You know the pandemic cabin fever is bad when even Amazon wants you to leave your house. Now, the titan of e-commerce is taking it to the old school by offering their take on the brick-and-mortar experience. And it’s shaping up to be every bit the ultra-modern Amazon experience you would expect. Curious about what Amazon has in store (literally) for Amazon Style? Then keep your eyes on Glendale!
When Amazon goes brick-and-mortar, they go big. Amazon Style will present a 30,000-square-foot space showcasing their trendiest fashions. The colossus of convenience chose Glendale’s upscale Americana shopping center to debut Amazon Style later in the year.
The Americana shopping mall hosts instantly recognizable top-tier shops like Apple, Sephora, and Urban Outfitters. Amazon may sound out of place in a physical marketplace due to its e-commerce history. It’s difficult to imagine leaving the house for your Amazon purchase, but you’ve maybe done just that without realizing it. That’s because Amazon Style is not the company’s first foray into brick-and-mortar shopping.
The Americana already hosts Amazon 4-star, a shop specializing in introducing curated gadgetry to curious consumers. Perhaps you’ve visited Amazon Go, the company’s streamlined take on the classic convenience store. Amazon also got physical with what got them their start in the first place with Amazon Books. And let’s not forget their acquisition of WholeFoods.
Amazon Style may be some shoppers first look at a brick-and-mortar Amazon shop. It’s not new ground for the giant, but it is its first waltz into physical fashion and lifestyle shopping. Thus far, you could only purchase their apparel through their e-commerce platform. It’s a bold move for a company that built its reputation delivering everything you wanted to your front door.
The specifics of Amazon Style’s inventory are still a mystery. Yet, we know enough to envision a streamlined experience in typical Amazon fashion. Gone are the days of sifting through an overstock of unpopular sizes in search of that Holy Grail perfect fit. Amazon Style will have just a single sample of each item on display. Using QR codes and a proprietary app, you can select different sizes, colors, and other variants when available. While shoe stores have used this model for decades, Amazon Style will apply it to its full, diverse inventory.
Requested products will be available for pickup at the counter or in one of the store’s dressing rooms. Touchscreen technology will be outfitted in these dressing rooms to provide the most state-of-the-art shopping experience. This use of space will allow Amazon Style to carry “more than double the number of styles” of the classic department store.
But even as Amazon implores us to leave the threshold of our living room, the pandemic remains on our minds. Fortunately, the company has been implementing its contactless Amazon One software as much as possible in its brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon One allows users to pay for products, update loyalty programs, and more with just a wave of their palms. The company, regularly at the forefront of convenience technology, has found Amazon One to all but eliminate lines. Expect to grab that vegan croc handbag or comfy crew-neck jumper without slowing your stride.
It may seem like Amazon Style is introducing us to a SmartStore devoid of human assistance. Yet, you’ll still find flesh-and-blood staff members ready to assist you. Human staff will handle stock layout, backroom tasks, and roles designed to improve the customer experience. All other tasks will be relegated to automated means.
Amazon hasn’t disclosed details on Amazon Style’s inventory, though there will be emphasis on apparel, shoes, and accessories. The store will no doubt be implementing a tightly curated selection, especially compared to their burgeoning online catalog. However, the megacompany teased that the fashions would be selected by “fashion curators and feedback provided by millions of customers” in addition to brands their customers “know and love.”
It’s no secret that there is a drought in California and much of the Southwest U.S. But what some residents may not realize is the actual severity of it. A study published in Nature Climate Change cites the arid conditions gripping California and other western states as the driest 22-year stretch in 1,200 years. And steadily climbing annual temperatures aren’t helping. For many Southern Californians, desert living is nothing new, but the state of emergency is undeniable. Governor Gavin Newsom, among other public officials, continues to urge Californians to reduce their water usage. But even in the face of severe drought, these pleas are often simply regarded as suggestions. So what are California’s immediate plans for taking the sting off this historic drought?
Southern California already institutes measures to get around its arid conditions. They’re just not nearly enough anymore. Other parts of the state and even the country export the majority of the water used by the 22 million residents of the region. A major source of water for California is the Colorado River. However, several other states and parts of Mexico share in the waterway’s resources. With more demand for the water being collected from Northern California and neighboring states, Southern Californians have watched their import rates lunge upwards at almost 10% every year.
When understanding how to tackle the current water crisis, Orange County offers an admirable model. Parts of the county boast an adequate water reserve which seems like a decadent luxury by Southern California’s standards. How did they achieve it? A store of groundwater and recycled water from waste gives them an edge. But convincing the average American to drink recycled sewer water is a hard sell.
