find a more reasonable, honest, and skilled mechanic. When I pic up my car, I always try to shake Rods hand out of habit, but because Rod has been working with the cars and he doesn’t want to get my hand dirty, Rod gives me a fist pound 🙂


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Los Angeles Crime Map

The Los Angeles Times has an excellent CRIME MAP online that buyers can use to compare the safety of various Los Angeles neigbhorhoods:

WARNING: You might be unsettled the first time you look at a crime map because there are a lot of crimes!

la times crime map home page

Some general things you should know about crime:

-Poor neighborhoods have higher crime rates

-Rich neighborhoods have lower crime rates

-Poor neighborhoods have higher rates of violent crime

-Rich neighborhoods have higher rates of property crime

-Los Angeles is a big city- there is crime anywhere you go

-The suburbs are safer than the city


The LA Times Crime Map is color coded.

Los Angeles violent crime map color code

When looking at the crime map, pay special attention to violent crime (Red). This kind of crime is unacceptable. Examples of violent crime: Homicide, Rape, Assault, Robbery. Try to avoid neighborhoods with high violent crime rates, these neighborhoods aren’t safe. The worst kind of violent crime is Homicide- if there are more than 1 or 2 homicides within 1 mile each year, I’d avoid that neighborhood. You can look up the story behind the homicide- if its gang related that is obviously worse than something like domestic violence.

Property crime (brown) is about 3-4 times more frequent than violent crime, and tends to occur more often in richer neighborhoods where residents are likely to own expensive possessions. Examples of property crime: Burglary, Theft, Grand Theft Auto, Theft from Vehicle. I am not as concerned with property crime as violent crime when considering a potential neighborhood. It’s a nuisance, but you don’t have to worry about your physical safety.

Beverly Hills has its own crime map. Santa Monica is not yet covered.

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H.M. Warner House

H M Warner House Hancock Park

501 S Rossmore Ave

In 1923, Harry Warner of Warner Bros. studios, commissioned this 8 bedroom 5.5 bath, 5,555 sqft Hancock Park Georgian Colonial-style Mansion. Built on a 29,400 sqft lot, this historic home features include Detached Guest House, Pool, Private clay Tennis Court and maple paneled screening room. H.M. Warner House is located on prestigious Rossmore Ave. in between 5th and 6th Street. The home was designed by A. Burnside Sturges, and is a Windsor Square- Hancock Park Historical Society Landmark (#92).

Harry Warner Foyer


501 S Rossmore Living Room



501 S Rossmore Staircase


H M Warner house maple panels


H M warner house yard


HM Warner House Guest House



H M Warner House Pool


Warner stayed in the house only a few years. He sold the property shortly after it was built to raise capital to finance a film- “The Jazz Singer” (1927), starring Al Jolson. It was followed by Warner Bros. classics “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “Casablanca” (1942), and “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955).

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Natural Light


The sun travels east to south to west in the northern hemisphere (east to north to west in the southern hemisphere). In the northern hemisphere, for most of the day, the sun is shining from the south. The sun heats the ground and south facing walls, so that side of the house can become hot. The trade-off is that these south facing walls get the best light. The north facing walls conversely, are dark and have very little light, however they are cooler. If the temperature is too hot in your south facing walls you could consider planting some trees for shade or changing your windows to a higher quality insulating window or adding shapes. Air conditioners can usually maintain a 25 degree temperature difference between the inside and outside temperatures. The coolest an air conditioner can get is somewhere around 52 degrees. Air conditioner’s should not be run when outside temperatures are below 65 degrees, or they may break.

East facing windows get soft morning light- but be careful, if your bedroom is facing this direction you will be waking up early when the sun rises. Some owners use thick shades to block the morning light when they want to sleep in. I personally think that it’s an advantage to have a bedroom facing east for that very reason; however I always feel like I am running late if I haven’t woken before the sun has come up.

West facing walls and windows get afternoon and evening light. So, the east side of the home in the evening will be cooler than the west side, however from the east side of the house, you will not be able to observe the sunset. Since the sun sets in the West, the west side of the home is warmer than the east side.

There is a real estate axiom that home buyers like “Light and Bright” as oppose to “Dark and Scary” I suppose. Natural light plays a big part in your mood. Sunlight helps the body produce Vitamin D which is an important compound in fighting seasonal depression. Also regular sunlight, keeps your bodies circadian system in balance, so that you can avoid those feelings like you feel when you are jet lagged. Light is also important because human beings are actuarial creatures (as opposed to nocturnal) and we are our happiest when we are awake during the day and asleep during the night.


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Batchelder Tile Co.

