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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Some like it haute

January 28, 2007|Jessica C. Lee | Special to The Times

Watch out, Melrose. Move over, Robertson. The Mid-City West neighborhood of Picfair Village -- once hardly worth a second look -- is on its way to becoming L.A.'s next trendy place to live and play.

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Beginnings

By 1922, the Santa Monica Land and Water Co. had developed this area into a residential community called Pico Boulevard Heights and lauded it as "the New Wilshire ... [and] a delightful place for a home," according to a neighborhood association website.

Although various communities in Los Angeles had covenants determining who could and could not live there, Picfair Village was accessible to minorities and attracted many Jewish and African American residents.

Picfair Village, a part of L.A.'s Mid-City West district, is south of Pico Boulevard, north of Venice Boulevard, west of Hauser Boulevard and east of Fairfax Avenue -- hence its name, derived from Pico and Fairfax.

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What it's about

In November 2004, Picfair Village was named one of Los Angeles Magazine's "10 Most Overlooked Neighborhoods in Los Angeles." Less than a decade ago, auto-body shops and vacant retail spaces lined Pico. But residents say those days are over.

According to the Picfair Village Community Assn., Pico has undergone a renaissance in the last five years. "There's a movement of more boutique business in the area, and I see it improving [Picfair Village] positively," said Alissa Solomon, an agent with Prudential California Realty's John Aaroe division.

With high-end clothing stores such as the Pinky Rose Boutique and organic cuisine at Bloom Cafe, Solomon said that Picfair Village could easily become the next Melrose Avenue or Robertson Boulevard.

The annual Picfair Village Street Fair has given a shot of life to the community as well. The August event is celebrated with food, live music and dancing.

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Insiders' view

"People stay here a long time. It's not the kind of place where people move in and leave," said resident Diane Isaacs. Area improvements contribute to the "staying-put" attitude, she said.

She said she was initially drawn to Picfair Village because of its proximity to the Santa Monica Freeway and major arteries including Fairfax and Pico, but she also cherishes its cohesive atmosphere.

Sydney Stinette, who's lived in Picfair Village since 1978, says she finds comfort in knowing her neighbors on a first-name basis.

"I actually speak to my neighbors," she said. "It's just the most wonderful feeling."

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Good news, bad news

Police say crime in the community, which has its share of gang-related tagging, has decreased over the last five years.

More negatives? Well, there's nothing quite like old sycamore trees to give streets a majestic feel, but the roots of the ones in Picfair Village are wreaking havoc on sidewalks, causing cracks and making them difficult to walk across.

And finding parking for guests can be a bear along the many permit-only streets.

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Housing stock

Most of the homes were built in the 1920s and 1930s and are Spanish Colonial Revival, English Cottage and traditional in style. Houses range from 1,200 to 1,800 square feet and typically have two to three bedrooms and one to two bathrooms.

One downside to some of these homes is fireplaces that are in need of a new foundation due to the high levels of lime used in their construction.

On the market now is an 864-square-foot traditional-style home priced at $675,000. Built in 1927, it has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a remodeled kitchen with stainless-steel appliances and a new gas fireplace.

A 1,928-square-foot Spanish-style home built in 1935 is listed at $799,000. This home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a den and hardwood floors.

For $849,000, home seekers can purchase a completely renovated, 1,656-square-foot traditional-style house. Built in 1937, this home has three bedrooms, two bathrooms and is gated.

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Report card

Picfair Village is served by the L.A. Unified School District. Many residents seek to enroll their kids at Mid-City Magnet School for kindergarten through eighth grade. The school scored 723 out of 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Children from kindergarten through the fifth grade also attend Saturn Elementary, which scored 676. Mount Vernon Middle School and Los Angeles Senior High scored 578 and 523, respectively.

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Sources: www.cde.ca.gov; www.picfairvillage.org; www.neighborhoodlink.com; www.piconc.org; www.ziprealty.com.

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