I get it. We have private property rights. If I have the money to outbid a museum to buy a Tintoretto or an Edward Hopper, and then go home and toss it in the fireplace, more power to me. If there’s a grove of old-growth trees, some sylvan forest producing shade and oxegyn, where children have froliced in the bucolic glades for generations, I’ll buy it and clearcut it and leave the slash piles to rot because I can. I won’t, mind you, but I can, for we are endowed by our Creator with all sorts of inalienable rights, codified by the Bill of Rights, among which lives freedom of speech, which I’m going to use here and now to say that Mr. Reuven Gradon is a moral leper.
It’s not so much Gradon bought a great house and tore it down. Rather, that he deceived the owners to do so. He procured the house through trickery and deceit for no other reason than to demolish it.
361 North Citrus, by Henry Knauer & Clarence Smale, was built in 1927 as an Architect’s Show Home, that is, a design showcase example, at the southwest corner of Citrus and Oakwood in Hancock Park. There she lived peacefully and was purchased about 2010 by the Coles, who restored the girl, up to and including new piping, wiring, and a full seismic retrofit.
After being in the house about a decade, it was time to sell; they listed on July 18th, 2019, and the offers came in. Many were over asking. One came on July 29th, with this letter:
Now that just drips with sincerity. They’re going to deepen their roots in this, the home of their dreams. They’re going to fill it with joy and heart. Hell, even the three-year-old loves the house.
As one Curbed commenter pointed out, Cole may have rejected a higher offer because of this letter, and may also have accepted Gradon’s offer because it was without contingencies, like inspection and repairs—specifically because, unbeknownst to Cole, Gradon intended to demolish the house and didn’t care about such things. (Though most of the Curbed commentariat, of course, went on about how opposing historic demolitions meant you were a loathsome boomer NIMBY).
In any event, the Coles sold the house to Gradon. This is Reuven Gradon:
The house went into escrow on August 5th, 2019 and Gradon closed sale/took ownership September 18th. He got his demo permit on October 18th only because he stated, via the legal stipulation, that he had physically posted notice on the house about its impending demolition, thirty days prior, on September 18th:
Gradon is awarded his demolition permit on October 18th. Problem is, according to neighborhood residents, Gradon never did, in fact, post any such notice thirty days prior:
Moreover, LADBS would not have issued the demolition permit without approved plans for the new building in hand, further indication Gradon always intended to demolish and rebuild. (Besides, as a developer, how is it possible he bought a house without realizing it wouldn’t suit his needs?)
Here’s another wrinkle—so to recap—Gradon goes into escrow August 5th and supposedly discovers during the ensuing 45-day-period that the house, I dunno, doesn’t have enough character, so on the morning he is handed the keys to the front door, September 18th, he heads down to good ol’ 201 North Figueroa and files to demolish, thus, he will get his demolition permit issued October 18th. Which he does. The Department of Building and Safety fails to and does not, despite their own law, send written notice “at least thirty days prior” to the three abutting property owners. Again, nor does Gradon post public notice per the law. Rather, after thirty days of quiet ownership of 361 it’s October 18th and DBS issues him his demolition permit. Conveniently, it’s a Friday, and shocked residents find out bulldozers are firing up and their calls to the City ring off the wall. Some say Gradon did put the demo signage up on October 18th (though neighbors dispute he did even this)—but behind some shrubbery inside his dining room window, so it’s a moot point, as that’s both a month too late and in contradiction of LADBS order to post in a “conspicuous place.”
One way or another the neighborhood gets wind of his plan and Saturday morning, social media is doing its thing:
But it’s too late, the work week begins Monday and by lunchtime Wednesday the house is gone. Everything, all the hand-carved woodwork, the vintage tile, the antique fixtures, even the mature fruit trees, nothing is salvaged: it’s all torn asunder and dumpstered as a great big extra fuck you.