The Los Angeles area already has two ambitious projects devoted to treating and recycling wastewater. The first initiative, Operation NEXT, finds the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power collaborating with LA Sanitation and Environment. Together, they hope to optimize the efficiency of recycling wastewater from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is spearheading Los Angeles’s second wastewater initiative. Simply dubbed the Regional Recycled Water Program, it focuses on purifying water that is currently being dumped into the Pacific Ocean. However, this is a slow-moving process and it’s difficult to tell at this stage how much it will ease the strain of this brutal drought.
Officials still need to approve treated wastewater for potable use in California. The state has until the end of 2023 to approve the regulations that would make this a possibility. While your stomach may be twisting at the idea of drinking recycled sewer water, it’s important to remember that all water is recycled. With modern technology, purified sewer water is every bit as clean and fresh as the bottled water you buy at the store. Don’t believe us? Then ask a Texan. The state began approving recycled wastewater for potable use in 2013.
The drought in California, a state bordering the Pacific Ocean on one side, serves as a stark reminder of that old line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”: “Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.” But as our parched land meets 840 miles of coastline, we have to consider if that’s really the end of the argument. Enter the concept of desalination. Perhaps you’re already familiar with this effective, but costly, approach to water purification. It involves removing the salt from saltwater to turn it into pure drinking water. And it may surprise you to learn that there are already a number of desalination plants in California.
One of the most active California desalination plants is in San Diego. This $1 billion facility in the Carlsbad neighborhood stands as the Western Hemisphere’s biggest desalination plant. Known as the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, it has been actively cleansing sea water since the end of 2015. So, does this desalination plant protect San Diego from the drought in California? Not by a long shot.
The San Diego County Water Authority signed a 30-year-contract to purchase water from the desalination plant, passing the rates on to local households. However, current rates are close to triple those of imported water from Northern California and other states. And the largest California desalination plant only produces enough water to cover approximately 10% of San Diego area residents.
However, desalination technology has advanced in strides over the last two decades, requiring half the energy it once consumed. With the development of further improvements to the process, considerations are once again focused on California desalination plants. The urgency of drought in California highlights a desalination plant in Huntington Beach that Poseidon Water has been struggling to open for nearly 20 years. Next month, the California Coastal Commission will decide whether they have the permit required to continue their efforts. And as you can already imagine, the topic brings up an array of opposing views.
Poseidon Water estimates an increased monthly water rate of anywhere between three and six dollars per home. San Diego’s similarly sized desalination plant costs locals about an additional five dollars a month per home. No matter how you slice it, Poseidon’s plans are more expensive than other proposed solutions including wastewater treatment.
Obviously, supporters of the new California desalination plant believe that the one-and-a-half billion dollar project will revitalize the drought-stricken region. And Poseidon Water has put close to a million dollars into lobbying efforts just since 2019. They’ve managed to attract some high profile support including Governor Newsom, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), and Huntington Beach Mayor Barbara Delgleize. But with the California Coastal Commission’s own staff recommending a rejection of their permit, high profile support may not be enough.
And the staff raise some interesting points. With drought in California at the forefront of many of our minds, it can be easy to look at desalination as a solution while ignoring its problems. At the forefront of the staff’s concerns is the environmental impact a new California desalination plant would bring. Initially, its ecological damage may seem minimal. They’re cutting costs by adopting some existing infrastructure and building on a 12-acre site that currently houses three aging oil tanks. But the constant intake and discharge through a 14-foot-wide access point would likely kill wildlife crucial to the sensitive ecosystem. Poseidon Water has responded with environmental initiatives meant to offset this damage including revitalizing area wetlands and establishing an artificial reef.
But the concerns don’t stop at ecosystem damage. There’s an increasing flood risk as a result of rising sea levels and questions as to whether the plant could endure the impact of a tsunami. Some have pointed out that the site of the plant is in an industrial area with a history of contamination. And, of course, the San Diego facility continues to illustrate the economic concerns surrounding desalination of ocean water.
While treated wastewater has yet to be approved for drinking in California, Orange County already boasts a facility with such capabilities. And those critical of adding more desalination plants in California are quick to point out that purifying wastewater is a much more cost-effective solution. Currently, the Orange County Sanitation District purifies the wastewater from over one-and-a-half-million area homes. Treating wastewater still employs a form of desalination. But since sewage has a lower salinity than saltwater, the process can be accomplished at about half the cost. Purification of wastewater can also be done anywhere. By comparison, desalination plants in California would need to line the coast.
