A Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges the City Council abused its power by pushing for a cultural-historical monument designation for Marilyn Monroe’s former Brentwood home. The current property owners had plans to demolish the house and claim that the designation has done irreparable harm and violated their property rights by stopping those plans.

The legal dispute stems from the city’s efforts to preserve the house where Marilyn Monroe briefly lived before her death 61 years ago. Despite the owners’ intentions to demolish the structure and expand their current home, the city planned to designate the property as a historic-cultural landmark, preventing its demolition.

Actual Historical Value Or Clever Use of Power?

The lawsuit accuses city officials of abusing their power by pushing for the monument designation, arguing that the city violated its codes and procedures. The owners, Brinah Milstein and her husband, Roy Bank, who have owned the property since July 2023, obtained a demolition permit from the city. However, after receiving complaints about the planned demolition, City Councilwoman Traci Park initiated an effort to save the house by submitting a historic-cultural monument application.

Despite receiving approval from the Cultural Heritage Commission and the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee, the matter still needs to be heard by the full City Council by mid-June. The lawsuit seeks a court order to block the monument designation, allowing the owners to proceed with their planned demolition. They intend to demolish the structure to expand their home adjacent to the property.

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Cultural Designations in Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, designating a property as a historic cultural monument involves several steps, including nomination, evaluation by the Cultural Heritage Commission, and approval by the City Council. Once designated, the property is subject to certain restrictions and regulations to preserve its historical or cultural significance.

These designations are typically used to protect significant buildings, structures, sites, and neighborhoods from demolition or inappropriate alterations. They can also incentivize property owners to maintain and restore their properties by historic preservation standards.

A Poetic House With a Tragic Story

Marilyn Monroe’s former home, a one-story Hacienda-style residence, is situated on a 2,900-square-foot property at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac off Carmelina Ave in Brentwood, Los Angeles. Initially built in 1929, the L-shaped property underwent modifications over the years, now boasting four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and a free-form pool in the backyard adjacent to a citrus grove and guest house.

In February 1962, Monroe purchased the property for $77,500, paying for half in cash and securing a mortgage for the remaining half. Tragically, just six months after buying the home, Monroe’s life came to an end in August 1962. Her last known words were spoken to Peter Lawford over the phone: “Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to the president, and say goodbye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy.” She was found dead of a barbiturate overdose in her bed the following morning, still holding the phone receiver. On the house’s front doorstep are tiles reading “Cursum perficio,” meaning, “I have completed my journey.”