Why LA’s ‘dingbat’ apartment is both an icon and an eye-catcher

In 49 states, a dingbat is an elementary school insult, but in California and especially LA, the term refers to a residential building with a very distinct style. These buildings are typically painted with light pastels and are adorned with a font that describes the address or tropical names such as “The Capri” or “The Pink Flamingo.” It’s all dangerous up above a carport.

What is the design history of these apartment buildings, and what can they learn from California’s current housing crisis?

“They were cheap to build. They were utilitarian. They made it possible for millions to find a foothold and get started,” Bloomberg writer and editor Laura Bliss told KCRW.


A “dingbat” is typically adorned with a font – “Neil Manor” in this case. Photo by Brian Hardzinski / KCRW


This “dingbat” shows a blue and green mosaic tile pattern on its exterior. Photo by Brian Hardzinski / KCRW


This “dingbat” announces a vacancy. Photo by Brian Hardzinski / KCRW

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