Art Deco Man
Profile: Art Deco Man
Orange County Jewish Life: January 2005
By Kelly Hartog
Dave Goldstein has made it his personal mission to put artistry back into the art of living.
Soulless, culture-less, strip-mall mania, and just downright “tacky” are just some of the terms that have been used to describe the City of Angels. It’s one reason many former Angelino’s have decided to leave the big smog behind for the prettier environs of Orange County. Let’s face it; “beautiful” is not an adjective normally reserved for Los Angeles, unless of course you’re referring to the plastic-surgeried, Botoxed celebrities that grace the (airbrushed) pages of the tabloids.
And no more so is beauty eschewed than when it comes to housing in Los Angeles. While many Orange County residents are blessed with beautiful houses, waterfront views and ample yard space, in LA, finding a ridiculously expensive shoebox with bars on the windows and “undesirables” on your street corner, is more the order of the day.
Unless of course you’re Dave Goldstein, known to those who consider themselves among his friends (or tenants) as “Art-Deco Man.” An Angelino native, the 40-something Goldstein grew up in the Miracle Mile district, attended Fairfax High School, LA City College, and Cal State Northridge, graduating with a degree in merchandising. From there he went into selling automobiles — old foreign cars. “But I haven’t been in the car business for 25 years now,” he says. Later, he segued into commercial real estate. “Shopping centers, stores etc,” he reveals. “You can make a lot of money, but it’s very boring.”
Goldstein is a man on a mission; a superhero to the housing set if you will, intent on not only giving you value for your rental dollar but also a place you can actually call home. An Art-Deco fanatic, Goldstein goes to extreme lengths to scour the city, buying up old 1920s and 30s buildings with all the zeal of an over-enthusiastic terrier. Goldstein is renowned for sparing no expense when it comes to providing tenants with gleaming hardwood floors, French bay windows, crown moldings, wrought iron staircases and antique lighting to name but a few.
On meeting him outside one of his new buildings currently being restored, Goldstein proudly displays some of his wares in the trunk of his car — including brass handles and genuine 1930s salt and pepper shakers that he places in the homes of his tenants. “I don’t have to seek this stuff out,” he says. “People know I collect it, so they come to me.”
So what’s your fancy? Mediterranean villa, English Tudor, Spanish-style courtyard? Goldstein has them all, from the Hollywood Hills to Beverly Hills. From tiny studio apartments you can barely swing a cat in, to obscene penthouses with stunning views, some of which can rent for up to $3,500 per month.
Goldstein’s obsessions are legendary. In a city of plasterboard and box-style condos, his buildings stand out. Take a drive down Sycamore in the Beverly/Fairfax district — one of the city’s areas with a high concentration of Orthodox Jews, and you’ll find a slew of Goldstein’s properties. Goldstein says he’s looking for people “who will love these buildings as much as I do, and will take care of them. Because if the buildings are really good then you get really good tenants.”
Which is why, he continues, that he’s looking mainly for self-starters. People who are used to living in a house, and not dealing with apartment managers. He also reveals that many of his tenants hail from the East Coast; Boston and New York where they’re used to living in pre-war buildings. “Then they come to LA and are really depressed about finding somewhere decent to live.”
But if you think you can just cough up the cash and waltz into a Goldstein apartment, think again. Your money doesn’t impress him in the least. And you’d better be handy with a word processor and have a lyrical bent, because Goldstein expects you to write an essay. Yes, an essay.
And those essays are key. They supersede vast pots of cash and references any day of the week. And that’s crucial when there’s a waiting list as long as your arm to reside in a Dave Goldstein apartment. “I learn everything about people from their essays,” he says. “I never tell them what to write, I tell them they can write anything. Most, when they start writing, write their whole life story.”
But the essay isn’t Goldstein’s only non-conventional method when it comes to choosing potential tenants. If you’re black, Jewish, a pet owner, have lousy credit and/or zero references, you may well be just the type of person Goldstein is looking for. “I practice reverse discrimination,” he says. “A lot of my tenants have no jobs,” he reveals, but adds the all-important caveat that many have trust funds. “Basically I look for people who have been prejudiced against. I even take people who have AIDS. I’ve had people pass away in my apartments.”
Oh, and he’s also into astrological signs. “I like Cancers and Geminis,” he reveals, and current tenants have been known to tell prospective tenants that if you were born under one of these signs, you’re a shoo-in for a Dave Goldstein apartment. Whereas, Virgos? Well, don’t get him started on Virgos. “Virgos will pay you a week early but they’ll forget to sign the check or it will get lost in the mail, or they won’t date it. And they complain about everything,” he says.
However, if you happen to be born in September, don’t despair; Goldstein does in fact have several Virgo tenants. But no matter what your astrological sign, don’t even think about turning up with a futon. You’ll be out the door faster than you can say ‘tacky’. Goldstein has little sympathy for futon owners. But if you drive a Saab? Well, you’ve come to the right place.
Of course there’s no rhyme or reason to these little obsessions of Goldstein’s—except the Saab issue may stem from the fact that Goldstein used to renovate antique cars. Nevertheless, he must be doing something right. In the past 13 years, since he stumbled into the business, he’s only ever had to evict three tenants.
Like many success stories, Goldstein, who today owns 11 properties in choice LA real estate districts, began his latest career as a hobby. “I decided one day that I would buy one old building, an English Tudor with wood panels and leaded glass. I thought it would be fun to restore it. And then I discovered hundreds of people wanted to rent the places, but I only had eight apartments. So then I bought the one next door, and the one across the street, then one in the next street, and pretty soon I had 11.”
He also reveals that when deciding on which properties to purchase, he listens to his female tenants. “In general, they want hardwood floors, light, a garage and some kind of intercom system for security. “I always keep this in mind when I’m looking at purchasing a new building.”
With no formal study in the business behind him—Goldstein picked up most of his techniques while traveling extensively through Europe and imbibing the architecture—he simply says, “I’m a collector. I love beautiful things. And I think whenever you have an interest in what you’re doing a lot of it comes naturally.
“And I go overboard,” he confesses. “I want the instant gratification when I start in on a new building. “So I bring it all in,” he says. “The wrought ironwork, the leaded glass, fountains in the courtyards, the whole bit. I’m the type of guy who can’t wait two years for the tree to grow, I’ll just bring the whole tree in, full-size.
“What can I say?” he smiles. “I like to fix up things, I love history and I love to see transformation.” And with that he’s off again to his latest building to check the faucets, decide on color schemes, and seek out yet more elusive 1930s knick-knacks.