Hat tip to MB who sent this from the nytimes.com:

LOS ANGELES — From Kirk Morgan’s perch, in a mansion at the top of Los Angeles, he can see it all: The snow-covered mountains from the vast windows in one of the seven bathrooms. The Hollywood sign, eye level from the kitchen. And, from the master bedroom, a sweep of Los Angeles stretching from downtown to the Pacific Ocean.

But what he likes best, Mr. Morgan said, are the fevered tales he overhears from the Runyon Canyon Park hikers who pause at the house set amid its own 22 acres that he has guarded for nine months, as they try to unravel the mysteries suggested by this foreboding hillside mansion. For all its aspirations at grandeur, the 16-year-old house at 2450 Solar Drive remains unfinished and vacant, pocked by boarded-up windows and gang graffiti, a jumble of hanging wires and holes cut in the living room ceiling. A Winnebago is parked in the gated front yard.

Many of the tales — like the murder that supposedly took place on the pool table in the billiard room — are urban legend, said Mr. Morgan, 53, the house guard, who was wearing camouflage shorts, a cap and no shirt as he opened the padlocked gate to allow a visitor inside.

“It just blows you away what you hear from these people,” he said. “Like it is owned by the Devil. I am a man of the Lord. There ain’t no Devil here. I salted this house and also had my Indian friends come over and burn sage.”

But many of the tales are accurate.

Gangs, among them the notorious Armenian Power, really did turn the place into a clubhouse, the police said. Gang tags are still visible on the walls. Teenagers commandeered the carpeted first floor for weekend raves.

Yes, over the years, 2450 Solar Drive has served as a blue-chip crack house, according to the police: its floors were scattered with remnants of crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and marijuana.

“And this is where the satanic stuff happened,” Mr. Morgan said as he led a visitor into a windowless room, pointing to a faded sketch on the wall. “You can see the image of a devil. And they had chicken feathers hanging on a wire.”

Its current owner is Timothy Devine, a former executive with Columbia Records, who bought out the bankrupt partner. After buying it with partners in 2004 for $3.7 million, Mr. Devine initially put it on the market for $12.5 million in late January. (The price jumped to $15.2 million last week because, as the real estate agent, Richard Klug, cryptically put it, “We were asked to raise the price to the amount of a previous appraisal.”)

Mr. Devine hired Mr. Morgan to run off the gangs, squatters, crack smokers, interlopers and curiosity seekers. “I’ve kicked out 250 people since the time I came here,” said Mr. Morgan, a surfer and a building contractor. “They jump the fence. Gangs rushed me right here.”

What did he do about the gangs? “Well, I’m armed,” Mr. Morgan said.

For all its views, it is, in the opinion of many of its neighbors, not so wonderful to look at. “It’s a big monstrosity,” said Steve Curtis, 63, a photographer who said he thought he spotted renegade Christmas parties behind its windows a few years back.

The house is about 9,800 square feet, with seven bathrooms, five bedrooms, a 200-bottle wine cellar, six-car garage, stone floors, a pool, a Jacuzzi with a view of the sunset and all that undeveloped acreage smack in the heart of urban Los Angeles. Cursed or not, it might be an opportunity for someone with a thick wallet to place his stamp on the city in a loud way.

Mr. Klug said he had inquiries from one person who “was very substantial,” though he declined to give details.  He also suggested that this was the ultimate fixer-upper. “It’s a mess,” Mr. Klug said. “They had to open all the ceilings because the city said you have to put sprinklers in. So it just looks ridiculous.”

The property listing suggests other possible fates. “All sorts of subdivision possibilities exist,” it says. “So bring your developers/contractors and clients who want something rare and unique.”

All this talk has sent quivers of concern through city officials and preservationists anxious to protect an undeveloped spot in this city, though the homeowners association in a neighborhood that likes its privacy sniffed at the idea that there was anything to worry about.

“I can’t imagine why you want to write an article about this particular house,” said Susan Mullins, the president of the Upper Nichols Canyon Neighborhood Association. “There is really nothing that we have to talk about in an article.”


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Jim the Realtor
Jim is a long-time local realtor who comments daily here on his blog, bubbleinfo.com which began in September, 2005. Stick around!

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