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Newsletter: Essential California: Selling a house made notorious by the Manson murders

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3311 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz.
(Redfin)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, July 16, and I’m writing from Los Angeles.

Rare is the real estate listing that really means it when characterizing a home as “truly, one of a kind.”

But there is no other place like 3311 Waverly Drive in Los Feliz.

Robert Giambalvo, the Redfin listing agent, described the property over the phone in perfectly formulated servings of real-estate speak: The location is “private Los Feliz,” the views are “spectacular,” and the property is “amazing.” Giambalvo also refers, very precisely and without ever straying in wording, to “the event that happened 50 years ago.”

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On Aug. 10, 1969, Leno and Rosemary LaBianca were murdered at this two-bedroom, 1 ½-bath Los Feliz home, a night after a pregnant Sharon Tate and four others were beaten, stabbed and shot 11 miles across town on Cielo Drive in Benedict Canyon. The city was seized with terror after the murders. Hollywood stars went into hiding, and the price of guard dogs jumped sevenfold.

The deep psychological imprint that the Manson murders left on Los Angeles and the world is undisputed, and already the topic of endless reams of paper and ink. But what of the houses themselves? What does the real estate market look like for famous sites of notoriety?

“It’s just such a calm, peaceful, serene environment that I don’t think anybody cares about what happened a long time ago,” Giambalvo said.

Under California civil code, sellers are required to disclose if a death — natural or otherwise — occurred in a home within the last three years, but they are not required to volunteer the information if the prior death falls outside that time frame. (For a small fee, the website DiedinHouse.com will scrape millions of public and private records to reveal whether anyone has died at a given address. The $11.99 per-search charge also includes meth lab and fire-related records.)

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Giambalvo told me that despite not being legally obligated to inform potential buyers of the home’s dark past, he “put on the MLS that this is formerly known as the LaBianca house, and to do research before showing.”

“We don’t want somebody to go into escrow and find out 10 days, 15 days later that there was the event that happened 50 years ago. And then they don’t want to buy it because of that,” he explained. “We just wanted people to make offers with their eyes wide open.”

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Charles Manson walks into a Santa Monica courtroom on Oct. 13, 1970.
(Associated Press)

The LaBianca house has changed hands several times since 1969 and last sold in 1998. Giambalvo said that current owners are looking to downsize as they prepare for retirement.

The house is priced at $1.98 million, which, according to Giambalvo, is intentionally just below market value. “The event that happened 50 years ago is going to eliminate some of the market. And also, it’s a good strategy to market all homes a little bit below market value to get increased interest,” he explained.

Randall Bell — chief executive of Landmark Research and an expert in the valuation and sales of properties that have been scarred by scandal or tragedy — said that crime scene stigma typically, but not always, “lasts approximately five to seven years” for a property.

“Nobody can forget Charles Manson — at least in our lifetimes. But in terms of it having a material impact on real estate, I don’t think so,” Bell explained over email, in response to a question about whether the renewed attention focused around the 50th anniversary of the Manson murders could affect the sale price so many years after the fact.

And, as Bell explained, “hot housing markets can amplify the ‘forgiveness-factor’ that the market has for properties with a troubled past.”

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Giambalvo didn’t seem worried. “The first showings were yesterday, and I already have several people telling me that their clients are preparing to make an offer,” the real estate agent said.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

TOP STORIES

The Trump administration moved Monday to in effect end asylum for the vast majority of migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. This is an enormous shift in policy that could block hundreds of thousands of people from seeking protection in the U.S. and is certain to draw legal challenges. The new rule — which was published in the Federal Register and is set to take effect Tuesday — would, in effect, nearly wipe out U.S. asylum law, which establishes a legal right to claim protection for anyone who arrives at the U.S. border and can make a case that they face torture or persecution at home. Los Angeles Times

San Francisco plans to open its first “safe” parking facility for homeless people living in their vehicles. Under the proposal, a parking lot near the Balboa Park BART Station would become a “triage lot,” where people could park their vehicles overnight, as well as access showers, bathrooms and other services. San Francisco Chronicle

