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No place like this home

Neighbors of publishing tycoon Duane Hagadone in Palm Desert consider his dream castle a $30-million offense against nature.

April 20, 2007|Valerie Reitman | Times Staff Writer

NEAR the 18th hole of the Bighorn golf course in Palm Desert, publishing tycoon Duane Hagadone laid out his vision for a dream home to his architect. It would be set high on the bald mountain rising near the green yet be so inconspicuous that he'd have to point it out even to golf buddies.

Hagadone wanted "a residence that blends into the mountain, that is very subtle, not a pinnacle seen from all angles," his assistants explained to Palm Desert officials as they sought the go-ahead for the subsequent design.

The $30-million-plus home would feature a copper roof composed of "angles and curves" that mimicked the ridge of the mountain, while its rock walls would be molded from those on the hillside.

The spectacular architectural plans and model so dazzled city officials that they granted Hagadone an exemption from a preservation ordinance that caps hillside homes at 4,000 square feet. Hagadone wanted his castle to be eight times that size -- 32,016 square feet.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday April 28, 2007 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Palm Desert mansion: An article in the A Section on April 20 about a $30-million-plus mansion built in Palm Desert identified a Montana newspaper owned by the homeowner, Duane Hagadone, as the Hungry Horse. The newspaper is the Hungry Horse News.

Before that vote in 2004, one City Council member envisioned write-ups "in every architectural magazine around the world"; another said he'd already inquired about using this "jewel in our crown" as a venue for fundraising events for the local theater. "We'll all be bragging about it," a third council member said.

Instead, the home has brought a load of grief for this city now that it is just about complete. Visible from miles away and set on a prominent ridgeline, its frame resembles a wayward space station parked amid the picturesque foothills.

Hagadone and his representatives declined interview requests. But upset residents have flooded the city with e-mails, branding the house "an unsightly scar on the hill," "a blight," "a monstrosity," "a pimple" and an "abortion" of city planning.

"We had an untouched ridgeline, untouched," lamented resident Larry Sutter.

Residents complained that their views of the Santa Rosa Mountains, which enfold the city like a clamshell, had been ruined. The bare, unlit peaks are lovely at dusk, silhouetted against the desert's twilight hues, and residents particularly dreaded how the house would look lighted up at night.

The outrage crescendoed last summer when city officials discovered that Hagadone had graded 64,000 square feet -- double what the city had approved -- to add unauthorized gardens, a sports court, koi pond and sidewalks.

Some residents demanded that Hagadone rip out unauthorized additions.

"The natural beauty of the desert and the mountains should be there for everyone ... not just the few super rich," wrote James C. Owens. "Have the guts to tell Mr. Hagadone NO! NO! NO!"

WHEN it comes to golf and water -- and most everything else -- Hagadone, 74, lives large.

Take Lady Lola, the 205-foot yacht Hagadone had custom-built with what he called the world's only floating 18-hole golf course -- so he could play while cruising around the world with the boat's namesake, wife Lola. Golf tees sprouted from the deck for Hagadone and friends to hack toward 18 buoys his crews anchored at various distances. A supply vessel followed behind toting other toys: a helicopter and landing pad, several speed boats (for crew members to retrieve the floating golf balls), sailboats, kayaks and a three-man submarine.

"We're a very active family. We love water sports," Hagadone told Showboats International yachting magazine in 2004. "No yacht really gives you the opportunity to carry a full complement of toys."

His extensive holdings in his Idaho hometown, Coeur d'Alene, which include restaurants, condominiums and a golf resort, have led some critics to dub the town "Coeur Duane." Hagadone raised hackles there a few years ago by proposing to replace two blocks of its busiest downtown street with a $20-million garden honoring his parents, but he dropped the controversial idea.

Hagadone wasn't always rich, according to his biography on the Horatio Alger Assn. of Distinguished Americans website. He dropped out of college to sell advertising for the eight-page daily Coeur d'Alene Press, where his father had risen to publisher. After his father died at age 49, Hagadone became publisher, and later owner, of the Press and 18 colorfully named dailies and weeklies in Idaho and Montana such as the Hungry Horse and Whitefish Pilot.

For more than 30 years, Hagadone -- like thousands of other snowbirds -- has traded frigid winters for the Coachella Valley's sun and more than 100 golf courses. His most recent base was in Indian Wells at the Vintage, a country club development that once made news for reprimanding one of its best-known homeowners, Bill Gates, for teeing off in a T-shirt rather than the requisite collar or turtleneck.

In 2004, Hagadone sold his boats for a reported $90 million and bought a plot at the Bighorn club.

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