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At Home : Living in an Urban Aerie : Century City offers convenience, security, a prestigious business district and views that are terrific

September 12, 1999|JULIE TAMAKI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Maybe it's because her penthouse offers sweeping views of the Westside and the Pacific Ocean.

Or maybe it's because renowned architect I.M. Pei designed her building.

Or perhaps it's because of the elegant way she has used Chinese and African artifacts to decorate her home.

Whatever it is, visitors to Dani Janssen's Century City condo always tell her there's something special about her place.

"Friends have asked me, 'What do you have? Magic dust in the doorway?' " said Janssen, who was formerly married to "Fugitive" star David Janssen. "The reason is there's just something so relaxing about this place."

Janssen's 2,500-square-foot home, which she shares with her pocket toy poodle Baby, has high ceilings and a pair of balconies with drop-dead views.

Gardenias, orchids and ficus trees accent one of the balconies, which features a trio of bronze statues from China, including a pagoda decorated with gold-colored dragons.

"The dragon is the spirit of change and therefore life itself," said Janssen, who practices feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of the placement of physical objects to harmonize with the forces of nature.

A fan of the high-rise lifestyle and the security it affords, Janssen discovered the Century Towers development nearly 30 years ago while visiting Jack and Mary Benny, who once owned a home there.

"It's so safe here it's like coming home to your mother's arms," said Janssen of life at Century Towers.

For a woman known for hosting an annual Oscar-night bash for Hollywood royalty, living in a Century City high-rise is also practical.

"You can park 60 limos on this property, no problem," Janssen states matter-of-factly. "Not one person who comes to visit is ever turned away."

An estimated 4,000 people live in the community's six condominium complexes. The developments range from sleek high-rises to sprawling low-slung developments, with some boasting townhomes and multimillion-dollar villas.

Living in a Prestigious Business District

The typical resident is affluent, craves security and likes keeping house in one of the Westside's most prestigious business districts.

Century City, which is part of the city of Los Angeles, is bounded roughly by Little Santa Monica Boulevard to the north, Pico Boulevard to the south and Beverly Hills and Century Park West to the east and west.

Homes on the market range from $199,000 for an 815-square-foot, one-bedroom unit at Century Park East, one of the community's two high-rise developments, to $3.3 million for a 5,100-square-foot private villa at Century Woods, a sprawling development which has the priciest housing stock, according to Steve Heiferman, director of Coldwell Banker-Jon Douglas Co.'s luxury condominium group.

Buyers can expect to pay nearly $600,000, Heiferman added, for a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot spread at Century Towers, the other high-rise complex where Janssen owns a pair of penthouse units.

The association fees vary from development to development. The owners of a 2,500-square-foot townhome in Century Hills, for example, pay $1,000 a month in fees, which are based on their home's square footage.

The financial wherewithal to live in Century City is not the only obstacle facing potential buyers, however. Finding an available condominium can present its own set of challenges, particularly at Century Towers, the swankier of the two high-rises.

"There's always something available; it's just a question of which view," Heiferman said. "There have been only two penthouse sales in the last 10 years. . . . Three-bedrooms rarely come on the market, while two-bedrooms tend to be more fluid because there's more of them."

Location Is One Reason to Stay

Century City's convenient location is a key reason why residents are reluctant to leave. The community not only is home to the Shubert Theatre, the Century Plaza Hotel and an outdoor shopping mall, it's also a stone's throw from Beverly Hills and the San Diego Freeway.

Another attraction is that all but one of the condo complexes are gated, with plenty of private security. Los Angeles police Officer Andrew Gallagher describes Century City as an "affluent and very safe place to live."

At most, the community suffers from an occasional car burglary, but even those tend to take place at the shopping mall or one of the office buildings, added Gallagher, a senior lead officer in the LAPD's West Los Angeles Division.

The 176-acre city-within-a-city is situated on the former 20th Century Fox Studios back lot, which once functioned as movie versions of a French village and an old Western cow town.

The community's history is entwined with Hollywood's in other ways too.

Had the movie "Cleopatra" not been a bomb, perhaps there would be no Century City.

Financial problems plagued the studio after the budget for the 1963 movie, which co-starred Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, soared above $30 million, at that time a record.

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