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Neutra's Kronish House appears to be bound for demolition

Soda Partners, which owns the Kronish House north of Sunset Boulevard, has secured a permit to cap the sewer line, a step that often precedes a request for a demolition permit.

July 24, 2011|By Martha Groves, Los Angeles Times
  • The Richard Neutra-designed Kronish House in Beverly Hills features 6,891 square feet of living space, six bedrooms and 5 1/2 bathrooms.
The Richard Neutra-designed Kronish House in Beverly Hills features 6,891… (Marc Angeles, Unlimited…)

The Kronish House, one of a handful of Beverly Hills residences designed by Modernist architect Richard Neutra, appears headed for demolition.

Soda Partners, the limited partnership that owns the nearly 7,000-square-foot residence north of Sunset Boulevard, has secured a permit to cap the sewer line, a step that often precedes a request for a demolition permit, said Jonathan Lait, Beverly Hills' assistant director of community development.

The owner has not yet applied for a permit to raze the structure, an action that would require a 10-day notice of demolition. Mitchell Dawson, an attorney for Soda Partners, did not respond to requests for comment.

Rumors have spread among preservationists that a tear-down is imminent.

The house, which is not visible from the street, has been "terribly neglected, but the bones are still there," said Dion Neutra, an architect who teamed up with his late father, Richard, on the project. "The new owner thinks it would be more valuable to tear it down and have empty land."

Dion Neutra and the Los Angeles Conservancy say the loss of the Kronish House would be akin to the 2002 demolition of Neutra's 1963 Maslon House in Rancho Mirage. That 5,000-square-foot, six-bedroom landmark was flattened even after assurances from a real estate agent that the new owner was thinking of restoring it. Preservationists across the nation protested the loss.

Unlike Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach and several other cities, Beverly Hills has no preservation ordinance. Lait said the city hopes to soon launch a two-year pilot program that would encourage property owners to accept tax benefits under the state Mills Act in exchange for preserving and restoring historic buildings.

"The city of Beverly Hills currently has no way to even examine the situation before it's too late," said Linda Dishman, the conservancy's executive director. "They're taking important steps toward providing the 'carrot' through preservation incentives like the Mills Act, but they have no 'stick' in the form of protections."

Named for its original owner, real estate developer Herbert Kronish, and built in 1954, the one-story house sits at the end of a 250-foot-long driveway on a two-acre "flag" lot. With 6,891 square feet of living space, six bedrooms and 5 1/2 bathrooms, the contemporary home is one of the architect's largest in Southern California, according to Dion Neutra.

As Barbara Lamprecht relates in her book "Richard Neutra: Complete Works," the architect seemed an odd choice for Kronish and his wife. In an October 1953 letter, they stated they did not want a design that looked like a wooden box or had a flat roof, radiant heating or sliding doors — Neutra trademarks. They went ahead with the project, and the result was a formal, pinwheel-shaped villa (with radiant heating). On his website, Dion Neutra relates that Mrs. Kronish had some unusual requests, including mirrors on the ceiling of her dressing room.

Records from DataQuick, a San Diego research firm, indicate that the house was sold in January for $5.8 million. The property was then listed in April for $14 million. The conservancy said the only way to stop the demolition would be to change the owner's mind or find another buyer.

martha.groves@latimes.com

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