When construction began in 2002, Santa Monica firm Pugh + Scarpa’s Fuller Lofts was seen as a major coup for LA. The 104-unit project, built out of a 1920s cast-in-place concrete Fuller Paints warehouse in Lincoln Heights, included 50 percent affordable housing and was seen as the flagship project for Livable Places, a nonprofit affordable housing developer cofounded by Pugh + Scarpa principal Larry Scarpa and other major LA players.
But the project has been besieged by setbacks, with work stalling in early 2008 after Livable Places disbanded, a casualty of the economic downturn and disputes with contractors.
Construction restarted this spring under local developer Lee Homes and its prime lender Citibank, and the project neared completion before thudding once more to a halt—and jettisoning its architect. Scarpa has told AN that his firm is no longer associated with the Lofts, citing contractual differences with Lee Homes as a major cause of the firm’s exit.
“We’re as off that job as you can be off a job,” Scarpa said.
According to the architect, the current impasse began after Lee Homes took over the project, delivering him what he refers to as an “unworkable contract” and walking away from subsequent negotiations. The contract, said Scarpa, gave the firm fifty cents for every dollar it was owed, plus millions of dollars in liability. Scarpa has since refused to hand over project-related documents to Lee Homes.
“It’s completely unfair,” said Scarpa. “If they want to get material, they have to come to some agreement. I’m not going to just give the stuff away.” Scarpa suspects that the building’s affordable units and the ground-level retail may both be removed under the new ownership.
Lee Homes did not respond to requests for comment. According to the firm’s website, the company has completed over 1,000 units of housing since 2003, including the Flower Street Lofts in Los Angeles, Centre Street Lofts in San Pedro, and Harbor Lofts in Anaheim.
Asked if he would take legal action, Scarpa was stoic. “I can’t really do anything,” he said. “Architects don’t really have that kind of power.”