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FIXER-UPPER : A Nationwide TV Audience Will Watch as a House Is Transformed Into Cozy Little Northridge Home

February 11, 1988|LEON WHITESON | Whiteson is a Los Angeles architecture writer.

A run-down clapboard cottage in Northridge is about to be transformed into a family home before the eyes of millions of national TV viewers.

The house, at 18134 Chase Street, just west of Balboa Boulevard and north of Roscoe Boulevard, is being prepared for a fix-up on a new ABC morning program, "Home" (which airs daily at 10:30 a.m.).

Over the next few months, "Home" will devote regular segments to "guide the viewer through the steps necessary in finding a home, negotiating a price, choosing a mortgage and renovating the home into your dream house," according to executive producer Woody Fraser.

"In renovating the house, we will call upon not only experts but folks who have had practical, hands-on experience in remodeling their own homes," Fraser said. "Some of these people will be asked to come out to the house to lend a hand."

Like the Real America

The 67-year-old, 1,000-square-foot, two-bedroom cottage occupies a large, 100-by-190-foot lot. It was chosen for its universal appeal, said producer Dan Weaver. "We wanted the kind of house that could be found in any small town anywhere in the United States. We didn't want a place that screamed 'L.A.' "

Indeed, the Chase Street cottage is typical of the kind of house that transplanted Midwesterners built in the Valley in the 1920s and '30s. It is a square little wood-frame box with a steep asphalt shingle roof set back on a deep front lawn, with a brick patio, barbecue and garage at the back among orange and lemon trees. The combined living-dining room runs the width of the house behind the front porch. Two smallish bedrooms, a kitchen and utilities room, and a small bathroom complete the plan. Up a steep stair is an attic room with a ceiling too low to stand up in, except at the peak.

"It's our Cinderella house," Weaver said.

Purchased for $167,000, with 20% down and a $1,500-a-month mortgage payment, the house has a program budget of $30,000 for the renovations. The idea is to put the fixed-up house back on the market for around $250,000.

"We want to show viewers how they could make around $50,000 profit, and maybe trade up to a bigger home," Fraser explained. "The family we are looking at would be a young couple with one small child."

The Chase Street cottage, occupied for the last 50 years by one woman, is badly in need of repair. Its paint is peeling, the wooden sash windows have rotted, and the roof needs shingling. The only heating is provided by two individual gas wall units, and the electrical supply and wiring require must be completely replaced. The bathroom and kitchen are badly in need of modernization, and the timber garage is a near-wreck.

On the face of it, $30,000 worth of renovations will have to stretch to restore a structure that has been neglected for this long.

Situated at the center of the West Valley, the neighborhood is in the midst of a transition from the casual rural-commercial pre-World War II era of small bungalows set on the edges of fields to a contemporary suburban scene.

The Southern Pacific rail corridor runs a few streets north of the property, bordered by a light-industrial zone that includes such operations as the Allied Moving Systems truck station. To the east of Lindley Avenue, the nearest main intersection is Northridge Junior High School, bordering meadows where horses still graze. Van Nuys Airport, University of California, Northridge and Northridge Hospital are in the vicinity. The San Diego Freeway is a mile to the east.

The neighborhood is a mixture of residential types. On Lindley Avenue and Roscoe Boulevard are low-rise apartment blocks built in the 1950s and '60s. Lindley Chase, one such complex, is only two doors away from 18134 Chase Street. Farther west are newer and more expensive homes, including some large mock-Elizabethan suburban houses built in a style tagged by one wit as "Stockbroker's Tudor."

There is an independent gas station up Lindley Avenue, with a "village" mini-mall across the way. The closest major shopping areas are Northridge Fashion Center, two miles to the northwest, and the Roscoe-Balboa intersection about the same distance east.

The price of homes in the district varies from the low $100,000s on Napa Street near the rail line to the high $300,000s on the pleasant, tree-lined avenues off Roscoe Boulevard to the west. The community is predominantly Anglo, with residents now moving up from lower- to middle-middle class.

Whether to Expand

Given these factors--the rising income levels of the neighborhood, the smallness of the house standing on a large lot, the size of the family for whom it is intended--homeowner-renovators would need to confront a basic decision right away.

Should the homeowners stay within the confining walls of the present cottage? Or should they expand the size of the house itself, to take advantage of both the large lot size and the trend set by the area's newer and larger homes?

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