In 20 years at Wilshire Village, Scott Baker has seen his share of the good, bad, and ugly. Most folks who've driven by the eight-acre apartment complex on Alabama & Dunlavy have just seen the bad; the crumbling, decaying exterior of what was once a prized, Federal Housing Authority-insured project constructed around 1940.
Baker, who retired from Southwestern Bell, moved into his upper-level, two-bedroom apartment in 1988, when rent was $300. A few years ago, he says, the rent was raised - to $315. The cheap rent has been especially desirable to the senior citizens who live in the complex - tenants who must now find new homes by the end of the month.
Baker's apartment is the embodiement of "don't judge a book by its cover." He's kept the place up - the hardwood floors may be faded, but they're clean; the entire place is bathed in natural sunlight. The old-fashioned stove is an original. He wasn't sure of the square-footage, but it's a very decent size - especially for $315.
In his time there, Baker has seen his share of cars drive into the ditch on Dunlavy shortly after the bars close; he's seen police chases; he's talked to tenants who've been robbed; he's alleged to have seen more crackheads and squatters move into abandoned units as the years have gone by.
This year, he's already mourning over the fact that he won't be able to throw his annual Mardi Gras party. He's strung up lights and beads in the past, with friends congregating in the area of the parking lot right outside his unit - and it's been such a familial environment, no one ever seemed to mind the noise.
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Baker's sad to be leaving the place - but he's worried more for his elderly neighbors. He's not even totally sure what to make of the vague "advance notice of lease termination" the few tenants received January 30. It's signed by an unidentified "owner's representative" for Alabama&Dunlavy Ltd. It's not written on letterhead; there's no phone number or e-mail address.
Baker said he hasn't talked to the former owner, Jay Cohen, in several years. But even before then, tenants were responsible for their own maintenance. Baker was able to keep the place up over the years. It's just a shame Cohen and the current owner weren't able to do the same.
The landlord at the place has been known to aggressively shoo photographers off the site. Thanks to Baker, we got in. For more pictures of the Wilshire Village apartments, click here.
-- Craig Malisow