Allow me then to collect (via the Redfin listing) and display some images—
About this Batchelder fireplace. Any six-year-old can tell you that Batchelder is important.
I asked Brian Kaiser, one of the foremost authorities on 1920s Southern California tile, and an expert in tile restoration, preservation and salvage, about this one. In an email exchange Kaiser said:
The fireplace is (WAS) quite special. A deluxe, deluxe example. The Terra Cotta mantel is one of the most elaborate and detailed that he made. I have never seen it before. The mantel was the most expensive part of the fireplace. There were many “Grades” of mantels. The beautiful, very detailed Pilasters, are rarely seen. They are also very special. The corbels above them are very large and also rare. The spandrels are also very, very nice. The hearth has a “Curb”. It helps stop ashes from coming out into the living room. Probably based on an actual English fireplace from the Middle Ages. A very impressive, and classy design. A terrible, terrible, tragedy that it was not saved. I could have had it out in 3-4 days.
Now let’s discuss these bathrooms:
I spoke with Max Solomon, head of the Los Angeles design and restoration firm Augustus Interiors. He said that given the watercolor style and coloring, the tile work was in all likelihood H & R Johnson, an English manufacturer favored during the interbellum years in the most high-end homes. The use of the tony, trend-setting maker stands to reason further, Solomon asserts, since “they wouldn’t skimp on a showcase house, plus the H & R Johnson showroom was located nearby; moreover the house was Tudor, so an English tile maker would be all the more appropriate.”
And so the house and all its charm and memories are gone. All that’s left is this letter to the editor from the Coles:
…and a lesson to the people of Los Angeles. Perhaps, if there is a silver lining, it’s that this lesson may enrage and engage some folk, and call them to action; posts like this one
use terms like mark my words—this will not happen again—enough is enough.
Postscript—but gosh, maybe I’m being too hard on Mr. Gradon. According to this, Reuven and wife Shevy “are going to build something much more beautiful.” I’d be happy to look over the plans you had in hand weeks ago at DBS and critique them sir, and if I’m wrong about all this, I’ll eat my words. Of course you’ll be spending thrice what you paid to match that level of materials and craftsmanship, but I certainly respect that choice. Here’s to the new 361!
It is time we all stand up against people who intend to cause malice through deceptive and unethical actions. The greed and utter disregard is shameful in people like Reuven Gradon and we must call them out as such. It’s awful that people like this exist in the world. Remember his name, remember his actions and let it be his shameful legacy.
The same exact thing was done to Ray Bradbury’s home on Cheviot Drive. The beautiful yellow corner house where he wrote his masterpieces – Fahrenheit 451, Illustrated Man, Martian Chronicles. I had begged his daughter to have his house turned into a historical home museum. She refused. His daughter sold his house to an architect, who totally demolished Ray’s house. We were close friends of Ray, and we, along with countless of his fans tried to stop this. We were not successful! That architect continued the demolition. Now, stands a Mc Mansion monstrosity in the place of Ray Bradbury’s home! I managed to pull out his rose bushes and a piece of his white picket fence. Replanted his roses in our home. Terrible and heartbreaking! Ray loved his house! It was a historical place! This is how people treat sacred treasures!
How awful to have to watch Ray Bradbury’s home being destroyed by “starchitect” Thom Mayne, who worked the system to squeak his demolition in right under the wire where neighbors and fans would have been able to challenge it.
Just a quick note: there is more than one Bradbury daughter, and the one I know was heartbroken by what happened to the family house.
As horrible as this is destroying such a beautiful house, and the devious and immoral way the buyers lied and persuaded the sellers into choosing them, i find it even more disgraceful that when they demolished it that nothing was salvaged. There is a house across the street from mr being demolished, but instead of bulldozing, it appears they salvaged the Spanish roof tiles. the wood framing, etc. There have only been bulldozers at the end. I am saddened to see yhe house go down and hope an architecturally appropriate house iis built in its stead. Going back to 361, I fear that Graydon’s idea of a beautiful house is a modern flat roofed white monstrosity that looms over its neighbors. He has proven himself to be selfish. Not trustworthy and completely oblivious of the welfare of his neighbors.