Ernest Batchelder

Ernest Batchelder

Ernest A. Batchelder, 1875-1957, was a leading Arts and Crafts movement tile maker during the 1920s. Batchelder had a vivid imagination- the tiles that he created depict scenes from storybooks, mythical creatures, scenes from far away places- he was very creative. Batchelder’s favorite motifs were birds and animals, flowers plants and leaves, geometric shapes and Mayan.


Batchelder Tile

Peacock figure with Batchelder Wordmark

Batchelder Pomegranate tile

Pomegranate Tile

Batchelder Shape Tile

shape tile

Batchelder Mayan Tile


Batchelder Story tile

Many of his fireplaces and tiles can be found in homes around Los Angeles, including Hancock Park and Pasadena.

Batchelder Fireplace

Batchelder Fireplace


Mr. Batchelder founded Batchelder Tiles in his home in Pasadena in 1909. He moved twice due to expansion, with his largest business site occupying six acres. Batchelder’s products earned a gold medal at the 1915 San Diego Exposition. One of Batchelder’s last and largest projects was the Hershey Hotel in Hershey, Pennsylvania, built by the famous chocolate manufacturer in 1930. Like many arts and crafts enterprises the firm was put out of business by the Depression; all of its assets were sold in 1932.

Mr. Batchelder studied at the School of Arts and Crafts in Birmingham, England, and also taught at the Harvard Summer School of Design, organized the Handicraft Guild in Minneapolis, and directed the department of arts and crafts at Throop Poly- technic Institute in Pasadena.

Mr. Batchelder published Principles of Design in 1904 and his numerous articles for The Craftsman were compiled as the book Design in Theory and Practice in 1910.

A Quote from Batchelder Tile’s 1924 Fireplace Mantel Catalog:

“The Fireplace- the place where the fire burns,- suggests at once a place of comfort, of cheer, of friends, of books. In a peculiar and intimate sense it is the center of the home. The mantel serves to unite the homely utility of fire, soot and ashes with a form, color and texture designed to bring the fireplace into harmonious relation with the decorative scheme of the room. The mantel becomes at once the focal point of interest; one can afford to devote thoughtful attention to its design. It should possess a distinctive character of its own sufficient to assert itself, but withal should not be unduly conspicuous. It should have a “built in” appearance as if it were an inevitable part of its environment.”

Batchelder House was buit in 1910 at 626 South Arroyo Boulveard in Pasadena.


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Mello Roos Tax

La Costa Valley San Deigo

This San Diego community, Costa Valley, has Mello Roos of $170/mo.

Mello Roos is a special tax that is common in newly developed communities in California. Home buyers don’t like it, because who likes to pay extra tax? To find out if the property has Mello Roos tax, ask the listing agent, or when you are in escrow, review your A9 report.

California has very low property tax rate when compared to other states. California’s property taxes is 1.25% of the assessed value of your property. The assessed value is also limited to a maximum increase of 2% a year, which does not keep pace with the market.  It is quite common for properties that have been owned for 10 years or more to have assessed values substantially below their current market value. Low property taxes is great because it increases the value of real estate and also means less expense owning property. However, the draw back to very low property taxes is that the state has less tax revenues for infrastructure.

the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 was created to provide an alternative method for funding community improvement projects that helps offset the loss of revenue from low property tax revenues.

The Act allows any county, city, special district, school district or joint powers authority to establish a Mello-Roos Community Facilities District (a “CFD”). The CFD can finance a public improvement project, such as streets, water and sewer systems and other basic infrastructure, police protection, fire protection, ambulance services, schools, parks, libraries, museums and other cultural facilities. And then, the CFD can levy a special tax to recover the expenses to repay the bonded debt- Mello Roos Tax.

Mello Roos taxes will be charged annually until the bonds are paid off in full. Often, after bonds are paid off, a CFD will continue to charge a reduced fee to maintain the improvements.


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West Hollywood Open House Sign Ordinance

On June 21, 2004, the city council passed the West Hollywood Open House Sign Ordinance. It limits the size and placement of signs. Be careful because if your sign is confiscated, its a big fine!

Maximum  Number

Onsite Sign, 1 sign and 4 flags per open house

Street signs, 1 per corner; maximum of 4 per intersection

Maximum Area

Onsite sign, N/A

Offsite signs, 18′ high and 24′ wide

Maximum Height

Onsite sign, N/A

Street Signs, 42′ for sign on a stake, 36′ for A-frame sign

Time Limit

Onsite sign, Shall not be installed before 8:00AM on day of open house and shall be removed immediately after the open house.

Street signs, On Sunday and Tuesday only, from noon until 6:00pm

Additional Requirments

Onsite sign, None

Street signs, to be placed on private property only. Only text permitted is ‘open house’ with an arrow in direction of the property. Double faced signs only. Flags, no riders, no address, no company names, no agent name.

