There is a house in Brentwood that its owners can't give away.
The Spanish-style home is owned by Debra and David Tenzer, a young couple who want a larger house but who don't want to move. They want to build a new home on the lot, not remodel the existing one.
"And it occurred to us that we might try to donate the house to a nonprofit organization to use elsewhere," Debra Tenzer said, "because there are so many people with no place to live, so many people with no place to die."
But so far, the Tenzers can't find any takers, although they've contacted many groups and are even willing to help pay for relocating the house.
And time is running out. They plan to start building in late August or early September, "and it can take eight weeks to get the permits to move a house," she said.
The Tenzers would like to preserve the home because "the idea of tearing down a house that stood here more than 60 years really bothers us," said David Tenzer, a talent agent.
The 1,712-square-foot stucco house was built in 1926 by silent-screen cowboy star Tom Mix for a girlfriend, they say. It has three bedrooms, two baths, hand-carved and hand-painted ceilings, arched doorways, wood floors, a step-down living room, a front porch, a red-tile roof and two fireplaces with Malibu tile trim.
There is also an adjacent building that the Tenzers would donate. It houses a two-car garage, a storeroom, a bedroom and a bath.
"Everybody has been complaining about the tear-down fever," Tenzer said. "Well, here's one solution, but it's hard to achieve."
They started hunting in March for a nonprofit group that would move the house to another site for its operations or activities.
"I called many city organizations, especially for the homeless," Debra Tenzer, a homemaker, said, "and I tried AIDS Project Los Angeles."
In all, she contacted 56 individuals--14 of them representing governmental entities, the rest from nonprofit groups, half religious, half related to health.
"We had a good response," she said, "but these people either didn't have a place to put the house or couldn't afford to move it, or both."
Even if they could find a site, many mentioned to her that they didn't want to be bothered fighting neighborhood objections to a new facility for the homeless or other unfortunates that would be treated in the house.
The Tenzers would sell to a private party, if they had no other choice, but they don't want to give the house to a nonprofit group to sell, without moving it, "because I wouldn't have control over the process," she explained. "How would I know it would be moved?"
Jim Dunham, owner of a house-moving company called The House Relocater, said moving costs could be the biggest consideration.
"Even if a house is donated, it's not free, because there are a lot of other costs," he explained.
First, there is the actual cost of moving the structure, and that can fluctuate, he said, depending on how far a house must be moved, how restrictive the ordinances involving the move are and how busy the movers are.
Arnie Corlin, whose Tarzana firm concentrates on selling and relocating houses that otherwise would be razed by developers, said moves generally cost about $11 a square foot, but that it could be more, depending on such factors as whether there are two stories or the roof must be removed.
As for other costs, Dunham mentioned fees for electrical and telephone wires. "And I just paid $3,100 for sewer accessibility," he noted.
Vacant Lots Scarce
Besides offering to contribute a few thousand dollars toward the move, the Tenzers point out that there is money available to nonprofit organizations through the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency to move a house. However, the agency's Move-On Housing Program stipulates that the client must provide the lot as well as the building.
Finding a vacant lot in Los Angeles isn't easy, according to Bill Jones, CRA director of rehabilitation, in a recent announcement about new funding for the program.
Recognizing this problem, Debra Tenzer got an idea while driving past the Veterans Hospital in West Los Angeles. She heard that the Red Cross was about to open a facility on part of the hospital's land and wondered if her house could be moved there to be used by another nonprofit group.
The group she had in mind is the Westside Children's Center, formed last November to recruit foster parents to take care of abused and neglected children under age 5.
'Looking for Land'
"They wanted our house very much for a day-care center," she said, but they have no land.
"The program is growing so fast, we're constantly looking for land where we can put our new programs," said Gaylynn Thomas, director of the Santa Monica foster-family agency.
"Every day, I have to turn away children because there are not enough homes. We could have more if we could open a child-care center, because many who could become foster parents work and can't afford child care."