Los Angeles’s Echo Park Has Always Had an Artist’s Heart

Kenya Reeves-Costa shares why this diverse and welcoming enclave is the best place to live in the City of Angels right now.

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If you’ve ever dreamed of living in a neighborhood where you may accidentally become an extra in a low-budget indie film while walking your child to kindergarten, look just north of downtown Los Angeles to Echo Park. A longtime incubator for artists and musicians, the area has been home to actor Leonardo DiCaprio, singer Linda Ronstadt and writer Ayn Rand. Its eponymous lake provides a backdrop for tranquil picnics, while a game at Dodgers Stadium offers a rush of adrenaline. ESTATENVY caught up with real estate agent and Echo Park resident Kenya Reeves-Costa, also known as The LA Homegirl, to find out more about this uniquely diverse neighborhood.

EE: So, what’s so hot about Echo Park?

KRC: Some would say it is a hipster enclave. I’d say it’s always been a place for artists and creatives. It’s a beautiful mix of diversity—culturally, socioeconomically, even the landscape and architecture is diverse. It’s about three miles from downtown, and about four miles from Hollywood, so it’s in a really great location as well.

EE: Can you tell me a bit about the history of Echo Park?

KRC: Echo Park was one of LA’s first suburbs. It’s gone through a lot of changes, and you can see a lot of its rich history firsthand. For example, in Angelino Heights, there are all these beautiful 19th-century Victorian homes. On Carroll Avenue, you can see some that have actually been physically moved from Bunker Hill.

Echo Park has always had an artist’s heart, and you can still see that spirit today. In the 1920s and ‘30s, it was this giant space for artists to live, shoot their films and create their art. It was home to Keystone Studios, one of the first film studios in LA. Today, right down the street from my house, there’s this co-op art studio with classes for kids. There’s not even a name on the door, it’s just somebody’s garage, and they’re always opening it up, making things and welding things.

EE: What changes have you seen in the neighborhood over the years?

KRC: Many things have stayed the same since I moved here—like the dive bars, and this Italian restaurant called Masa. But new things have opened up too, like this cool restaurant Ostrich Farm and a really great breakfast place called Dinette. We have a Lassens, which has fresh-squeezed juice and locally grown and curated organic items. My favorite Mexican restaurant, El Compadre, has been here for as long as I can remember.

EE: What’s unique about real estate in this neighborhood?

KRC: Architecturally, there's such a giant mix of what you can get. You can get a Victorian, a beautiful Spanish or the perfect Craftsman. You can buy in the flat area of Echo Park, or you can buy in the hills. Any type of home you want, you can get. Echo Park also has easy freeway access to Hollywood and downtown.

Echo Park has a really downhome feel, like you really know your neighbors. My husband once commented that we live on “Sesame Street.” There will be a lady sweeping her drive, then a guy will come out of his garage and know my daughter's name. When you go to the grocery store or pharmacy, they know you. We live dead-smack in the city, and everyone walks their kids to school. And there's a butterfly reserve on our way.

EE: What should buyers know about looking for a home in this neighborhood?

KRC: Buyers should know that it’s a competitive market. They should know that it can be a bit pricey for your first home. Most people are pretty aware of what Echo Park has to offer now.

Another thing I didn't expect was for both the public and the charter schools to be so great. My daughter’s kindergarten has been around since 1906. They actually have a garden and chickens at her school. The garden sparks all this great conversation about growing food and composting. Her favorite chicken is named “Hey Hey!”

EE: What excites you about the future of the neighborhood?

KRC: I see a lot of new apartments, homes and condos being built in our neighborhood. I’m excited about who’s going to move into those places. I’m also excited about a new restaurant that’s just popped up—-a new vegan place called Counterpart Deli. I’m excited about all of the new and fresh ideas that people are bringing to the neighborhood.

If you're relocating to Los Angeles, you think about beaches, traffic and all of the common things people say about the city. But you rarely see the Eastside and all its hipster glory. It really is a really great place to live. If I had to do it over again, I’d still choose Echo Park.