People continue to balk at the idea of drinking purified water that was, at one time, raw sewage. But on a scientific level, there are much bigger concerns. The raw water being taken from rivers already has contamination from sewage. But there are other contaminants that regularly leach into waterways and oceans that are far tougher to treat, even for the most sophisticated California desalination plant. Hazardous chemicals from jet fuel, fluoropolymers and more pose an actual risk. But purified water is purified water, no matter its origin.
San Diego has already announced intentions to pull 35-percent of its water from wastewater by the year 2030. It remains to be seen whether Huntington Beach will move forward with their planned desalination plant. Currently, there is no solution to the mega drought in California that doesn’t come with an exorbitant price tag attached. Unfortunately, these initiatives often cost even more time than money. And time feels like it’s in even shorter supply than water.
Los Angeles is like an architectural exquisite corpse game, where a Victorian Queen Anne can stand proudly beside a kitschy Craftsman facing a rustic Mission Revival home across the street. There’s little rhyme or reason other than a seemingly ever-present row of towering palm trees tying everything together. Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles boasts some of the boldest architectural feats in the country, encompassing commercial and residential real estate alike in creativity. But today, we’re taking a closer look at an LA home that may not be the most famous, but is certainly among the most infamous. Hop in the car; we’re going to Los Feliz!
Franklin Avenue is one of the busiest stretches of road cutting through the tranquil neighborhood of Los Feliz. It serves as an east-west thoroughfare to Hollywood, keeping traffic predictably steady despite mostly bisecting residential areas. Like the rest of the city, it’s a homogeneous mix of architectural styles. Yet, one home is instantly distinguished by its dark sense of mystery and striking design. Between the corners where Normandie and Winona connect with Franklin, you’ll find the Sowden House.
Some immediately recognize its structural influence with obvious inspiration from ancient Mayan pyramids. Others simply see the ever-hungry maw of an enormous shark gaping threateningly at passing motorists. And if the stories are to be believed, at least one life has vanished down the Sowden House’s cavernous throat. But its story begins auspiciously enough in the midst of roaring ‘20s excess.
John Sowden, an eccentric photographer and purveyor of the arts, commissioned his friend Lloyd Wright, a set designer for Paramount, to construct the Sowden House. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Lloyd Wright was the oldest son of world-renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. As the Sowden House illustrates, he learned quite a bit from his father. With Sowden’s colorful tastes, Wright was no doubt encouraged to plan the strangest LA home possible. He didn’t hold back.
Completed in 1926, the Sowden House was every bit as striking then as it is now, though not nearly as revered. Wright employed the use of concrete blocks to create the otherworldly Mayan pyramid that crowns the LA home. While this technique may seem exotic by today’s standards, it was simply regarded as an obvious cost-cutting measure in the decadent ‘20s. Perhaps this was a factor in John Sowden’s hasty departure. Despite highly anticipating the property as his own personal entertainment hub for his Hollywood Hill artist friends, Sowden sold the property in 1930.
Upon construction, Wright’s Sowden House utilized an open floor plan with the home’s central courtyard serving as an axis facilitating a flow between the radius rooms. As we mentioned, the famed architect’s use of concrete blocks was heavily criticized at the time for their affordability. Yet, these earth-toned blocks were crucial in realizing his exotic vision. Wright believed in landscape architecture, exhibiting a particular reverence for nature. This was paid tribute with images of water, clouds, the sun, and harvest activities inscribed into the concrete, giving the LA home a ritualistic quality.
The façade offers the characteristic Mayan pyramid design. Meanwhile, the courtyard exhibits pillars reminiscent of specific ancient Mayan temples like Uxmal and Sayil. Intricate copper gates bar the entry which then leads upward through a dark, cavernous stairway into the home. Adopting a rectangular structure, the rooms circle the aforementioned courtyard. Arguably the most renovated area, the courtyard is almost unrecognizable from its original design today. At one time, the courtyard was home to both a pool measuring 32-feet long as well as a decorative fountain. IIt once featured a pair of concrete block water organs but an earthquake leveled them. The pool and fountain were eventually removed in favor of a lawn where guests were encouraged to lounge during theatrical and musical performances.
The Sowden House underwent a major renovation when designer Xorin Balbes purchased the property for 1.2-million dollars in 2001. At the time, he deemed the once mysterious and majestic LA home “a wreck” and invested 1.6-million dollars in its renovation. Much of the cost went to revitalizing the heavily eroded concrete blocks and converting a three-section kitchen into one much larger open space kitchen. In addition, Balbes overhauled the bathrooms and reinstalled a pool in the central courtyard along with a spa.