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L.A. STORIES

Will City Atty. Mike Feuer run for mayor? He told the audience at a recent forum that a mayoral bid is “something I am looking at very seriously.” LA Observed

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L.A.’s ShakeAlert earthquake warning app worked exactly as planned. That’s the problem. Los Angeles Times

A curving mural at the L.A. Coliseum was long a mystery, until a teenage detective solved its 50-year puzzle. Los Angeles Times

A Times reporter whose parents are immigrants from Iran, Sarah Parvini, talks about “go back” and the certain kind of racism it represents. Los Angeles Times

Plus: Our readers recall racist taunts from their lives. Los Angeles Times

Have you been listening to “Larger Than Life,” Daniel Miller’s new podcast abut legendary L.A. street racer Big Willie Robinson? A very Hollywood-centric episode drops today, with a look at Robinson’s time as an actor and his connection to the “Star Wars” and “Fast & Furious” franchises. Los Angeles Times

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IMMIGRATION AND THE BORDER

Sixty-two current and eight former Border Patrol employees are under internal investigation because of their participation in a secret Facebook group that mocked lawmakers and migrants. Los Angeles Times

POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

Rep. Devin Nunes, a Central Valley Congressman and key Trump ally, has spent nearly eight times as much money so far in this election cycle than he did at the same point in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm. Sacramento Bee

A new Sacramento proposal would substantially raise prices for garbage and recycling services in the city. The rate increases would go into effect in 2022, if approved. Sacramento Bee

Uber and Lyft paid drivers up to $100 to protest a state bill that could force the companies to treat their workers as employees. A battle for the support of drivers, many of whom are divided on the subject of employee classification, has been playing out in recent weeks. Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom has named a former Exxon staffer to a key seat on the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which regulates oil refineries and other potential polluters. Desert Sun

CRIME AND COURTS

Forty percent of Bay Area hit-and-runs from 2014 to 2018 remain unsolved, leaving frustration and heartache. Mercury News

For the first time in a decade, no arrests were made during the three-day opening weekend of the California State Fair. Sacramento Bee

HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT

A gas company worker was killed and 15 people were hurt in a large explosion that rocked a Murrieta neighborhood in Riverside on Monday. A Southern California Gas Co. crew had responded to reports of a natural gas line that was damaged by a contractor working on the home Monday morning. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA CULTURE

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The Ahwahnee Hotel, in Yosemite National Park, opened in 1927, as seen in this photo from 2003.
(Ron Cobb / TNS)

The National Park Service reached a $12-million settlement in a long-running legal battle with Yosemite’s former facilities operator. The settlement will permit Yosemite to restore names to historic attractions, including the famed Ahwahnee Hotel. Los Angeles Times

Plus, here’s the background to the corporate grab behind the Yosemite trademark clash, as explained in 2016. Los Angeles Times

The Inland Empire’s retail vacancies are the highest in the nation. What’s responsible, online shopping or overbuilding? Riverside Press-Enterprise

Univision’s owners want to sell. After 12 years and $13 billion, what went wrong? Los Angeles Times

The blooms of “Daffodil Hill” in the Amador County town of Volcano have long drawn hordes of visitors. But the owners announced Monday that they would be closing the Hill “indefinitely” due to the overwhelming number of visitors. Mercury News

Earthquake preparedness tips — for your pets: Here’s how to keep them safe. Los Angeles Times

CALIFORNIA ALMANAC

Los Angeles: partly sunny, 84. San Diego: sunny, 75. San Francisco: windy, 68. San Jose: sunny, 80. Sacramento: sunny, 94. More weather is here.

AND FINALLY

Today’s California memory comes from Lorna Keith:

“I grew up in Hemet and my grandfather lived in Long Beach, a half-block from Alamitos Bay. I loved the trips to Grampa Joe’s, a half-day journey in Daddy’s Model A [in the late ’40s]. Every time my sister and I saw water we would yell, ‘Water, water.’ When I saw the oil rigs on Signal Hill, I knew we were getting close and couldn’t wait to see the ocean. Grampa Joe had a big wooden water board. He would sit me in the middle and push me around the bay.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.


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