In a 4–1 decision, the Beverly Hills City Council voted against the latest attempt to save the house, located at 1001 N. Roxbury Drive on June 21, setting the stage for the demolition of the beloved home.
The structure has been the subject of controversy for months in Beverly Hills following the purchase of the property by StubHub founder Eric Baker, who originally received permission to demolish the existing home and build a new home on a large lot on March 15 when the city issued him a certificate of unfitness, meaning that the city did not find that the house meets the requirements of cultural designation.
The decision created a public outcry as the 1941 Regency Revival house designed by Carlton L. Burgess is popular with the community for its unique architectural style. At a meeting of the Beverly Hills City Council on April 12, it was decided that there would be a review of the property’s cultural status, and that Baker’s demolition permit could be revoked.
Beverly Hills has a high standard of cultural status, which includes, among other things, articles in major architectural magazines. Baker, who was not present at the meeting, was represented by Benjamin Hamlin of Latham and Watkins.
“Code standards have been applied fairly and evenly as the City has established a certification tradition,” Hamlin said. “As you know, we believe that the house has been declared unacceptable by law. However, we are here tonight to lay out why we think the board should endorse the certificate. We think the city director is an expert, and all the other experts who have looked at it got it quite right. The house does not meet the requirements of city standards.
Hamlin went on to say that Mark Rios, who was behind the house’s significant 2015 restoration, agreed with the disqualification certificate. Hamlin also disagreed with the architectural magazine designs that were produced.
“The house is neither outstanding nor exceptional,” Hamlin said. “In fact, there is not a single article about the architecture of the house.”
Several speakers and community members represented both sides of the issue, including several prominent current and former residents of Beverly Hills.
Alison Martino, who manages Vintage Los Angeles, submitted a letter expressing her opposition to the property receiving a certificate of non-compliance, which is the official designation of the city of Beverly Hills, which makes demolition possible.
“People are outraged that even the demolition of this house was considered,” Martineau said. “I run popular social media about the history of Beverly Hills and the surrounding area. Many of my home reviews have been published in various publications. [and] have been seen and documented in print. The community that I lead, which is over 1 million people, is utterly concerned and upset. Many of their letters have also been sent. I grew up near Roxbury Drive. Since there are so many letters of outrage about this house, perhaps [being] destroyed, I feel the need to do the same. This is the most beloved house in Beverly Hills. It is terrible to think that we can lose such a beautiful house. It’s amazing that this magnificent house is not considered “historic”.
“We need to appreciate beautiful things more. As soon as the generation that remembers this type of architecture and appreciates it passes away, others will be destroyed – it is very sad to call this progress. Roxbury Drive will never recover from the loss of this house, and neither will the entire town. Please do the right thing,” Martino said.
Roxbury Drive is one of the city’s most iconic streets, historically known for being the home of street stars such as Lucille Ball, James Stewart, Peter Falk, Jack Benny, Diane Keaton and Madonna. In recent decades, many of its original homes have either been destroyed or significantly altered, with some residents expressing concern that the area’s spirit has been permanently damaged.
Keaton, who is also a board member of the Los Angeles Conservancy, was one of several community members who filed applications in favor of preserving 1001 N. Roxbury Drive.
“I used to have two houses on Roxbury Drive,” Keaton wrote. “I just love the history of the area, not to mention the street. Now I’m begging you, we can’t afford [the] 1001 North Roxbury Drive home will be another disaster for our city. This charming and historic home must be preserved for us and future generations.
“I have visited this house in the past and admired and been in awe of its beauty, and it would be a tragedy if the demolition statistics were not only unnecessary but devastating.”
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and his wife Linda also wrote the advice.
“By any measure, this is a typical Beverly Hills mansion that has added grace and character to this star-studded area since the early 1940s,” Bruckheimer wrote. “However, the new owner hates everything about this place except the land it was built on. Instead of looking for building land or the perfect home to restore, the remedy—all too common—was to target 1001 N. Roxbury Drive, buy it for a whopping sum, and destroy it. This is absolutely insane. Just imagine that balls and bulldozers wipe out the entire corner of Roxbury and Lexington, and the term “deafness” takes on a new meaning. Losing another architectural treasure would be unthinkable and heartbreaking under any circumstances. But it’s even more shocking in this era when our environment takes center stage and conservation, conservation and recycling efforts are critical to our well-being.”
However, the members of the Council ultimately decided that they could not make decisions based on public opinion alone. In particular, council members noted that none of the articles submitted for historical review of the house mentions the name of the architect.
“Yes, I love this house,” Mayor Lily Bosse said. “I live a few blocks from here and walk by every day. But what a job I have… I have to make difficult decisions. Sometimes in our lives we have to make difficult decisions based on what we need to do, and for me that means being a good advisor. Because you can say that they will not make a decision for your friend, not because of a letter from a celebrity. They do it because of the wisdom that is in front of them.”
Council member John Mirisch was the only one to vote “no” on the issuance of the certificate of disqualification.
“I think you can do it through the dual lens of emotion and objectivity,” Mirish said. “Because I think in this case they go hand in hand and I think it ends up being about our house. It is often said that the house is a sacred place, and we do not live only in a separate house. I think this is a sad day for Beverly Hills. I’m afraid that today will go down in history as the moment when we … failed our children and grandchildren, as well as our parents and grandparents. From my point of view, 1001 Roxbury is a really wonderful, excellent work.”
“As City Council member Mirish so beautifully put it: ‘If something is gone, it is gone forever. He was the only city council member who voted against the demolition. Now our only hope is that the current owner wakes up like Ebenezer Scrooge and changes his mind,” Martino said.