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Unfinished Redondo Beach mansion becomes nightmare for neighbors

Neighbors of an unfinished Redondo Beach mansion have watched it take shape, then dilapidate, over the last 8 years. The owner is heavily in debt, records show.

October 22, 2012|By Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times
  • The unfinished mansion’s owner, Rami Nassif, 42, is heavily in debt, county records show.
The unfinished mansion’s owner, Rami Nassif, 42, is heavily in debt,… (Jay L. Clendenin, Los Angeles…)

They call it the monster mansion.

With giant spider webs and a skeleton frame loosely covered with black tarp like sagging skin, this Redondo Beach home blends right in at Halloween.

But as residents on this quiet residential street can attest, the home doesn't transform after the holiday. They've watched it take shape, and then dilapidate, over the last eight years. What was one South Bay developer's dream home has become an everyday nightmare for the community just a mile from the marina.

"It's embarrassing," said Sheri Weinstein, who moved across the street from the mansion in 2004 with her husband. "It's the first thing everyone notices. 'Oh, when's that going to be finished?'"

The unfinished mansion's owner, Rami Nassif, 42, is heavily in debt, county records show. He defaulted on the initial $650,000 loan to build the home at 733 N. Paulina Ave. this year and has been slapped with several small tax liens. Nassif didn't renew building permits for the home after 2010 and neighbors say there's been no work done to it since at least 2008.

Only when a neighbor happens to lodge a complaint directly with Nassif on his infrequent visits to the home is trash on the property removed and graffiti covered, residents say.

Redondo Beach city officials were unaware of the problem for years until residents went to the City Council with an informal petition this year demanding action. They successfully convinced officials to fence off the property in August and city prosecutors to file 19 misdemeanors against Nassif.

He's scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday on charges that include violating city building codes and public nuisance statutes, failing to obtain proper permits and maintaining a dangerous building.

Nassif did not respond to requests for comment, but neighbors say his plan was to sell a nearby property and use the proceeds to finish the mansion, his dream home.

"I think ultimately, that really was his dream project for himself," said Ed Kaminsky, a South Bay real estate agent who has sold about half a dozen of Nassif's homes from Manhattan Beach to Palos Verdes. "And I think it has an indoor swimming pool. It's just unbelievable. That block of Paulina, probably the best views in the South Bay hands down. That's what drew him in was the view."

Nassif took out a $650,000 mortgage on the mansion in 2003. A year later, he bought the property at 723 N. Paulina Ave., taking out a $680,000 mortgage.

The idea, neighbors say, was to build and flip the second home at 723 N. Paulina and use the proceeds for his dream home just up the street.

"He used to sit in there and sketch," said neighbor Charlene Denova, pointing to a third-floor walkway at the top of a winding staircase in the abandoned property visible from her driveway. "There was a single-story home here before.... He got himself in too deep."

From 2003 to 2010, Nassif received more than $3.6 million in loans on both properties. He sold the home at 723 N. Paulina in 2009 for $2.6 million, well below the initial $3.1-million asking price.

"He's more of an artist than a builder," Kaminsky said. "His designs are unique.... The details, the molding, the ceilings, lots of custom lighting. He really goes over the top with the design elements."

Residents guess he simply ran out of money, leaving the aged, weather-beaten skeleton of his dream behind.

The home has become a late-night attraction for taggers, kids and the occasional raccoon, neighbors said.

"There's so many invitations for problems there," said neighbor Don Walsh, 61. "We all have dream houses, others have lost their homes in the recession. I feel sorry for him but in the same point, look what we're stuck with and I don't think that's fair to us either."

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