Driving through Pico-Robertson, real estate developer George Saadin smiles as he points out kosher markets filled with shoppers, Judaica shops, shuls and dozens of kosher restaurants — veritable signs of the Jewish renaissance taking place now in the neighborhood.
The area, he said, had nearly everything that the growing number of observant Jews could want, save for one glaring exception: kosher housing. Saadin hopes to change that.
Saadin, 42, is nearing completion on a 16-unit condominium project on Cashio Street that targets traditional Jews. The kosher condos, believed to be the largest and among the first such developments in the Southland, will each feature two dishwashers, two separate counters and two sinks to allow religious Jews to cook and clean dairy and meat products separately. The units will also have programmable timers to automatically turn lights off and on during Shabbat and a netila station — a sink for ritual handwashing.
“I’m trying to fulfill the needs of our people, who are looking for something like this,” said Saadin, a member of the Executive Committee of The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. The development is open to non-Jews, he said. “I wanted to do something different from what everybody else in the area, because you get [top] dollar for doing something unique.”
At starting prices of at least $600,000, the two- to three-bedroom condominiums won’t come cheap. However, Saadin expects them to generate lots of interest because of their inherent appeal to observant Jews and their relatively large size in a neighborhood teeming with older, smaller apartment buildings.
Kosher condos “make living our lifestyle so much easier, so much simpler. There’s definitely a demand,” said Rabbi Yitzchok Sommer of Anshe Emes on Robertson Boulevard. “If you’re Orthodox, you want to live within walking distance of a shul, within walking distance of a mikvah [ritual bath], bakeries and a school for your kids that you don’t have to schlep to.”
But the Pico-Robertson development may prove a tough sell. That’s because many experts predict the housing market will slow in coming months if interest rates rise as expected. That could force Saadin to roll back prices to fill his building.
To be sure, individual homeowners in Los Angeles and elsewhere have customized their kitchens at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars to make them kosher. However, only a handful of developers across the nation have tailored large projects for a Jewish clientele.