Today the City of Los Angeles unveils a new typology in the City’s emergency response to its housing crisis. Designed by Kadre Architects with Lehrer Architects LA and the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Engineering, the Northeast New Beginnings Community in Cypress Park is comprised of 34 standalone homes, each with a bedroom, bathroom, living area and kitchenette–all provided for the increased autonomy and privacy of residents on the path to permanent housing. The 35,000 sq. ft. campus is rounded out with a communal living room for group gatherings and community-building activities, offices for case management, a laundry, pet area and outdoor dining and recreation space. This team, including builder Ford Construction, has been instrumental in designing and building several of the City’s most experimental new communities to tackle the housing emergency in Los Angeles, including Tiny Home Villages, award-winning multi-unit supportive housing complexes and Project Homekey motel conversions.
On projects like this, the site is generally the most restrictive and biggest design challenge. The City is often forced to use oddly shaped, undeveloped, infill land that is overlooked by other developers, requiring innovative design moves from the team to create a meaningful sense of place. This site is sandwiched between the Arroyo Parkway, the Golden State Freeway, Avenue 19 and Riverside Drive. The site’s irregular shape and steep slopes, crisscrossed underground utilities, Caltrans easements, extremely poor soil conditions and surrounding freeways and major intersections all forced extreme limitations on access and construction. Many of the City’s previous interim housing communities of this nature used 8ft x 8ft Pallet Shelters which, due to their size (and lack of private kitchens and bathrooms), can fit more easily into small and irregularly-shaped lots. The “mini” homes used in the New Beginnings Community are 350 sq. ft., making them significantly more difficult to arrange due to their larger size and increased accessibility requirements. Permitting agencies make it mandatory to build ramps to each and every unit, as they consider these structures more permanent.
With access only possible from a single point on the site, the architects’ chief concern was to provide order to the prefabricated homes and create a hierarchy of in-between spaces to feel like a complete and cohesive community. They oriented the units around an open, unifying space, effectively making this a courtyard housing typology, imbued with a sense of dignity and respect through use of strategically placed vibrant colors and materials. They used paint on otherwise black asphalt as an outdoor “rug”, connecting the homes with the large, central space. The City team wanted a palette of blues and greens, so the team riffed on these preselected colors. For important accents, they drew initial inspiration from the colorful work of celebrated local Chicano artists Patssi Valdez and Frank Romero, honoring its Cypress Park location and roots.
“New Beginnings provides a template for creating dignified, vibrant communities out of ordinary building blocks. Taking painterly cues from local Chicano Artists, Frank Romero and Patssi Valdez, this previously overlooked site is transformed into a vibrant living painting that will provide daily joy for the future residents. This new emergency housing prototype for the City of Los Angeles allows families to stay together and thrive, during our housing crisis,” says Nerin Kadribegovic, Founder of Kadre Architects.
“The Cypress Park New Beginnings Community provides formerly houseless fellow Angelenos with the grace of place. It takes what was a “throwaway” devalued site—hidden in plain view from the thousands of drivers and cars passing daily —and unveils it as the mixed up, dense, joyous eclectic urban jewel that it actually is. Making this a place of community transforms the way we perceive this whole precinct and enhances our city the way such projects must,” continues Michael B. Lehrer, FAIA, President of Lehrer Architects LA.
Kadribegovic founded Kadre Architects in 2022, after 20 years at Lehrer Architects. The two teams continue to be close collaborators on several projects. Both firms have made addressing housing a priority in their work, through award-winning affordable housing solutions, shelters, transitional housing, community projects, and thought leadership. They have spearheaded innovative models for identifying under-utilized land for development and using cost-saving measures and lightning-fast execution to create beautiful and dignified living spaces for everyone, not just those at the top of the social ladder.
The Cypress Park New Beginnings Community will welcome approximately 100 residents at opening and will be operated by the JWCH institute.
500 N. Ave 19 Los Angeles, CA 90031
Kadre Architects with Lehrer Architects LA
Barbara Hall & Associates