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Real Estate newsletter: Once a convent, now a mansion

Mansion with downtown Los Angeles in background
Built in 1923, the 18,000-square-foot mansion once used as a convent is surrounded by gardens, lawns and a trio of guest cottages.
(Neue Focus)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, where house porn meets housing news in a Southern California market that never seems to slow down.

Increasing demand and limited supply is driving buyers into bidding wars, and this week saw multiple listings trying to take advantage of the hot market.

Restaurateur Dana Hollister (you might remember Hollister from her feud with Katy Perry over the right to buy a convent in Los Feliz) is aiming for the all-time price record in Silver Lake. She must have a thing for convents. Over the years, Hollister’s nearly century-old villa has been used as a residence for nuns and orphaned girls.

And down in Irvine, one house flipper is eying a $600,000 profit for a house once owned by Kobe Bryant.

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It was also a week of big numbers: $1.25 billion — which is the amount of investment planned for Television City to bring the famed CBS-built studio into the 21st century — and $235.5 million, the total amount of L.A.’s rent relief program that tenants and landlords can now apply for in the wake of the pandemic.

Speaking of rent, one surprising California city has seen a larger rent increase over the last four years than any other in the country: Fresno. Often ranked as one of America’s worst places to live, the city has experienced a nearly 39% jump in average rent for houses since 2017.

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

Converted convent aims for a Silver Lake record

An 18,000-square-foot mansion
Built in 1923, the 18,000-square-foot mansion once used as a convent is surrounded by gardens, lawns and a trio of guest cottages.
(Neue Focus)

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Restaurateur Dana Hollister is responsible for Silver Lake staples such as Cliff’s Edge and 4100 Bar, and her bitter fight with pop star Katy Perry over a Los Feliz convent made headlines for years. Her next big move is in real estate.

She just listed the Paramour Estate, one of Silver Lake’s largest and most storied properties, for $40 million — a mammoth price tag that is leaps and bounds above the nearby homes nestled in the hills of the scenic neighborhood.

If she gets anywhere close to what she’s asking, it will be the priciest home sale Silver Lake has ever seen. The current crown belongs to Silvertop, a futuristic John Lautner masterpiece that sold to former Beats Electronics President Luke Wood for $8.55 million in 2014.

Like many of L.A.’s iconic homes, the nearly century-old mansion boasts an ownership history as fascinating as the house itself.

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Lakers legend’s former home is flipped

Spanish-style home
Built in 2003, the Spanish-style home in a gated community offers three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in 2,300 square feet.
(RE/MAX One)

A piece of the Kobe Bryant real estate portfolio is getting the fix-and-flip treatment in Irvine. Less than six months after Vanessa Bryant sold the home for $2 million, it’s back on the market for $2.6 million.

The listing claims that nearly $200,000 went toward remodeling the Tuscan-style abode, which covers 2,400 square feet in the Summit at Turtle Ridge, a gated community found a few miles from Bryant’s longtime mansion in Newport Coast. Kobe and Vanessa bought the Irvine home as an investment property for $1.3 million in 2013, records show.

The exterior looks about the same as it did when Vanessa Bryant sold it last year, with a clay tile roof and brick façade. Living spaces look a bit more modern now: the hardwood floors are lighter, the beamed ceilings were whitewashed, and the chandeliers have been swapped for a more contemporary look.

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Bryant’s widow had no trouble selling the property in October. She inked a deal two days after listing it and hauled in $5,000 more than her asking price.

New life for Television City

Rendering of proposed improvements to Television City
Rendering of proposed improvements to Television City, the landmark Los Angeles studio built by CBS in 1952. Owner Hackman Capital Properties plans to expand the number of sound stages and offices at a cost of $1.25 billion.
(Television City)

CBS Television City opened in 1952 at the height of Los Angeles’ identity as a TV production factory. Now, one of L.A.'s most storied studios is on track to get bigger, writes commercial real estate reporter Roger Vincent.

Owner Hackman Capital Partners plans about $1.25 billion worth of improvements to the landmark production facility, known simply as Television City these days, to feed the enormous appetite of streaming services and visual effects whizzes.

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Demand for soundstages has grown in Southern California to the point where shortages keep the region’s existing stages booked year-round. Local stages have remained leased during the pandemic, even though location shoots dwindled to a trickle before mounting a comeback in recent days.

Technological advances used in making movies and television shows are creating more demand for soundstages, studio owner Michael Hackman said, as increasingly sophisticated visual effects reduce the need to shoot on locations outside a studio.

Rent relief opens

Demonstrators holding signs
Tenants asking for rent relief and their supporters gather at City Hall in Los Angeles on April 20.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles opened applications Tuesday to its $235.5-million rent relief program, an effort to keep city residents housed and allow landlords to pay their bills after a challenging year, writes housing reporter Andrew Khouri.

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The program, called the 2021 COVID-19 Emergency Renters Assistance Program, is funded through the December federal stimulus bill and distributed under state rules that seek to eliminate rent debt that lower-income tenants have accumulated over the last year.

A lot rests on the money being distributed correctly.

Tenants with pandemic-related financial hardships have protections against eviction under a patchwork of regulations passed by the federal, state and local governments. But rent is still due, and people have to make payments eventually.

The nation’s hottest housing market

A man drives past a mural
A man drives past a downtown mural on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, in Fresno.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

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Over the last four years, no large U.S. city has seen greater increases in rent than Fresno. California’s fifth-biggest city, it’s an agricultural powerhouse on the doorstep of Yosemite National Park but often is thought of as a highway rest stop midway between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. Because of its pollution and poverty, Fresno makes regular appearances on lists of America’s worst places to live, writes housing affordability reporter Liam Dillon.

Yet since 2017, average rent for homes in Fresno is up nearly 39% to $1,289 a month, according to real estate firm Apartment List. That includes a 12% increase during the pandemic, the opposite of what has occurred in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco, where rents have plummeted.

Although Fresno’s costs have soared, they’re still low enough to provide a respite for people moving from pricier locales. But they have become a crushing burden to the region’s tens of thousands of low-income families.

What we’re reading

Homebuyers, prepare your best offers. If you don’t, someone else surely will. CNN reported that one $275,000 listing in a Washington D.C. suburb had 88 offers in three days — including 76 all-cash bids.

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Elon Musk tweets, and people follow. After the SpaceX head encouraged his Twitter legion to move to Brownsville, Texas, and work for his company, TMZ reported that real estate agents’ phones were ringing off the hook.


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