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Santa Monica Library Hosts Panel on Local Phenomenon
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Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jorge Casuso

March 10, 2016 -- What is boxy, considered ugly, synonymous with idiot, moron and fool, and found across Santa Monica?

The dingbat apartment, of course.

Those two-and three-story stucco-plastered apartments with a tacky name displayed above a garage under an overhanging floor will be the subject of a discussion at the Santa Monica Library this month.

Photo credit: Society of Architectural Historians, Southern California Chapter

"Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment," a discussion of the cheap vernacular style that spread across LA like a wildfire in the fifties and sixties, will take place Saturday, March 26 at 2 p.m. in the Main Library’s MLK, Jr. Auditorium.

"The dingbat grew out of Los Angeles’s rapid postwar expansion period, and for more than half a century has been vilified, praised, studied, and often misunderstood—as much for being ugly and ordinary as for being innovative, iconoclastic, and distinctly 'L.A.'," wrote the Society of Architectural Historians, Southern California Chapter, which is co-sponsoring the event.

"As a housing type, the dingbat has enabled the sprawl for which Los Angeles is infamous while simultaneously creating a consistency of urban density achieved by few other 20th century cities."

A moderated panel discussion will include contributing authors and photographers of the book Dingbat 2.0: The Iconic Los Angeles Apartment as Projection of a Metropolis (2016, DoppelHouse Press), considered the first critical study of what is "perhaps the most ubiquitous and mundane building type in Los Angeles," organizers said.

The following panelists will participate in the discussion:

Architect Thurman Grant, a Los Angeles-based architect, educator and curator who specializes in residential and commercial architecture and interiors,

Architectural historian Steven Treffers, author of " The dingbat apartment: the low-rise urbanization of post-World War II Los Angeles, 1957-1964,"

Barbara Bestor, the co-author of Bohemian Modern, which explores the structural and interior designs in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Josh Stein, an educator and the author of the essay collection "The Veneer of Nostalgia Dingbat: Life in Slums of Beverly Hills."

Once considered cheap housing, many of Santa Monica's dingbat apartments remained inexpensive under the City's Rent Control law until the state Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act went into full effect in 1999

The new law allows landlords to raise the rent of most vacant units to market rates, making Santa Monica's dingbat apartments no longer affordable to the working class ("Study Finds Santa Monica Affordable Housing Disappearing," March 9, 2016).

The event is free and open to the public. Seating is limited and on a first-arrival basis. The Santa Monica Public Library is wheelchair accessible.

For special disabled services, call Library Administration at (310) 458-8606 at least one week prior to event. For more information, visit or contact the Santa Monica Public Library at (310) 458-8600.

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