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A pedestrian walks a dog past The Pink Flamingo dingbat apartment building. From the San Fernando Valley to Culver City to La Cienega Heights, developers in the 1950s and ‘60s replaced thousands of older Los Angeles buildings with economical two- or three-story apartment complexes, known locally as dingbats.

A pedestrian walks a dog past The Pink Flamingo dingbat apartment building. From the San Fernando Valley to Culver City to La Cienega Heights, developers in the 1950s and ‘60s replaced thousands of older Los Angeles buildings with economical two- or three-story apartment complexes, known locally as dingbats.

Photographer: Bing Guan/Bloomberg
CityLab
Design

The Iconic Affordable Homes for L.A. Dreamers

The colorful carport-equipped dingbat apartment buildings offered cheaper — and sometimes stylish — digs for generations of L.A. dreamers. 

Corrected

(This article is part of our ongoing series exploring the iconic home designs that shaped global cities. Read more from the series and sign up to get the next story sent directly to your inbox.) 

Faced with a housing shortage, Los Angeles once had a solution. From the San Fernando Valley to Culver City to La Cienega Heights, developers in the 1950s and ’60s tore down thousands of older buildings and filled in virtually every square foot with aggressively economical two- or three-story apartment complexes — known locally as dingbats.

Subdivided into as many units as the lots could accommodate — usually between 6 and 12 — most of these stucco boxes left little room outdoors, except for an exposed carport slung beneath the second floor. This new format for affordable multifamily living became nearly as ubiquitous as the single-family tract housing that iconified the much-mythologized Southern California suburban lifestyle.