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Private Equity Firm Hoping To Sell Los Angeles 14.4 Acres By Infamous Runyon Canyon Pink House

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For decades now, the parcel of land at the end of Solar Drive, by Runyon Canyon, has been a giant headache for everyone who's owned it--work started at the giant pink house on the site in the mid-nineties, and ever since it's been a sad parade of bankruptcies, lawsuits, trespassing, vandalism, and fire sales. The latest owners, a private equity firm called Fort Ashford Funds, may have finally found a solution: they're trying to sell the majority of the land around the house to the city so that it can be added to Runyon Canyon. The site's been a hot topic this month because Fort Ashford--which finally secured a certificate of occupancy for the pink house, meaning someone can live there for the first time ever--gated off a popular Runyon trail that ran by the house on their private land. (They added a wooden staircase connecting to a new trail nearby, but some hikers are still pissed and planning to sue for access; they could be supported by California's prescriptive easement law.) In all the fuss, City Councilmember Tom LaBonge mentioned that he was working on buying the trail, but really that kind of thing comes out of LaBonge a lot, and it sounded like it would only apply to the specific trail land (old or new was unclear). Fort Ashford tells us they're actually in talks to sell Los Angeles about 14 and a half of their 22 acres.

Fort Ashford is applying to the city to subdivide the land and build a new mansion on 1.2 acres they call Parcel B. The pink elephant house is on a 4.3-acre site called Parcel A, and they plan to hold onto that too (or sell it to a new private owner), although, under the deal with the city, two acres would be designated a "conservation area," according to a Fort Ashford rep, who says that means the land can't be subdivided again for a new building. Parcels C and D, which total 10.6 acres, would be sold to the city, along with "the knoll," a 3.8-acre site on the promontory. The rep says the city has earmarked Proposition K funds, which are set aside for buying and maintaing park land.

"The knoll" is for sale for $3.1 million; the rest of the land, along with the pink house, is on the market for $9.888 million (a total of $12.988 million). That includes land and a building the city isn't interested in buying, and neither Fort Ashford nor Councilmember LaBonge's office would say anything about a price (an appraiser was due out last week). Fort Ashford says it's been approached by private developers interested in buying the land, but is "focused on working with the city." (The neighbors have already been annoyed enough by the pink house and the trouble it's attracted that they got Solar Drive gated back in 2011. Combine that with all the problems its various owners have had building and selling the house, and you have to wonder how attractive it really is to a developer.)

LaBonge's office gave Curbed a statement from the councilmember reading, in part: "I am working with the Los Angeles City Attorney, the Department of Water and Power and the Department of Recreation and Parks to determine the city's rights and options regarding the gate recently installed by a private property owner on the trail near Solar Drive. I have been discussing with this property owner for several years the possibility of acquiring 14 acres of his property to expand Runyon Canyon Park. These discussions are on-going." A follow-up email and phone call weren't returned.

And, for comparison, this comes from Fort Ashford: "[W]e have worked with Councilman Labonge's office for the last two years to facilitate the city's plan to purchase the majority of the privately owned property for the benefit of the community. We share his vision of an expanded Runyon Canyon Park and, like the rest of the community, are looking forward to the path being transitioned to city-controlled property through a successful public/private partnership."

· Beloved Runyon Trail Rerouted As Gates On Old Route Locked [Curbed LA]

Runyon Canyon

2001 N. Fuller Ave., Los Angeles, CA