L.A. City Council declares Marilyn Monroe house a cultural landmark, saving it from destruction

After a year-long battle, Marilyn Monroe’s Brentwood home has been saved from destruction.

On Wednesday, the L.A. City Council unanimously voted to designate the Spanish Colonial-style residence as a historic cultural monument, protecting it from being razed by its current owners.

“We have an opportunity to do something today that should’ve been done 60 years ago. There’s no other person or place in the city of Los Angeles as iconic as Marilyn Monroe and her Brentwood home,” Councilmember Traci Park said in a speech before the vote.

Park, who represents the council’s 11th district, where the property is located, added that she’s planning to introduce a motion to evaluate tour bus restrictions in Brentwood after neighbors complained about unwanted traffic around the estate. She also floated the idea of moving the home to a place where the public could more easily access it.

“To lose this piece of history, the only home that 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,” Park said.

The battle over the home on 5th Helena Drive has been brewing since last summer, evolving into a greater discussion of what exactly is worth protecting in Southern California — a region chock-full of architectural marvels and Old Hollywood haunts swirling with celebrity legend and gossip.

Monroe fans claimed the residence is an indelible piece of Hollywood history; the actress bought the house for $75,000 in 1962 and died there of an apparent overdose six months later, making it the last home she ever occupied.

The homeowners claimed the house has been remodeled so many times over the years that it bears no resemblance to its former self. They also said it has become a neighborhood nuisance as tourists and fans flock to take pictures outside the property.

The saga started when heiress Brinah Milstein and her husband, reality TV producer Roy Bank, bought the property for $8.35 million and immediately laid out plans to demolish it. They owned the property next door and wanted to expand their estate.

The couple obtained a permit but soon ran into opposition, as historians, Angelenos and Monroe fans jumped in to protest the planned demolition. Councilmember Park said she received hundreds of calls and emails urging her to take action.

The next day, she held a news conference, while sporting red lipstick and short blond hair in a nod to Monroe, giving an impassioned speech urging the City Council to designate the home as a landmark.

In the months after, the landmark application slowly advanced, first receiving approval from the Cultural Heritage Commission and then from the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

In the meantime, Milstein and Bank were barred from demolishing the home. Milstein addressed the Cultural Heritage Commission directly in January in an effort to sway its decision.

“We have watched it go unmaintained and unkept. We purchased the property because it is within feet of ours. And it is not a historic cultural monument,” she said at the time.

In an attempt to halt the landmark designation process, they sued the city in May, claiming that officials acted unconstitutionally in their efforts to designate the home as a landmark and accusing them of “backdoor machinations” in trying to preserve a house that doesn’t meet the criteria for status as a historic cultural monument.

“There is not a single piece of the house that includes any physical evidence that Ms. Monroe ever spent a day at the house, not a piece of furniture, not a paint chip, not a carpet, nothing,” the lawsuit says.

A judge denied the claim in June, calling the suit an “ill-disguised motion to win so that they can demolish the home and eliminate the historic cultural monument issue,” according to ABC 7.

The City Council vote was originally set for June 12, but Park requested a postponement, citing the recent court decision and pending litigation, as well as ongoing discussions between the city attorney’s office and the property owners.

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