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Steve Lopez | POINTS WEST

$3 million doesn't buy what it used to

November 07, 2007|Steve Lopez

Sabrina Gordon-Gilardian grew up in the San Fernando Valley with her heart set on living in one place, and one place only.

(Two clues: Swimming pools. Movie stars).

In February, it finally happened.

"I spent $3 million to live in Beverly Hills 90210. To be the creme de la creme of society. I am supposed to be at the pinnacle here," she wrote to me.

But little did she know that paradise could be hell.

In April, wildfires came too close for comfort. In July, she read about the burglary ring hitting the homes of the rich and famous in Beverly Hills and surroundings.

But the toughest blow of all came last month, when coyotes ate her miniature beagle, Lucy.

"I am miserable living here and did not get what I bargained for," Gordon-Gilardian wrote, asking if I could help.

I drove as fast as the law allows to the Gordon-Gilardian home between Coldwater and Benedict canyons, just under Mulholland Drive. Gordon-Gilardian led me out back, where a nanny watched her two young boys, one of whom drives a miniature battery-operated Cadillac Escalade.

Gordon-Gilardian, 31, pointed up a steep embankment to the place where the vicious predators came through. She and her husband were just back from a weekend at the Morongo Casino, heard a yelp and made the horrifying discovery.

"That was my angel dog," she said, telling me the pocket-size beagle cost $2,000 at Pet Love in the Beverly Center five years ago.

For $2,000, you'd think you could get a full-size beagle. Not only did they lose their dog, but now they've had to drop $5,000 more on an electric fence to keep the coyotes from making off with the kids.

I quickly assessed the situation and observed that Gordon-Gilardian's property line abuts a wilderness canyon where, it can be assumed, some wild animals might be living.

Did that possibility ever cross her mind?

Sure, she said. She'd have no problem seeing the occasional deer.

"But we didn't know coyotes lived here."

While we were talking, she got a cellphone call from her husband, who trades with China in the import-export business, according to Gordon-Gilardian. She told him I was on the case and she hoped some good would come of it.

When she called the city of Beverly Hills for help, she said, she got the run-around and was told animal control officers might or might not come.

When she asked the Fire Department about clearing the brush next to her property, she says, she was told it was her concern.

"That's city property," she said, suggesting the city should be clearing the brush and trapping and removing coyotes.

I told her as diplomatically as possible that in my experience, cities don't tend to have teams of animal trappers on the payroll. They tend to see coyotes as part of the deal.

"Not in Beverly Hills," she said. "I didn't move to Pacoima. I was told by the Realtor at Sotheby's that this was going to be my dream life."

Fair criticism. I've certainly never met a real estate agent who says, "It's got Italian granite, a luxurious swimming pool and wild predators."

There will be some readers, I warned Gordon-Gilardian, who might say that we humans have invaded the coyotes' habitat rather than the reverse.

"I thought about that," she said. "But that doesn't give them the right to viciously maul my dog and pull her organs out. I paid $3 million for this. I paid $3 million."

Yeah, but $3 million ain't what it used to be.

Britney lives up there, Gordon-Gilardian said, pointing. And Paris up there.

Talk about wildlife.

"Everybody lives in Beverly Hills."

And her closer neighbors include Gary Collins and Alana Stewart.

Alana Stewart?

"Rod Stewart's ex," Gordon-Gilardian said. "She had a talk show."

I'm so out of it.

"Now they're robbing Sherry Lansing and all the celebrities who live in the hills of Beverly Hills," Gordon-Gilardian said. "And I hear that a gardener said there's a mountain lion out here. If there's a mountain lion here, why isn't the city trying to catch it? I should have bought something in the flats, on the other side of Neiman Marcus."

I suggested Gordon-Gilardian consider hiring a game tracker to patrol her perimeter. Angelenos hire people for practically everything else, so why not that?

Before leaving, I promised to call Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad, give him her name and address and see if he could be of any assistance.

Delshad got back to me quickly and said he was sorry to hear about Lucy the beagle, but he had even worse news for Gordon-Gilardian.

I called to break it to her.

"You don't live in Beverly Hills," I said.

There was a brief moment of silence on the other end.

But the ZIP is 90210, Gordon-Gilardian said. And on her mail, "the city is Beverly Hills."

As Mayor Delshad explained, lots of people get their mail delivered by the Beverly Hills Post Office but don't live in the city limits.

"You live in Los Angeles," I told Gordon-Gilardian.

I figured that was enough of a blow, so I didn't tell her there's only one wild animal control officer for the entire city of L.A., and he's so swamped with calls, he seldom leaves the office.

But I told Gordon-Gilardian she could solve a lot of problems by selling the house and moving into Beverly Hills proper.

Far as I know, there have been no coyote sightings anywhere near the Neiman Marcus.

steve.lopez@latimes.com

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