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LA City Council saves Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood home from demolition

LA City Council saves Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood home from demolition

Fans of Marilyn Monroe are breathing a sigh of relief after learning that the Hollywood icon’s former home on the Westside of Los Angeles, where she died of a drug overdose in 1962 at age 36, will not be demolished.

That decision came down to a 12-0 vote by the L.A. City Council on Wednesday, June 26, following months of uncertainty about the fate of Monroe’s final residence.

The Spanish style house at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood is owned by real estate heiress Brinah Milstein and her husband, producer Roy Bank. The couple, which also owns the house next door, purchased the Monroe house for $8.35 million and planned to demolish it to expand their property.

  • The Los Angeles City Council has delayed its decision about...

    The Los Angeles City Council has delayed its decision about whether to designate the former home of actress Marilyn Monroe, 12305 5th Helena Drive, as historic. Monroe is shown here in an Aug. 8, 1950, image by Life magazine photographer Edward Clark. (File photo)

  • What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe...

    What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Toys for her dog – a lamb and a teddy...

    Toys for her dog – a lamb and a teddy bear — lie on the backyard grass of the home of Marilyn Monroe after she was found dead in Hollywood, Aug. 5, 1962. Police found them in this position when they arrived to find the star dead in her bed, a bottle of sleeping pills nearby. A newswoman stands at left. (AP Photo/Harold Filan)

  • This is the front entrance to the home of Marilyn...

    This is the front entrance to the home of Marilyn Monroe. She was found dead in her bedroom in Hollywood, Aug. 5, 1962. Bedroom does not show in picture. White note on door is coroner’s notice sealing the house. (AP Photo/Harold Filan)

  • FILE – In this Aug. 5, 1962 file photo, police...

    FILE – In this Aug. 5, 1962 file photo, police officers and newsmen stand at the driveway gate to the home of Marilyn Monroe after she was found dead in her bedroom. The Spanish-style one-story house is in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. The first police officer on the scene later said he saw her housekeeper using the washing machine in the hours after the actress’ death. (AP Photo/Harold Filan, File)

  • What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe...

    What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe...

    What was once the Brentwood home of actress, Marilyn Monroe on Monday, June 24, 2024. (Photo by Dean Musgrove, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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But last September, a day after the city issued the owners a demolition permit, the City Council passed a motion seeking to have the house declared a historic-cultural monument. That vote effectively prohibited demolition until the city decided whether to designate the home a historic-cultural landmark – a label that would save it from the wrecking ball.

The effort to preserve the 1920s-era home was led by City Councilmember Traci Park, who represents the Westside including Brentwood. Her office received hundreds of calls from people pleading that the city save the home from demolition, she said last fall.

On Wednesday, Park said that no other person or place in L.A. is as iconic as Monroe or her Brentwood home.

“To lose this piece of history – the only home that Marilyn Monroe ever owned – would be a devastating blow for historic preservation and for a city where less than 3% of historic designations are associated with women’s heritage,” the councilmember said.

George Mihlsten, a prominent attorney representing the property owners, was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

He previously told the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission – which voted unanimously in January to recommend saving the house – that the home had been empty and bare, and not worthy of being a monument.

Some homeowner groups including Brentwood Homeowners Association, Brentwood Park Property Owners Association and Mandeville Canyon Association wrote to city officials opposing the historic  designation. They cited safety and disruptions from tourists flocking in, although the home is behind a privacy gate and can’t be seen from the street.

Earlier this year, Brentwood resident Gary Hampar raised concerns in written comments, saying, “The neighborhood is up in arms about this and strongly opposes this nomination be designated as a Historic Cultural Monument. It will merely generate tour bus activity and looky-loos who will want to tour a site where an unfortunate and sordid event occurred” — referencing Monroe’s fatal drug overdose.

To address nearby residents’ concerns, Park introduced a motion Wednesday to ask the city’s transportation department to evaluate restricting tour buses on parts of Helena Drive and surrounding streets. She also pledged to continue working with the community to address any future concerns.

The councilmember also noted that she and her staff have discussed with the property owners the possibility of moving the house elsewhere so that the public can actually visit it, but no agreement had been reached yet.

Addressing the City Council before its vote, Park said, “I remain hopeful and committed to working with the property owners to see if this can be done in the future. But today, let’s preserve this essential piece of L.A.’s history and culture.”

In an interview after the vote, Park said she’s talked with the property owners a handful of times and she reiterated that she remained “hopeful that those conversations will continue.”

Park declined to go into details about what’s been discussed, citing pending litigation by the owners of the former Monroe home.

Meanwhile, following Wednesday’s vote, historic preservationists and Monroe fans said they were thrilled by the council’s decision to save the late Hollywood star’s house.

Kim Cooper and her husband offer walking tours in L.A. through their company, Esotouric. Their tours don’t include the Monroe house, but Cooper said she understands people’s fascination with the pop culture icon who endured a difficult childhood yet found success by putting a “playful, intelligent spin on the ‘dumb blonde.’”

“The love people feel for her is very real and very strong,” Cooper said.

She added, “You can tell there are people all over the world … (who, if) they never see the house, just knowing it exists makes them feel something.”

City News Service contributed reporting.

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