If you've hiked around Runyon Canyon, you've probably seen 2450 Solar Drive, a pink-colored Mediterranean home that looks like a victim of the recent real estate crash. But it's actually been around for almost two decades. Work started on the house in the early 1990s, but construction never finished. Hikers and joggers regularly use part of the long trail that runs alongside the boarded-up home, likely unaware they're walking on private property. Some neighbors on Solar Drive have nicknamed the home the "Wedding Cake," while the squatters and partiers who've broken in over the years refer to it as the "Runyon Canyon Clubhouse."
And last week, the home, which sits on 22 acres, was listed for sale for $12.5 million. The news has sent tremors through the neighborhood.
At points, the owner has tried to privately sell off parts of the 22-acre estate before, but this is the first time in roughly seven years the home has officially been listed for sale. The listing, which includes many acres of developable land, as well as part of the popular walking trail, touts the property as the “last big parcel in the Hollywood Hills.”
Richard Klug, the Sotheby’s listing agent representing the house, is upbeat the right buyer will come along, despite the fact that numerous issues exist with the property. The house has no certificate of occupancy, the permits have expired, and it was built larger than permitted, so the new owner would either have to seek a variance or tear down part of the residence. "Bring in an architect, get the changes approved and start from there," Klug advises potential buyers. On the upside, there's a great master suite, room for a tennis court, and some of the "best views" in the city, says Klug.
Today, the only occupant is a security guard who lives in a trailer on the gated property, hired to chase away the vandals and curiosity-seekers. The home was originally built around 1993 by a local man named Tom Ego. Ego didn't respond to multiple requests for an interview, but a representative for Gregg Maedo, an OC-based architect, says Maedo's firm drew up architectural plans for the home for Ego in 1989. Most of the building permits issued--for the pool, retaining wall, and other components--date back to the early 1990s.
It's believed that Ego built the home as a spec house for an Argentinean couple, or sold it to them during the process of building it for himself. Either way, the Argentinean couple divorced while the house was under construction, so the residence was essentially abandoned, and architect Maedo left the project. (Subsequent contractors and architects would come along and "butcher" the original design, according to a rep for Maedo.)
In 2004, the home--still uncompleted at this point---was sold to Timothy Devine, a former Sony executive, and Shauna Giliberti, a self-professed real estate investor who'd once held the title of Miss Palm Springs. Buying the property as tenants in common, Devine and Giliberti each took a 50 percent stake in the home.
But the house quickly became mired in legal issues after their purchase. Court documents allege Giliberti borrowed money from investors by selling off deeds of trust or ownership notes on her half of the property. In some cases, those deeds were allegedly fake or unrecorded, according to one source. Lawsuits against Giliberti by creditors followed; investors filed suits accusing her of fraud, and disputed her claims of being a "real estate expert." In 2006, she filed for bankruptcy.
More recently, a legal resolution allowed Devine to take full title of the home, which prompted the listing last week. Giliberti didn't respond to an email and Devine declined to be interviewed.
For the neighbors, who've already endured years of living next to a home that's a "drug den, a crime magnet, and a fire trap,” according to film producer Iya LaBunka, who lives on Solar Drive, the latest worry is that a buyer might subdivide the surrounding acreage.
Klug believes four new homes could rise on the site, and disputes neighbors' claims that the land has been damaged by rains and can't handle any development. "The land is just as stable as the land that their homes sit on," he says. "We'll fight any plans for development," promises LaBunka.
As for the city, Renee Weitzer, Chief of Land Use Planning for City Councilman Tom LaBonge, the councilman who represents this area, says her office is hoping a deal can be worked out to move part of the famous trail or somehow acquire part of the land. Previous attempts to raise money to buy the acreage and incorporate it into Runyon Canyon have failed. "Of course, Tom would love to buy the land, but we just did the Cahuenga Peak deal," she says, referencing the Hollywood Sign deal. Additionally, the city could put provisions on the land, and " make it difficult" for anyone looking to develop the land, she adds.
In the last week, Klug says he's received seven calls about the listing. "There are a lot of people interested, but I don't know how serious they are," he says. "But there's been a lot of response."
Side note: Additionally, here are photos we took in 2009, before the security guard guard started living in a trailer on the property. In one shot, you can see what appear to be cans of Red Bull or beer behind one of the windows.
· 2450 Solar Drive [Redfin]