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Real Estate newsletter: A wild scheme to save L.A.’s biggest mansion

An aerial view of The One in Bel-Air.
An aerial view of “The One” in Bel-Air, a 105,000-square-foot mansion with a sky deck and putting green, nightclub, several swimming pools, a 50-seat theater, a four-lane bowling alley and more by developer Nile Niami.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Welcome back to the Real Estate newsletter, and happy new year! I’m honored to pop into your inbox every Saturday, and I’m looking forward to continuing my weekly appearances in 2022.

While the real estate market generally slows to a lull around the holidays, two wildly ambitious, wildly controversial developers kept the news cycle going.

The first was Nile Niami, the beanie-wearing, sunglass-toting spec developer who built the largest modern home in the U.S., called “The One.” He’s been working on the 105,000-square-foot mega-mansion for the last decade, but he’s about to lose it to foreclosure auction after falling $180 million in debt on the property.

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Calling The Times from a moped speeding through a jungle in Thailand, he outlined his latest scheme to keep the extravagant house in his own hands — and it includes cryptocurrency and a desperate plea to Elon Musk (or any other billionaire, for that matter).

The second was Mohamed Hadid, the reality TV star who tried cramming a 30,000-square-foot mansion onto 1.22 acres in Bel-Air. The neighbors weren’t having it, and a Los Angeles court ordered the mansion to be demolished. This infamous home has been auctioned off for $5 million, and destruction is now set to commence for the eyesore that Bel-Air residents not so affectionately called “the Starship Enterprise.”

Over in the small city of Bradbury, In-N-Out owner and heiress Lynsi Snyder sold her 19,000-square-foot mansion for $16.25 million. Bought with burger money from a former Dodgers star, the palatial estate includes a two-hole golf course complete with a sand trap.

Downtown L.A.’s Arts District got a bit of good news, as Spotify unveiled Pod City: a campus with 18 podcast studios, a theater, indoor stage and places for musicians to tinker with vintage instruments. The hub will allow the streaming service to attract new talent and produce more original shows.

We also got a new installment of “Gimme Shelter,” Liam Dillon and Manuela Tobías’ stellar housing crisis podcast. This week, they spoke to a first-time millennial home buyer about how he was able to afford a home.

While catching up on the latest, visit and like our Facebook page, where you can find real estate stories and updates throughout the week.

One last scheme to save “The One”

A view of a bedroom with private pool
A view of a 4,000-square-foot bedroom with private pool at the “The One” mega-mansion in Bel-Air.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Nile Niami needs someone to walk into the stratosphere with him.

That’s the developer’s latest plea in a video released Monday night as he tries to halt the looming auction of “The One,” the 105,000-square-foot mega-mansion that he spent the last decade creating.

On Dec. 16, Niami’s development company, Crestlloyd, filed an agreement in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to auction off the extravagant estate to the highest bidder, with the proceeds of the sale going toward paying off $180 million in debt that Niami racked up on the property to multiple lenders over the years. The auction would run from Feb. 7 to Feb. 10.

It’s the latest chapter in an increasingly dramatic feud over the largest modern home in the U.S., which has seen Niami hatch wild schemes in an attempt to keep his lenders from selling the place to recoup their losses.

Hadid’s doomed mega-mansion is auctioned off

An unfinished mansion sits on a hillside.
The unfinished mansion at 901 Strada Vecchia Road in Bel-Air is shown in May 2017.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

After a half-decade of criminal charges and court battles, the half-finished mega-mansion of developer Mohamed Hadid has sold at auction for $5 million. Next, it will be destroyed.

Hadid, a reality TV regular and father of models Bella and Gigi, bought the property in 2011 and quickly got to work cramming a 30,000-square-foot house onto the 1.22-acre lot, which was both bigger and taller than city rules allowed. At the time, he said the house would last forever.

Bel-Air neighbors feared the code-violating estate would slide down the hill and crush the homes below and took him to court, where an L.A. County judge declared the hulking structure a “danger to the public” and ordered it to be torn down.

After a failed attempt to stop the destruction by declaring bankruptcy, the company tied to Hadid was eventually forced to put it on the market for $8.5 million. With no takers, the price was eventually lowered to $5.5 million before it was auctioned off for $5 million by Premiere Estates Auction Co.

Burger heiress makes a small fortune

Lynsi Snyder's 4-acre estate.
Lynsi Snyder’s 4-acre estate includes a palatial mansion, guesthouse, swimming pool, tennis court, basketball court and two-hole golf course.
(IM Real Estate Photography / David Guettler Photography)

The city of Bradbury just saw its priciest sale in years when Lynsi Snyder, owner and heiress of the In-N-Out Burger chain, sold her Mediterranean mansion for $16.25 million.

It chalks up as a loss for Snyder, who bought the nearly 19,000-square-foot home from former Dodgers star Adrián Beltré for $17.21 million in 2012. She first flipped it onto the market for $19.8 million in 2017 before dropping the price to $16.8 million this year, records show.

The lavish estate spans more than 4 acres in Bradbury Estates, a guard-gated community a few miles from Baldwin Park, where Snyder’s grandparents founded the first In-N-Out in 1948.

Spotify brings hub to Downtown L.A.

A library-like room holds a conference table outfitted with microphones.
The main studio at Spotify’s new campus.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

When executive Courtney Holt joined Spotify four years ago, the music streaming giant had already outgrown its Sunset Boulevard office and teams were scattered around Los Angeles County, Wendy Lee writes.

The employee sprawl continued as the Swedish company expanded into the podcasting business, acquiring L.A. production companies the Ringer and Parcast. The need to establish a central space where everyone could collaborate became even more paramount.

Enter Pod City, the centerpiece of Spotify’s sprawling new campus in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles.

The campus — which can accommodate as many as 600 employees — encompasses 18 podcast studios, a theater, an indoor stage and places for musicians to tinker with vintage instruments, including a piano once used by singer-songwriter Norah Jones.

Podcast dives into millennial homebuying

Single-family houses in the Historic Oak Park neighborhood.
Single-family houses on 3rd Avenue at 42nd Street in the Historic Oak Park neighborhood in January.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Few places in the country are more expensive to buy a home than California, yet even here recent surges in home values have been astounding, Liam Dillon writes.

The median sales price for a single-family home in the state has gone up 12% over the last year, bringing it to $798,440, according to the California Assn. of Realtors. Home buyers, especially first-time ones, are having to shell out more and more of their incomes and savings to get into the market.

On the latest episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” Dillon, a Los Angeles Times reporter, and CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias speak with a first-time, millennial home buyer about how he was able to afford a home.

That guest is Matt Levin, former co-host of Gimme Shelter, who is now a reporter for public radio’s Marketplace. Levin bought his house in Sacramento earlier in 2021, and the podcast explores how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed what purchasers want out of a home.

What we’re reading

Jeff Bezos is the second-richest person in the world, so naturally, his real estate portfolio is among the best. Architectural Digest ran down a list of the houses he’s purchased over the years, including a Seattle estate he bought in 1998 and a Hawaiian compound that he picked up for $78 million in 2021.

New year, same trends. U.S home prices surged 18.4% in October, with all 20 cities in the data set posting double-digit gains year over year. AP has the details.


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