Zellman says politics hurt the project as well. Federal officials opposed cooperative housing because it competed with for-profit housing, he says, and the Federal Housing Administration shied away from modern homes, considering them structurally unsound. Lenders also shied away because the neighborhood was going to be integrated—a first in the hillside district. The neighborhood's "reputation of being a cooperative got translated into being a bunch of Commies," Nora Weckler adds.
Building on odd-shaped sites on hilly slopes also presented problems. Two contractors who signed on for the job went bankrupt. "The contractors, when they bid, they didn't recognize the problems, or the added costs," Weckler says. "So they bid too low."
"Part of it was an architectural problem," Buckner says, citing the intricacy of the detailing, which proved expensive. Jones, she says, "clearly learned from the mistakes and applied that learning to the later houses he designed for Eichler Homes."
Rather than building just a few designs, Zellman says, Mutual Housing went with 26 in an effort to meet the desires of the members. That raised costs. "It turned out to be a victory for democracy," he and Friedland wrote, "but a disaster for production efficiency."
"The architects designed it so the cabinets and closets could all be mass-produced," Weckler says. "It turned out none of the houses were quite that square, so they all had to be done separately, and by hand almost, to fit. So that added to the cost."
And cooperative living is never easy. Israel remembers his father on the phone, night after night, ironing out neighborhood problems.
But no one ever complained that the dream had been lost, Israel says. "The people who lived there, they liked it," he says. "It was good for them."
Photos: John Eng, Adriene Biondo, Spencer Cheng; and courtesy Crestwood Hills Archive, Cory Buckner, A. Quincy Jones Architecture Archive, Simon Elliott
• Crestwood Hills is up Kenter Avenue, above Sunset Boulevard, in Brentwood. Mutual Housing Association homes can be spotted along Rochedale Lane, Hanley Avenue, Stonehill Lane, Deerbrook Lane, Tigertail Road, Bluegrass Lane, and nearby streets. The Crestwood Hills website is crestwoodla.com.
• 'A. Quincy Jones,' the book by Cory Buckner (Phaidon Press, 2002), includes a chapter on the Mutual Housing Association homes.
• 'Looking for Los Angeles,' edited by Charles G. Salas and Michael S. Roth (Getty Research Institute, 2001), includes the essay 'Broadacre in Brentwood? The Politics of Architectural Aesthetics' by Harold Zellman and Roger Friedland.
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