Even after reading the West Hollywood Open House Sign Ordinance, and posting a blog about it- your author had another open house sign confiscated!

My first infraction was blatant- 3 branded open house signs on the corner of Fountain and Crestcent Heights, on Public Property, a $270 fine. The signs were branded- but not in your authors name- a fellow agent hard borrowed me some of his signs to use while he was out of the country. The citation was written up in his name and sent to his address. I have difficulty getting ahold of my contact person in code complaince because he is frequently in the field. I can only deal with whoever wrote the ticket- my contact person, I believe- because I am told, because I need to change the name on the ticket. I did miss one chance at a Tuesday morning. I finally get ahold of Jeff to get the signs and I go over to West Hollywood City hall to pick up my signs. I can only pick up my signs after I pay the citation, however if you pay, you can file an appeal. I go down stairs and pay- go upstairs and grab my three signs- go downstairs and call to file my appeal. I am notified that it has been longer that 21 days and I have lost my right to appeal.

After that, I was careful to study the borders of the West Hollywood Map, and I checked to make certain, for my next open house which would not be in West Hollywood- I would put my signs in a safe place. Safe turned out to not be safe. I placed 1 sign on the North East Corner of Doheny and Sunset, and my sign was confiscated. Since this is the second infraction the fine doubles to $540.

I filed an appeal, I hope that they will understand that I didn’t know that the border of West Hollywood isn’t along the street in some places, and in some places, even if it does end at the street on the map, as it appears at the Sunset Doheny intersection- in the Doheny, the Kings, the Larrabee, the Clark, the Queens, the Sunset Plaza, the Sweetzer, the Miller, the Shoreham, Horn, and Londonderry the boarder extends from Sunset approximately 500 feet- so I was in violation.

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FHA Condo Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) condo loans are a 30 year fixed-rate loan with a very low 3% down payment. The only loan with a lower down payment is a VA loan, which is 0% down, but you have to be a veteran to qualify. FHA condo loans are great for first time buyers because they make it easier to save up a down payment. 100% of closing costs for the sale can be a gift from a relative, seller, or government agency.

Anytime you are putting less than 20% down payment expect to pay private mortgage insurance. FHA condo loans have Mortgage Insurance.

The federal government this year lowered the amount of FHA mortgage insurance from 1.35% of the loan to 0.85%.

Unlike Normal Mortgage insurance the FHA PMI never goes away, it remains for the life of the loan. This is a real downside of the FHA loan programs currently.

From 1996 to 2010 the FHA permitted spot loans on condo projects. “Spots” meant that FHA could review and approve a single condo and approve it as oppose to approving the whole building. The program changed in 2010 and they got rid of the spot program. Now you can only get an FHA condo loan on an approved building.

 Check FHA Loan Limits anywhere here:

  • The project must be on HUD’s approved condominium list: (not viewable on mobile)

The elimination of the spot program is a real bummer for people looking to purchase with a FHA condo loan today. In Los Angeles there are very few buildings who have went through the arduous process of getting their Building FHA approved. There are a few reasons why this is: The FHA in the past has had low loan limits, so only low priced Condo projects sought approval. Now with FHA loan limits very high ($729,750) as compared to what they were ($362,790), there are a lot of Condo projects that never went through the approval process. Under normal circumstances, the builder would be the one who got a project approved, which would help them to sell the properties. But if the project was outside of the loan limits then there would not have been a reason for the builder to go through the hassle. The second reason that many condo projects in Los Angeles are not approved is that over the past several years there were many other types of financing available that allowed home buyers to purchase a home with as little as $0 down. At the time FHA required 3% down payment. FHA financing was rarely used in Los Angeles because of the easy financing available with these other programs. The lending environment has changed dramatically since 2004-2007 and those easy financing programs are gone now.

The changes made in the past five years have made the FHA condo loan program much less useful then it was in the past, I am hopeful that the FHA makes changes to elimate PMI for life of the loan, and streamline the process for getting condo buildings approved.


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Los Angeles Tennis Club

Los Angeles Tennis Club

Aerial View of Los Angeles Tennis Club

When G. Allan Hancock developed Hancock Park in 1920, he allowed two outstanding private sports clubs to be established; The Wilshire Country Club and the Los Angeles Tennis Club (LATC).

Los Angeles Tennis Club Logo

Located at 5851 Clinton Street, the tennis club has 16 lighted tennis courts, making it one of the largest private tennis clubs in Los Angeles. Members rarely have to wait to play a match, and often arrive without booking a reservation ahead of time.