This is one of the most disgusting stories I have read
I pray these people are welcomed in their neighborhood with the same vigor they came with! Pure shameful
This is horrifying! It deepens the animus I already have toward developers whose greed is adding to the crisis of affordable living spaces in Los Angeles. I’m wondering whose palms were greased to facilitate this transaction without the proper notifications to neighbors and without the proper documents in hand. There should be major financial consequences to the Gradons. They destroyed an irreplaceable work of art and a treasure to Los Angeles. His actions also prevented anyone from salvaging some of the beautiful woodwork and possibly other elements from the home. And how reprehensible that they should use their religion as way to worm their way into this destructive act! You should be tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail!
I hope the property is worth the shame they’re going to feel when their son Googles them someday and realizes his parents are garbage humans.
a shanda for the goyim
Isn’t this a violation of the Demolition Notification Ordinance (Scorched Earth) and can thsi Gradon putz be subjected to a 15-year moratorium on building in that now vacant spot?
Regardless of whether it is, or isn’t, we saw exactly how thorough the City was at verifying the legality and validity of this creep’s actions, since they granted the demo permit WITHOUT architectural plans. Seems like true Los Angeles style.
This is a travesty not only because the house was demolished but the deception involved to buy the house is immoral. Make sure no one buys the rebuilt house. Picket when it’s for sale. Find out where this owner lives and picket his house.
Bet he’s a Garcetti supporter… They don’t give a crap about LA
I wonder if the prior owners could sue him for defrauding them and emotional distress. anyone who has any attachment as he claims to a historic property would have at the very least salvaged the historic materials . Evidence enough that he lied in his offer not ‘just changed my mind ‘. If they passed up other offers he defrauded them . I would also love to know what properties he manages. I would no longer employ someone of such questionable character. He could clearly use some time off from work to spend more time at the synagogue.
This is one of the most disgusting and heartbreaking stories I’ve ever read on Facebook. It’s why this country is finished, and why our world is being destroyed by skanks like this one who are dedicated to anything toxic and vile in the name of the almighty dollar. Read it… AND WEEP!… and share it across the internet.
When I read this article about this GRAND , BEAUTIFUL JEWEL of a home being torn down in the name of GREED , and the ALMIGHTY DOLLAR , I WANTED TO PUKE !!!!! The letter sent to the previous owners was no more than FRAUD and should have legal actions taken against REUVEN GRADON for the lying snake that he is !!!!!!!!!! I have never been more angry than I was when I read his ” LETTER ” myself !! It shook me to my very core !!! This is what we’ve come to as a society and it makes me sick and breaks my heart !! Homes such as this one WAS , are treasures of beauty and historic significance ! I would certainly make sure that he never sells anything he puts on the property where this grand home once stood !!! Our history is being erased and we will suffer the losses unless we stand against this kind of thievery !!!!!!!!!!!!!!
This is quite possibly the grossest thing I’ve read in a very long time. Reuven Gradon Is obviously neither religious or spiritual. He worships one thing and one thing alone…the almighty dollar. I was absolutely sickened by this entire story, especially where Gradon uses his own wife, son, and religion as props in the supposedly heartfelt letter, that was actually filled with out right lies. Lies to literally trick the seller into selling to him, who would never have done so if he had known what Gradon really was and is. Shame on him. That was a house I would have died to live in. After seeing those photographs, I couldn’t quite believe that anyone with one ounce of soul would destroy something that old and beautiful, filled with so much craftsmanship and detail. He obviously has the taste and morality level of somewhere around subzero. I mean, look at the photo he’s chosen to represent his shady business dealings…need I say more? Well excuse me, I’m going to go vomit now. PS. Is there a way as a community to sue and take him to court ? …because I’d be down.
Can’t this guy be sued?
