Another Neutra Faces Demo? - Page 2

Selling of Chuey House ‘overlooks’ historic L.A. home in favor of property development
Fridays on the Homefront
Fridays on the Homefront
Two recent marketing photos of the Chuey House: focus on land and view. Photos: courtesy Hilton & Hyland realtors and Multiple Listing Service

The house built by the senior Neutra for Herbert and Hazel Kronish is a few miles down Sunset from the Chuey House, one year older and much larger than the current listing. When the owners applied to the city of Beverly Hills to cap the sewer line in 2011, it signaled a possible intent to demolish the villa and spurred the Neutras and the Conservancy into action.

"It went from the most dire situation to full restoration, and it's being well-maintained," Fine said of the house, which underwent a three-year restoration after being purchased for $12.8 million by Greek shipping heir Stavros Niarchos, Jr. "It was a very similar situation in that it got marketed as a teardown."

In at least one way, the Chuey challenge is not as critical as the Kronish case because there is no application for demolition—yet. Fine said the listing might not have attracted negative attention "had it been marketed differently."

"I think we're still assessing what is the best approach," Fine said regarding possible intervention by the Conservancy, which has been successful in several other preservation bids in addition to the Kronish House. "Where it has reached bankruptcy court, we've even reached out to the court to encourage a preservation-based solution."

Despite Fine's words of encouragement, Neutra creations that have met the wrecking ball include the Maslon House (1962) in Rancho Mirage, demolished in 2002; and the Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg (Pennsylvania), demolished eight years after closing permanently in 2005.

Aside from an angel investor, Fine and the Neutras mentioned two other factors that might help save the Chuey House.

"There's a possibility it could be pursued for local landmarking," Fine suggested.

With regard to the listing's promise of a "development opportunity," Dion Neutra said the property may not have the potential that the court thinks.

"I don't think you can build a 'McMansion' there," said the architect, expressing belief that the property may not have sufficient sewer capacity.

"I presided over the test fit for the septic tank," he recalled on the house's 1956 construction. "They might still be on a septic tank up there."

Listing agent Denise Moreno declined to return calls or email about the now controversial property.