Wright’s son, Eric Lloyd Wright, criticized Balbes’ commissioned renovations. Historical preservationists likewise expressed disappointment at news of the changes. Major criticisms focused on the changes to the courtyard area, the entryway staircase, and Asian accents that clashed with the pre-existing Mayan theme. But with the costly updates came new attention on a property that had largely gone ignored over the decades. Following renovations, the Sowden House appeared in commercials and popular films such as L.A. Confidential and The Aviator. It also became a hot spot for corporate retreats, celebrity fundraisers, and high scale weddings.
The Sowden House has exchanged ownership numerous times over the years. Despite the Hollywood debauchery linked to the LA home, there’s a single resident who has drawn more attention to the Sowden House than any other. And the accusations pitted against this resident from his very own son paint the Sowden House as the site of one of the city’s most grisly and notorious murders.
The decadence and depravity of Hollywood was like a beacon to noted physician Dr. George Hodel. His razor sharp intelligence and status as a musical prodigy contributed to his instant charisma. But he also harbored a sordid history of sexual scandal and abuse allegations. It followed him to the Sowden House, when he purchased it in 1945. It was less than two years later when he allegedly murdered aspiring Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Short. The cold surgical precision of the crime continues to horrify to this day.
According to Hodel’s son, a retired homicide detective, the doctor had committed the atrocity, along with several other murders, in the basement of the Sowden House. Short’s murder became popularly known as the Black Dahlia Murder, one of the most notorious crimes in American history. But before charges could be brought against Hodel, he abandoned his family, fleeing to Asia in 1950.
It’s still unclear whether Hodel actually committed the murders. Yet his son, Steve Hodel, published a book about his theory in 2003 entitled Black Dahlia Avenger. In 2013, he returned to his childhood home with police canines who allegedly found trace human remains in the Sowden House basement. Were the remains Short’s? Unfortunately, that mystery continues. But with legends trumping confirmed truths, public consensus agrees that this is the site of the notorious murder. Hollywood area tours often stop outside of the LA home to regale tourists with the tale. You’ll also regularly find independent locals stopping to snap photos of the windowless facade facing Franklin Avenue. In the shadow of such a grotesque story, the hungry, gaping “jaws” of the pyramid structure are hard to ignore.
But even one of the world’s most infamous unsolved murders isn’t enough to scare people away from a home this majestic. The most recent owner of the Sowden House purchased the LA home in 2018 for 4,795,000-dollars with plans to make it, among other things, a fertile meeting spot for the rising stars in cannabis culture. Dan Goldfarb, founder of the pet CBD brand Canna-Pet and a former hedge fund analyst, has already continued the property’s lively spirit. Since Goldfarb’s acquisition of the residence, it’s been the venue for a political fundraiser, music video, art exhibition, performance art experience, and more.
While Lloyd Wright initially endured a wave of criticism for the Sowden House, the response softened over his lifetime. When he passed away in 1978, the Los Angeles Times heralded the home as the masterpiece of his residential designs. Wright’s son, Eric, even offered compliments on some of the renovations. While he enjoyed the revised kitchen and masterful landscaping design, he still found the courtyard changes unimpressive. Lloyd Wright would use the Mayan-influence again when designing a short-lived wooden shell for the Hollywood Bowl. However, it was the last time any member of the Wright family would employ this unique design style. The Sowden House continues to contribute to the Wright’s lasting legacy of innovation with a place on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
It seemed like it was never going to happen but it’s officially begun. The Los Angeles Metro has finally begun construction on a transit hub to connect the city’s train system to Los Angeles International Airport. Déjà vu? You’re not alone. You may recall last June’s groundbreaking ceremony. But good things take time; especially in LA. How long will we be waiting before these reinforcements to Los Angeles public transportation open to the public?
If this is all news to you, the Airport Metro Connector is a massive station that will connect the airport to LA’s public transit system. Construction is underway at the corner of Aviation Boulevard and 96th Street. The massive structure is anticipated to encompass nine-and-a-half acres. Features of the connecting station will include:
The goal is to allow quick and easy transference between the Crenshaw/LAX and the C (formerly Green) Line to and from the airport’s recently built people mover system. This plan is already resulting in plenty of head-scratching from the public. But Angelenos have long demanded reform to the Los Angeles public transportation system. Will this be the step forward that we need?
A lot of the confusion stems from how the C Line will connect to the new station. It’s important to recognize that the plan involves dividing the C Line into two legs. The first leg will run from Redondo Beach northward to Crenshaw and join the Expo Line. The second leg will run from Norwalk westward to the LAX station. It’s at the LAX station that it will double back.
This station is located a little over a mile from the current C Line. During its first year of operation in the context of the Airport Metro Connector, the C Line will instead run from Norwalk to the Expo Line and Redondo Beach to Rosa Parks Station. Sound confusing? It is. But it still moves Los Angeles public transportation forward with more convenient options, even if they’re not immediately ideal.
