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Commission denies landmark status for Bob Hope home

LOS ANGELES — The city’s Cultural Heritage Commission Nov. 17 voted against granting landmark status to Bob Hope’s 15,000-square-foot Toluca Lake home, with members saying the designation would go against the late comedian’s wishes.

After learning of plans to demolish some parts of the property at 10346 Moorpark St., Councilman David Ryu submitted an emergency motion in September to begin the historic-cultural monument application for the home.

Because Ryu proposed the designation, the issue will go next to the City Council, where the application would need 10 votes to be approved.

The estate has been on the market for several years and is now listed at $12 million, down from the $23 million asking price in 2015. The initial, 2013 asking price was $27.5 million.

Hope’s daughter, Linda, told the commission that her parents wanted the proceeds from the sale of the home to go toward the charitable work of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, which she chairs.

“The designation flies in the face of my father’s wishes, and I know he would be disappointed that we couldn’t sell this site for maximum value in order to further fund our foundation,” she said.

A buyer for the home was “scared away” after Ryu introduced his motion, she said, and “ever since we’ve had no viable offers.”

The landmark designation “arbitrarily reduces the value of the property and deprives our foundation of its benefits,” she said.

Ryu’s motion said the estate is where Hope hosted celebrity-filled gatherings, with Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra among the many celebrities who would drop by.

According to the city’s historic survey division, the site is an example of Toluca Lake’s status as a residential community for Hollywood’s stars and entertainers, Ryu said.

The main home on the estate is a two-story, 15,000-square-foot, single-family house, according to a city planning report. The French and Tudor revival style estate was designed by architect Robert Finkelhor, with some expansions and remodeling work designed by John Elgin Woolf.

Hope told the commission that her parents’ longtime home is architecturally insignificant, describing it as “a hodge-podge of renovations.”

Her mother, she said, “sort of fancied herself an architect, so she had her hand in it at all times.”

She also said that with the multiple streets, squares and buildings named after her father, and by extension his family, the landmark designation for their home is unnecessary.

“Clearly their legacy is well protected in Los Angeles,” she said.

Hope’s attorneys also argued that stories of the home being used as a celebrity gathering place have been exaggerated, and that it was actually purchased by the Hope family as a place where they could raise their children in privacy.

The Hopes hosted celebrity gatherings at their Palm Springs property, according to Charuni Patibanda, an attorney with the firm Glaser Weil.

Patibanda said the Toluca Lake home is “barely visible from the street” as it is “covered by a very tall hedge.”

City Planner Ken Bernstein told the commission that staffers recommended the designation because the Hope home met a “high bar” for designating celebrity homes as landmarks.

“This is truly an iconic historic personage” who is “not just any figure in Los Angeles,” and the home has been “associated with Hope for over six decades,” he said.

The fact Hope and his friend and frequent “co-star” Bing Crosby lived in the neighborhood “really in a way put Toluca Lake on the map” both locally and nationally, Bernstein said.

The commission ultimately sided with the Hope family.

“My tendency is to not support the nomination based on the owner’s desire to be able to use the money to fulfill their nonprofit,” commission President Richard Barron said.

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