Real Estate newsletter: Hollywood eyes a comeback

A photo of a large two-story mansion surrounded by grass with trees
The USC presidential mansion, which housed the university’s presidents for more than 40 years, was sold for $25 million.
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Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, which this week documents a Southern California market where a half-finished mansion fetched a fortune and a university set a record selling its president’s stately home.

The half-finished mansion belonged to none other than NBA star Kevin Garnett, who never got around to completing the 11,000-square-foot showplace that occupied his scenic spread in Malibu. That didn’t stop him from selling the place for $16 million, though.

And the record-setting mansion belonged to the University of Southern California, which used the famed Seeley Mudd Estate to house its presidents for the last 40 years. The pandemic forced the school to make some cutbacks, and the 14,000-square-foot home had to go. The good news is that USC got its money’s worth, selling it for $25 million and setting a San Marino price record in the process.


Two other estates made headlines over the last few days. On the resort peninsula of Coronado, a 134-year-old Victorian that resembles the iconic Hotel del Coronado a few blocks away hit the market for $24 million. And in the Arizona desert, action star Steven Seagal hauled in $3.55 million for his ultra-private compound in a guard-gated community complete with bulletproof windows and lifelike statues.

As L.A.’s commercial sector continues its post-pandemic thaw, many eyes are on one of the city’s most recognizable neighborhoods: Hollywood. The area saw a few casualties over the last year, including the Paley restaurant and ArcLight Hollywood, but it’s aiming for a comeback as foot traffic slowly returns.

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Athlete passes a half-built home

An aerial photo of a large white home with a pool in a big lawn.
The coastal estate combines three parcels across seven acres, centering on an 11,000-square-foot home.
(Hilton & Hyland)

Basketball Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett scored $16 million in Malibu, selling a half-finished mansion that he’d been shopping around for the last three years.

That’s $3.9 million shy of the price he was asking but still a sizable improvement over the $6.4 million he paid for the property in 2003.


When Garnett bought the coastal spread, it held a six-bedroom villa. Now, it holds an 11,000-square-foot showplace that’s still under construction. The structure itself is there, but Garnett left the interiors unfinished to allow the buyers to complete it with their own personal style.

USC presidential mansion makes history

A photo of a large two story house surrounded by grass and trees.
The seven-acre grounds center on a 14,000-square-foot American Colonial-style mansion surrounded by sprawling lawns and English rose gardens.

The USC presidential mansion, which housed the university’s presidents for more than 40 years, traded hands for $25 million. That’s $500,000 more than the asking price, making it the priciest home sale in San Marino history.

When the residence surfaced for sale earlier this year at $24.5 million, it was the first time it had ever hit the market. Records show it went under contract less than a month after listing.

The piece of Trojan history is also a piece of American history. Named the Seeley Mudd Estate after the man who commissioned it, the compound sits on seven acres of land donated by U.S. Army Gen. George Patton and railroad mogul Henry Huntington, who established San Marino’s Huntington Library a few miles away.

It served as the home of USC presidents since 1979, and the grassy lawns and rose gardens surrounding the 14,000-square-foot mansion were the setting for many of the school’s dinners, galas and holiday parties.


A Victorian built in 1887

A photo of a large Victorian home with gardens and two palm trees
Built in 1887, the Queen Anne Victorian is navigated by an architectural staircase that spirals through four levels of living spaces.
(Brenda Sienkiewich / Model Image Media)

One of San Diego County’s finest examples of Victorian architecture is up for grabs on the resort peninsula of Coronado, where the 134-year-old Baby Del hit the market for $24 million.

The 19th century residence is built in the same style as, and sits a few blocks away from, the famous Hotel del Coronado, a historic beach resort that claims the title of the second-largest wooden structure in the country.

The Queen Anne Victorian was built by Harriett Livingston in 1887, a year before the Hotel del Coronado was erected. It was located in San Diego’s Sherman Heights neighborhood until 1983, when architect Christopher Mortenson scooped it up and moved it by truck and barge to its current spot near the beach in Coronado.

One of the largest private properties on the peninsula, it has been declared a historic landmark in San Diego and enjoys property tax reductions through the Mills Act.

Martial artist sells his dojo

A photo of a two story mansion in a desert landscape
The 12-acre estate centers on a 9,000-square-foot home made of stone, copper and glass.
(Stephen Garner)

Steven Seagal accomplished his mission in the Arizona desert, selling a 12-acre bulletproof compound outside Scottsdale for $3.55 million. That’s $150,000 more than he was asking.

The martial artist-turned-action star — whose credits include films such as “Above the Law,” “Hard to Kill,” “Driven to Kill” and “Today You Die” — owned the home for about a decade. Records show he shelled out $3.5 million for the property in 2010 and put it back on the market two years later, dangling it for sale every few years before finally finding a buyer.

Built into a hillside, the modern home is secured in the guard-gated community of Carefree Ranch Homesteads. For extra protection, the floor-to-ceiling windows are bulletproof with a clear vantage point of the surrounding valleys and mountains.

Hollywood prepares a comeback

A photo of a man taking a picture of a woman posing with a street performer with people walking behind
Alex Cannon, left, from Houston, photographs friend Emilee Williams, from Victoria, Texas, posing with a street performer dressed up as Freddy Krueger on Hollywood Boulevard.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

Hours before “Hamilton” was set to open at the Pantages Theatre last year, performances of the Broadway hit were canceled as edicts to prevent the spread of a highly contagious new coronavirus set off a cascade of woes for the Hollywood neighborhood, writes Roger Vincent.

More than a year later, boom, bust and hope for another boom tell the story of Hollywood today as the neighborhood labors to spring back from the pandemic and its economic fallout.


High-profile COVID-era casualties include upmarket Paley restaurant in Columbia Square on Sunset Boulevard and ArcLight Hollywood, the cinema complex that included the landmark Cinerama Dome theater.

Many others have hung on. “Somewhat miraculously, a lot of the mom-and-pop shops survived,” said Kris Larson, president of the Hollywood Partnership business improvement district.

What we’re reading

Wondering where all the houses went? Baby boomers have a lot of them, and they’re not letting go. The New York Times reports that aging boomers, wary of nursing homes, are holding on to their homes far longer than the generation that preceded them, causing inventory shortages and price increases across the country.

The Hearst Castle is still closed to the public, but if you’re dying to get inside, Airbnb is offering virtual tours of the iconic estate. For $20, a California State Park guide will lead you through a 75-minute stroll of the grounds, according to CBS Los Angeles.