The news of forward movement on the Airport Metro Connector follows a report that the Crenshaw/LAX Line is expected to be completed in the coming months. This eight-and-a-half-mile rail line was supposed to be operational in 2019 but has been met with numerous delays and rising budget costs.
Metro is now expected to conduct a roughly six-month testing period on the new line with an aim to open limited service toward the end of 2022. This truncated line will run from the Expo/Crenshaw Station to the Westchester/Veterans Station. The area between Westchester station and the C Line will be compensated with a bus bridge.
So, when can Los Angeles public transportation expect relief from the full Crenshaw/LAX Line? Metro is currently predicting full service in the later half of 2023. However, the Airport Metro Connector is not expected to open until 2024 at the earliest. Of course, there is the looming possibility that construction of the Airport Metro Connector could further delay the new line’s completion.
The coming 2028 Summer OIympics may be a reason for the sudden urgency to overhaul Los Angeles public transportation. Many Angelenos have cited inadequate public transportation as a criticism of the city’s application to host the summer games.
However, Los Angeles is in a somewhat unique position in this regard. The average host city has to dedicate massive amounts of funding to erecting new stadiums and arenas. Los Angeles already boasts a wealth of these. Instead, federal and state funding can be allocated to bolstering the weak transportation system. These are improvements that Angelenos can enjoy long after the Olympics have moved to their next city.
Reliable Los Angeles public transportation to the airport has seemed like an unattainable fantasy for years. Unlike many major cities, Los Angeles lacks a unified city center, creating a unique obstacle for planners. While the LAX Flyaway Bus has been turbulently delivering travelers to and from the airport for years, it’s still at the whims of traffic jams. The Crenshaw/LAX Line could significantly change the city’s transportation nightmare. At the very least, the Airport Metro Connector is a step in the right direction.
Starting on April 15th, the Coachella Valley (specifically Indio) will descend into a fit of mass revelry that’s become all too familiar. Does the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival even need an introduction? This year’s event has been sold out for some time. But what else would you expect of the most popular music festival in the country?
In just a few short weeks, people from around the world will flood the normally tranquil desert-adjacent paradise. After all, this is their chance to see the likes of
Ye, Harry Styles, Billie Eilish and Doja Cat in a single weekend. Coachella is a hot topic in our line of work since we deal in Palm Springs real estate, not to mention surrounding Coachella Valley neighborhoods. And though Indio isn’t Palm Springs, it’s close enough for prospective homeowners to ask us, “Will I be affected by Coachella in my Palm Springs home?” In short, probably not. But for a more nuanced answer, read on!
Indio is located about 25 miles southeast of Palm Springs. Not exactly neighbors, but not really strangers either. When a quarter of a million festival goers are injecting themselves into the population of a nearby town, you can expect runoff, right?
Chances are good that part of what attracted you to a Palm Springs home was the peace and tranquility. Luckily, you won’t have to worry about Coachella’s crowds infringing much on your placid Palm Springs bubble.
All of the action is taking place in the Coachella Valley proper. Festival goers will be at the event all day and well into the evening. After all, why would they be clogging the streets of Palm Springs when the action is happening 25 miles up the freeway? They can enjoy the Palm Springs spas and pools anytime, but Coachella happens just two weekends a year.
But what about when festival goers finally stagger back to their rooms? Your mind may be racing with nightmares of sleepless nights from all-night ragers popping up on every block. But nine times out of 10, your average Coachella attendee is thoroughly wiped by day’s end. Most beeline it for their hotel beds and stay there until the next round of music summons them.
The festival lets out around midnight, give or take an hour. Most attendees then line up to catch their shuttles back to their hotels. Few are left in party mode after that draining commute. While some hotels and resorts host Coachella pre-parties, after parties are a rare occurrence.
Downtown Palm Springs can actually be a calmer experience during a Coachella weekend. Festival attendees are either preoccupied at the grounds in Indio or exhausted in their hotel rooms. Have you been dying to try that chic restaurant with the long waiting list? This can be an opportune time to try your luck.
You may notice an uptick of activity at your local grocery or liquor store. Traffic can also get a bit congested the day before the festival and the day afterward. But getting caught up in the Coachella exodus is the worst you can expect as a Palm Springs resident.
Remember, Palm Springs is one of the more distant Coachella Valley cities from Indio. This means you can look forward to being relatively unaffected by the Coachella crowds. And if you want to go to Coachella? Then you already have accommodations with your very own Palm Springs home. And trust us, that’s a hot commodity to have, festival or not!