Or pay a huge fine.
Or have the permits pulled?
I’ve noticed this is going on all over the city. Boy, the city council members must have been bought off.
Even for renters, my daughter lives off of Fairfax and Orangegrove and her landlord has tried to cheat many times.
She called rent stabilization and it was very clear that they are pro landlord. Which also means pro developer.
Is it Los Angeles going to the way of San Francisco and every one will be paying to rent a pod. Like these duplexes that house 16 people in one house??
We need to organize and do it quickly or LA will have tall apartment buildings blocking out the sun on every corner because a certain select group got paid $$$$ and don’t give a crap about our city.
As a Jewish person myself, I’m mortified to read his letter and see how he used his family and Judaism as part of his deception. He’s brought shame and disgrace to his community. Reading the Yelp Reviews of his company Afton Properties, he’s also a slumlord. https://www.yelp.com/biz/afton-properties-los-angeles
What a terrible person.
It is a sad when people need to cheat, lie, deceive to obtain things that they do not deserve. It brings a bad energy in whatever religion or non-religion you believe in. I feel for the people who attempt to preserve a past lifetime of beauty. The house was beautiful and it is obvious, well loved. It is shameful. I am not sure what lesson the new owners will impart to their kids, but I am sure it will carryover for generations.
It really is the definition of blind greed. Such a dreadful loss for LA, irreplaceable, and for what? and why? The deception is quite shocking.
What is intended to be built there now, a $3m box? a characterless apartment block?
Maybe Mr. Reuven Gradon could be forced to recreate the building he so hastily tore down, or it could be a defining moment to legislate to prevent future greed-driven destruction of LA’s rich architectural history
Enough already. I say it’s time to clean house at City Hall, enforce existing laws, and force this fraudster to live in one of his own slum units.
I am a very skillful designer and have studied historic details my entire career. I am far better than most other designers. Even with my sophisticated skills I can’t even come close to designing the details of the razed home. For all the details I have drawn there is no artisan today can create them. I often have to settle for less than perfect craftsmanship and execution. Money can buy a lot of thing but never can create a new home with the historical charm.
What a complete disregard for our beautiful and unique community. I blame the councilman, and city department for not protecting our community. instead selling us out to donors who sit in political offices, and their appointee’s to head City departments. seeing this house tore down makes me cry.
Unfortunately, THIS is the prime example of how dirty and money driven our society has become, Clearly is a degree holder in “The Art of the Deal”, because he’s just as slimy as the “author” of that book. People who own homes such as this, should learn from this dirty deal, and have their homes declared historical landmarks (if possible), or in the very least, not fall for BS like The Gradons’, and realized that he was sleazy as soon as he declared that he was a real estate investor.
This is REVOLTING! OK, so we all know Gradon is a major pile of feces, but what can be done? Is the city going after him in any way? Can the good residents of Hancock Park take some sort of action against this turd? Please tell me this walking colostomy bag is not going to get away with this!
As a Jew myself I am
ashamed at this disgusting person. How dare he wear a yarmulke while committing crimes of deceit and more. He should not wear a yarmulke and not represent himself as a “religious” Jew. G-d is no doubt ashamed at his actions and one day he alone will face judgment by the creator.
Just found out about this and am horrified about this tragedy caused by one greedy and lying person and poor government. The demolition permit was basically rubber stamped! As a developer he knew how to work the system to make sure this happened. And he planned this from day 1. Has anyone considered that this could be part of a larger plan (he is a developer)? Why go to these lengths to destroy one of the most beautiful and historic homes in the neighborhood? He could have bought and demolished any home. So why this one? Is he planning a larger scale development for the neighborhood which starts with destroying the historical character of the neighborhood by knocking down the cornerstones? That would ease the path for future developments through the neighborhood. There is nothing to protect or fight over once it’s gone. This may sound far fetched but really, why else would he go to these lengths of deception and speed, just to destroy this gem of a house?