New Coroner Backs Out of L.A. Job : County: Joshua Perper blames housing costs for his change of heart. He will stay in Pennsylvania.


Southern California’s high housing costs drove away another prospective resident Thursday--the man recently appointed Los Angeles County coroner.

Joshua Perper, the coroner of Allegheny County, Pa., said that he turned down the Los Angeles job because he and his wife could not afford the kind of home to which they had become accustomed.

Perper’s salary would have been $150,000 a year, and the county was willing to loan him 30% of the purchase price of a new home. Even that evidently was not enough in one of the country’s most expensive housing markets.

Perper said in a telephone interview that his wife--a real estate broker--was shocked to discover that it would cost more than $1 million to buy a house in Los Angeles comparable to the couple’s 5,000-square-foot home, which sits on an acre of land in suburban Pittsburgh.


Perper said his wife, Sheila, who spent last week looking at more than 25 houses, urged him to back out of the job.

Besides high prices, Sheila Perper said, she was surprised by the relatively poor condition of the homes she saw.

“Roofs, windows, floors, kitchen cabinets, everything was in horrible condition,” said Sheila Perper, who has sold real estate in Allegheny County for 10 years. “I am very disappointed in the way Californians keep up their properties. It was appalling to me.”

Even with the county’s offer to loan him as much as 30% of the price of a house, Perper said he could not afford the type of home he and his wife wanted on the coroner’s salary.

“The decision was made for economic and personal reasons,” said Perper, 58. “Your housing is probably higher by a factor of five to six compared to the East Coast. . . . I couldn’t afford a house at a comparable level.”

Perper’s wife said she found only one home she liked after house hunting in Newport Beach, Long Beach, the South Bay and Century City. The home, a new 2,500-square-foot home on Crest Road atop the Palos Verdes Peninsula, was listed for $825,000.

“It was small but the builder had done a nice job,” she said. “It had nice architectural features and the air is clean there. But with closing costs it was going to cost over $900,000.”

Perper also said Thursday that his wife did not want to leave friends in Pittsburgh and was dismayed at the condition of neighborhoods and the heavy traffic on freeways and streets. The couple are accustomed to commutes of 15 minutes or less, he said.


“I had the idea that California has a very civilized lifestyle,” Sheila Perper said. “I had the biggest letdown of my life. I understand that there is a drought, but people can at least rake their yards.”

Richard Dixon, Los Angeles County’s chief administrative officer, said Perper called Thursday to say he had changed his mind about taking the coroner’s job because of economic considerations.

Mas Fukai, chief deputy to Supervisor Kenneth Hahn, said the Board of Supervisors will offer the job to Yong-Myun Rho, 61, deputy chief medical examiner of New York City. Supervisor Ed Edelman said Rho was the board’s second choice. Edelman, who pushed for the selection of Perper, said that he was “surprised and disappointed” to learn of his withdrawal.

Perper was named to the post Feb. 8 over two dozen applicants after a nationwide search for candidates to head the Los Angeles County coroner’s office, the nation’s second largest. He was to begin his new job May 1.


The office was once run by Thomas T. Noguchi, the self-styled “coroner to the stars” who was demoted amid accusations of poor management. The most recent coroner, Ronald N. Kornblum, resigned last year, after a critical audit showed a lack of management, failure to maintain sanitary standards and inadequate protection of personal property.

Perper, who said he will remain in his $64,000-a-year Allegheny County post, was chosen for the Los Angeles job because of his reputation as a hard-working, scientifically oriented administrator, county officials said.

Supervisors last summer voted to reorganize the office, dividing tasks between a pathologist and a professional manager. Perper was to be the first coroner to operate the coroner’s office under the new arrangement. The office last year investigated 1,880 homicides.