Demographic Factors: No longer out in the country, King’s Road is today largely lined with three- and four-story apartment buildings, many of which are built virtually property-line to property-line, resulting in a rather high-density environment. Residents are fall into two major groups: upper-middle class professionals and a large community of senior citizens, most of whom are Russian immigrants. Additionally, proximity to major commercial and retail zones such as Santa Monica, Sunset and La Cienega Boulevards, as well as Melrose Avenue, brings many non-residents into the neighborhood during daylight and evening hours.
Wildfire Hazards: In the event of brushfire, Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevards provide major firebreaks against the most likely source of conflagration, the Hollywood Hills to the north. The 800 block of King’s Road would, however, because of its proximity to these breaks, potentially experience a large influx of fire crews and/or displaced evacuees from the threatened hillsides. The Schindler House itself, with of course the exception of the concrete slab walls, is somewhat vulnerable to airborne embers due to the flat, tarred roof and incendiary potential of the oiled wood and fiber-board construction. Also, the surrounding stands of bamboo and other plant materials could pose potential ignition sources. Fire danger will be increased following strong “El NiÒo” currents, due to the high degree of plant (fuel) growth in the winter and spring.
Structure Fire Hazards: In the event of a localized structure fire, such as that which recently swept through portions of the apartment building across the street from the Schindler House, the open lawns and outdoor courtyards provide logical gathering points for displaced neighbors. The light wood-frame construction of many of the surrounding buildings, as well as the advanced median age and high incidence of smokers amongst their residents are cited as complicating risks.
Flooding Hazards: Minor flooding should run south with the grade down Kings Road, and the modest curbside berming should provide additional protection to the pad itself, although some of the excavated depressions outdoors could collect water, posing potential health risks should they be allowed to stand. The Schindler House itself, lacking a basement, should tolerate rising ground water well, but has historically been liable to extensive roof leaking. Should enough water accumulate on the roof’s flat surface, its collapse is possible.
In years where a strong El NiÒo current is likely, more major flooding, mudslides and/or debris flows are to be expected, and the picture becomes more mixed. On the positive side, the fact that King’s Road is discontinuous at both Sunset and DeLongpre, coupled with the cross-grade doglegs at Fountain and Santa Monica, should significantly reduce the amount of effluvia received from the canyons at both Kings and Queens Roads north of Sunset. Similarly, in the event of major water and/or debris volumes flowing out of Laurel Canyon, Kings Road is well situated to avoid the main brunt, but is again close enough to the principal drainages to anticipate potentially large influxes of displaced persons.
More troubling, however, the Los Angeles County Flood Control District has identified a deficiency in the West Hollywood Storm Drain System (DDI-11). This network collects runoff from the Hollywood Hills as well as approximately one square mile of street grid uphill from the Schindler House. The branching structure of the drain system increasingly gathers the run-off in larger and larger pipes until the network’s full volume is finally funneled together at the intersection of Romaine Avenue and Kings Road. The 4.5′ square pipe that carries the collected effluvia under Kings Road can be expected to prove insufficiently large on the order of every 10 to 15 years. This would then result in potentially large quantities of water backing up out the storm drains at Kings Road and Romaine (approx. 200 yards from the Schindler House) and/or from drains at Kings Road and Willoughby (only 50 yards away). Such excess delivered right at its doorstep could overflow the existing curbside berming and pose inundation hazards to the Schindler House site. Additional abatement measures would be required to secure the site in years where a strong El NiÒo was anticipated.
Seismic Hazards: In the event of a serious earthquake the Schindler House itself should fare quite well. However, the alluvial soils in the area, coupled with the ubiquity of flimsily constructed stucco-over-frame apartment buildings, could result in one or more major structural failures nearby. Because these buildings house a large number of tenants, there could be a substantial number of displaced neighbors seeking shelter. Whether any buildings are red-tagged on King’s Road or not, it is likely, as happened after the Northridge temblor, that many residents of such structures would be reluctant to live or sleep in their homes for several days after a major quake and its aftershocks. At the same time, displaced residents might be unwilling or unable to abandon their homes altogether, especially if transportation is impaired or rumors of looting are circulating, so there would be a large number of neighbors looking for open spaces to sleep and congregate. The fact that much of the open land on the block has been built over by the large apartment complexes would increase the potential pressure put on the grounds at the Schindler House. Architectural features of the house such as its single story construction, large window openings, clerestory windows, lightly constructed (and visually light) roof, immediate access to the outdoors, etc. would make it a psychologically comforting structure following a major quake and thus neighbors might gravitate toward it. External features such as the outdoor fireplaces and open-air “rooms” would provide natural foci for gathering.
Jurisdictional Issues: The fact that the King’s Road House site lies precisely on the border of West Hollywood and Los Angeles city limits is a complicating factor in that overtaxed emergency service crews from either jurisdiction might prove unable to provide sufficient support at their fringes. This result would probably be most likely in cases of widespread emergency, such as earthquakes. The potential of the Schindler House to serve as a community resource and gathering point during such disasters would be maximized by outfitting it with equipment and supplies that make it as self-sufficient as possible.