The club has played an important role in establishing the sport of tennis.  It hosted the inaugural Pacific Southwest Open tournament in 1927, the world’s first hard court major tennis championships. The Spanish Colonial Revival style clubhouse was built that year also.

Los Angeles Tennis Club House

Club House built 1927

Bill Tilden won singles in the first tournament. Many of the top players in the world during the 20th century have competed on these courts.

Los Angeles Tennis Club Pool


A great amenity for members is the 25-yard-long pool and spa that is great for swimming laps or water aerobics classes. There is also a fitness center equipped with state-of-the-art weight training and cardio equipment with personal trainers available by appointment.

The Los Angeles Tennis Club is a practice venue for the Loyola High and Marlborough School tennis teams.

The club has over 400 members. New membership to the club is invitation only and new applicants must go through a month long registration and orientation process.




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Changes to Appraisals- HVCC (Home Valuation Code of Conduct)

Home Valuation Code of Conduct

Recent Twitter Appraisal Post:

Paulas*****: is going crazy (short trip) waiting for an appraisal to come in. Everyone, I need your good thoughts & luck (nothing else works these days!)

Lately, have you heard people tell you their appraisal horror story? 3 days before closing they found out that the appraisal was $100,000 below contract price! The appraisal process has become a big component of making a deal happen. That’s because of the HVCC agreement (No- not Heating and Air Conditioning silly!)

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) is the result of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s 2007 lawsuit against Washington Mutual’s preferred AMC (Appraisal Management Company) eAppraiseIt LLC. The lawsuit was brought after eAppraiseIt was supposedly forced into providing WaMu with inflated values for properties WaMu was making loans on— eAppraiseIt also allegedly benefited from the extra business WaMu provided because of their alleged willingness to be coerced into providing inflated property values.

The Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) sets standards for solicitation, selection, compensation, conflicts of interest and appraiser independence. According to the agreement mortgage brokers and real estate agents are prohibited from selecting appraisers. However, realtors and lenders can talk to appraisers including requests to consider additional data or to correct errors. Important information that may effect value that an out of area appraiser might miss are: located on busy street, was tenant occupied before sale and needed repairing, Investor purchase, home being used as a comparable had a bad floor plan etc.

Attention Buyers; Make sure your lender gets your real estate agent the appraiser’s information and the date of the appraisal, so that your real estate agent can talk with the appraiser about the market and provide comps during the appraisal.

HVCC took effect May 1, 2009, and applies to conforming loans, of 1-4 unit single-family, up to the conforming loan limit amount of $729,750, that will be sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Conforming loans make up, according to the NAR, over 71% of the total loans originated in the United States. Note FHA loans do not apply under the HVCC rules. R

Read more on HVCC here:

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently put out a survey to members asking what impact, if any, the new Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) has had. Here are the results:

• 75% of Realtors representing buyers or sellers said that the time to obtain a completed appraisal increased after May 1st (when HVCC took effect). 69% reported an increase of over 8 days.

• Lost sales were reported by 37% of Realtors trying to get a sale to closing with 20% reporting more than 1 lost sale.

• Reports of lost sales will impact the fallout rate in pending home sales although some of these sales may be completed after a delay of who knows how long.

• Increased use of out of area appraisers was reported by 70% of Realtors trying to complete a sale.

• NAR appraiser members say they now obtain over 50% of their appraisal management companies (AMC).

• Around half of NAR appraiser members say their fees have been reduced by AMCs. 70% says consumers are now paying higher fees. Of course the AMCs are getting the difference.

• 85% of NAR appraiser members reported a perceived reduction in appraisal quality!

• NAR appraiser members reported that a ‘significant’ number of their assignments were in unfamiliar areas. 16% said that 11% of their assignments were in unfamiliar areas.

Why is the quality of Appraisals going down under the HVCC?

Appraisers that work with AMCs loose 40-60% of their income in fees splits with AMCs. Also, there is twice as much paperwork for appraisers to fill out to complete an appraisal according to HVCC rules. That means, appraisers are working twice as hard for half as much money, stated another way, appraisers are making about a fourth of what they were making 1 year earlier. It is a very tough time to be an appraiser!

AMCs assign appraisals on a first come, first served, rotation basis without regard to an appraiser’s experience. You may get assigned an appraiser who is from out of area and has no experience working in your local marketplace. This means, it takes longer to close escrow- I am recommending to all my clients 45 day escrows, and that you have to micro manage the appraisal process so that you can give yourself the absolute best chance to have your appraisal come in at contract sales price. Call me for a referall to my appraiser- he is a true professional 310-388-7332 or email James at

Appraisal Blog:

My Appraiser:

Fannie Mae FAQ:

Freddie Mac HVCC FAQ


James Colin Campbell

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