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Beloved Runyon Canyon Trail Could Be Rerouted As Owners Plan For Three New Megamansions

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The Solar Drive pink elephant house, aka the Wedding Cake, aka the Runyon Canyon Clubhouse, has been nothing but trouble since it first came into the world in the mid-nineties, and now its new owners think there should be three more just like it on the edge of Runyon Canyon. The house's first owners divorced and left it abandoned and unfinished; later owners got caught up in all kinds of legal trouble and bankruptcy; eventually the house became "a drug den, a crime magnet, and a fire trap," as one neighbor put it. And meanwhile hikers have innocently traipsed past on what seems like a lovely Runyon Canyon trail, but is actually private property. The house sold in late 2011, apparently to an Aliso Viejo private equity firm called Fort Ashford Funds, for $500,000 (as part of a multi-property sale, according to Redfin), and now the new owners have gated that heavily-used trail and filed plans to prep the property for more megamansions.

Fort Ashford wants to subdivide the land--16.4 acres--into four parcels, with one for the existing house, one for a new single-family house, and two with "no current plans for construction," according to a land use permit application (pdf) filed with the city in early October. (Maybe they want to wait on those last ones until they actually manage to unload the pink elephant, which we're pretty sure has never been occupied--it's been listed since July, along with all this land, at $9.888 million.) They also want to build a 24-foot-wide private street connecting to Solar Drive and stretching beyond this property to the 3.8-acre promontory that they also appear to own.

Fort Ashford also says they want to "dedicate a public easement to allow a reroute of a hiking trail," but the application say that easement would be on the east side of Parcel B, which is on the northeast of the property, and on "a small portion" of Parcel C, which is on the southwest of the property by Astral Drive. Their preliminary map (pdf) doesn't clear up at all just how that might work.

Anyway, Fort Ashford's plans are making their way through the Planning Department now and the Hollywood Hills West Neighborhood Council's Planning and Land Use Management Committee is also taking a look. Their next meeting is in early December if you're looking for a time and place when you can yell about all this.

Update 2:25 pm: A legal eagle points out that there's a case to be made that the property owners no longer own the Runyon trail--under California's prescriptive easement law, "long-time users of property can acquire a legal interest at the expense of property owners who have slept on their rights." If hikers can prove in court that they've been using the trail openly, for five years, and without the permission of the owner, they can lay their own claim to the land.

· What's Next for Famous Runyon Canyon Pink House? [Curbed LA]
· 2450 Solar Dr. [HHWNC]

Runyon Canyon

2001 N. Fuller Ave., Los Angeles, CA