Real Estate newsletter: A New York mansion with a dark past

A woman photographs a stone facade with a door
A pedestrian stops to take a photo of Jeffrey Epstein’s townhouse on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, in New York.
(Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, your inside look at Southern California’s housing market, where celebrities and spec developers alike look to make a fortune.

The week’s most notable sale went down on the East Coast, as the late Jeffrey Epstein’s infamous New York mansion, which was raided by the FBI in 2019, finally found a buyer.

Pamela Anderson is looking for a buyer herself; the “Baywatch” star offered up her Malibu beach house after two decades of ownership.


Over in Bel-Air, another roadblock arose for “The One,” the 100,000-square-foot mega-mansion that was supposed to list for $500 million. Developer Nile Niami owes $110 million on the property, and foreclosure may be in the not-so-distant future.

It was also a week of progress for new home-building trends, as Rancho Mirage is set to receive the country’s first 3-D-printed housing community, and Los Angeles is set to receive an influx of high-design granny flats.

While you’re at it, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find Real Estate stories and updates throughout the week.

Infamous estate finally sells

Jeffrey Epstein, center, appearing in court with his lawyers.
(Associated Press)

The historic Herbert N. Straus House — known more famously in recent years as the home of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein — traded hands for $51 million.

One of New York City’s largest private residences, the 28,000-square-foot French Neoclassical mansion was raided by the FBI in 2019 as part of an investigation into Epstein’s sex-trafficking allegations. It surfaced for sale a year later at $88 million and was most recently offered at $65 million.

Epstein, who died by suicide in a jail cell two years ago after being arrested on federal sex-trafficking charges, transformed the estate into an eccentric space brimming with custom rooms and bizarre art during his stay.


It was most vividly profiled by Vicky Ward in a 2003 Vanity Fair article titled “The Talented Mr. Epstein.” Calling the home a “private Xanadu” filled with menservants, she noted an entry hall lined with individually framed eyeballs, a marble foyer with a sculpture of a twice-life-size naked African warrior, and an office with a stuffed black poodle atop a grand piano.

A listing on the lagoon

A two-story house with decks
Overlooking Malibu Lagoon, the mini compound holds a 5,500-square-foot main house, one-bedroom guesthouse and sun deck.
(Shade Degges)

“Baywatch” star Pamela Anderson is leaving the beach. The actress listed her designer digs in Malibu Colony for $14.9 million with plans to move back to her native country of Canada, where she’s renovating a home.

Records show Anderson has owned the property for two decades after buying it for $1.8 million in 2000. It’s not the first time she’s tried to sell the place; she put it on the market for $7.75 million in 2013 and also offered it up for rent at $40,000 a month.

She’s made plenty of changes over the years, replacing the existing structure with a 5,500-square-foot main house filled with warm woods and glass and tacking on a one-bedroom guesthouse. Between the two structures, there’s a leafy wood deck with a swimming pool.

The $14.9-million price tag is pretty standard for Malibu Colony, which regularly ranks as one of the priciest neighborhoods in the L.A. area.

Foreclosure looms for 100,000-square-foot home

An aerial view of a sprawling house with swimming pools.
The 8-acre estate centers on a 100,000-square-foot home with five swimming pools and extravagant amenities.

For years, spec developer Nile Niami has teased “The One” — a 100,000-square-foot mega-mansion in Bel-Air that he hoped to sell for $500 million. But his plans are now in peril.

Niami, known for his brazen personality and wildly ambitious real estate projects, borrowed $82.5 million from Hankey Capital in 2018 to build the extravagant home. Over the last three years, that debt has ballooned to more than $110 million, and Hankey wants its money.

According to a document obtained by The Times, the lender served Niami a notice of default on the prized property, which is considered the first step in the foreclosure process. If Niami can’t repay the loan in 90 days, Hankey could force a sale of the home.

All Niami homes boast otherworldly amenities — champagne vaults, animal skeletons, for instance — but in terms of raw ambition, “The One” is really over the top.

The palatial palace includes a nightclub, four-lane bowling alley, 50-seat theater, juice bar, putting green, golf simulator, beauty salon, yoga platform and five swimming pools. The primary suite alone is bigger than the average U.S. home at 4,000 square feet.

Desert goes 3-D

A rendering of the 3-D-printed home in Rancho Mirage.
(Mighty Buildings / EYRC Architects)

Rancho Mirage, the desert playground city dotted with resorts and golf courses, is about to get a jolt into the 21st century. Development group Palari has named it the site of the country’s first 3-D-printed community, which is set for completion by next spring.

The Coachella Valley community will cover 5 acres and include 15 eco-friendly homes — all of which will be made from 3-D-printed panels by Mighty Buildings, a construction technology company in Oakland.

Each property will include a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home of 1,450 square feet on a 10,000-square-foot lot with a swimming pool and deck for $595,000. A few will feature an additional 700-square-foot ADU (for “accessory dwelling unit”) — often called a granny flat — with two bedrooms and a bathroom for $850,000.

The pre-sale campaign started in late February and sold out within days, with buyers paying $1,000 to reserve a spot.

High-design ADUs hit L.A.

A white house with grass and walkway
An architectural rendering shows “The Breadbox” by Welcome Projects, an architectural studio led by Laurel Consuelo Broughton. It’s one of more than a dozen options that will be included among the the city of L.A.’s standard ADU plans.
(Welcome Projects)

Before there is architecture, there is red tape, columnist Carolina A. Miranda writes.

That’s certainly the case in Los Angeles, where the simple act of securing permits to build an average granny flat in an average backyard can turn into an epic back and forth with the city’s Department of Building and Safety over tweaks to drainage and electrical systems.

A new initiative organized by Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office in collaboration with Building and Safety aims to change that — while inserting a bit of high design into a housing stock whose aesthetics generally lie somewhere on the continuum between box and shed. Imagine, instead, a playful studio in the form of a flower, or a contemporary two-story apartment that offers minimalist chic at a backyard scale — all available as designs that have been preapproved by the city for construction, thereby shaving weeks off the permitting process.

What we’re reading

Associated Press profiled Chandler Street village, a tiny home community that recently popped up in North Hollywood meant to address L.A.’s homelessness crisis. Each of the 39 units comes with four windows, two beds and an air conditioning unit as well as on-site counselors who provide mental health treatment, legal aid and help with job searches.

An 18-story condo building in Miami Beach is setting itself apart with a one-of-a-kind amenity: athletes. The New York Post reported that 57 Ocean is offering a “celebrity athlete program” where residents can eat meals and work out with pros including football legend Troy Aikman, golfer Greg Norman and World Cup-winner Blaise Matuidi.