Topanga’s First $1.5 Million Property

Ian BrodieBy Ian Brodie      February 19, 2021

Share Story on:

Topanga’s First $1.5 Million Property
Mimi Morton of Red Carpet and her magnificent Excalibur. She’s selling the most expensive Topanga property so far.
September 27, 1979, Topanga Messenger—Mimi Morton was leaning on the hood of her flamboyant red Excalibur, which matched her jacket, worrying as usual. You would think she was never going to sell another property, despite her 13 years as a popular and successful realtor in the area—that, and despite an escalating property market. Yet there she was, fussing about keys and who knows what else. Maybe it was just nervous excitement. Red Carpet Realty is, after all, handling Topanga’s first milliondollar-plus property—$1.5 million to be precise. “It’s one of the few places in the Canyon with an ocean-view,” Mimi was saying, as she swept through the front door of the main house. Only she was wrong. The smog was up that day and all you could see was a brownish haze where the ocean was supposed to be but where, on clear days, you can see all the way to Catalina. No matter. It’s quite a spread Mimi has on the market. It’s right at the end of Colina in the Post Office tract. Known in real estateese as a compound, it consists of four houses scattered around 13 fertile acres full of orchards, vegetable plots and hiking trails. “Actually it’s well worth the asking price,” said Mimi. “Why, in Bel-Air it would fetch six million. In fact, anywhere on the west side of L.A. it would cost more. “By today’s prices, Topanga is still the best real estate bargain around, even though prices have been going up. “Yes, this is the most expensive property in the Canyon so far. But it’s unique, it’s one of a kind and its investment potential is immense. “I know we think of it as a lot of money in the Canyon, but it’s really not by today’s property values. And I think it’s the first of many to come. Just in the last couple of years we’ve seen $200,000 homes become commonplace up here.” So who runs this slice of paradise where pomegranates, nectarines, peaches, figs and grapes grow in profusion?
Being in a Moshav means having to till the fields, organically of course.
It turns out the place is—Ah, Topanga!— a commune. Well, no, not a commune exactly. I was warned against using that word. It’s a “moshav” which is the Hebrew word for a co-operative. Not a kibbutz, which is totally communal, but a moshav where, in this case, eight people live in three of the houses, and get together three days each week to pursue their dream and, more practically, till the organic gardens.

They are into bio-dynamic gardening which seems to mean doing everything in an intensive way, short of spreading chemical fertilizers. They use manure instead, they “recycle” weeds and they either feed their wet garbage to the chickens or put it on the compost heap.

“Our orientation is holistic, mystical and Jewish,” said Leslie Halperian, an earnest member of the group whom I pressed for a one-line definition.

The moshav got going in its present form only on August 5. Is Leslie disappointed that it is up for sale already? Not really, he said, although they are all fond of the place and will miss it.The plan is to move “up north” to a bigger place, more remote. “Some people love this because it’s so close to L.A.,” he said. “But many more have said they would join us if we were more out in the wilds, more of a frontier type of place.” The key to these ambitions is the owner of the compound, Jerry Strauss, who bought it four years ago from the Norton family. They were asking half a million bucks because they, too, wanted to go “up north.”

Since then, Strauss has made many improvements. Still, the difference is a reflection of Topanga’s spiraling land costs. Most importantly, Strauss has put a restrictive deed on the property.

Its effect is that the compound can never be split up into more than the existing four parcels. True, a new main house could be built on each parcel, so that the existing homes would become guest cottages. But you could never get development of one house or more to an acre.

“I’m against that kind of density for the Canyon,” said Jerry.

He also has other, Topanganesque ideas. He thinks the compound could be made self sufficient in electricity by building windmills.

He has his own well on the properly which can irrigate the crops—there’s a lot of water under Topanga, deep down.

And his swimming pool is a model of the genre—nine feet deep, but with shallow gently sloping rock sides where the water catches the sun, giving him a beautiful looking rockpool that is also virtually solar heated.

What a pity such nice people, with such interesting ideas, will be leaving us.
Ian Brodie
      February 19, 2021

Share Story on:

Topanga historical society

Viewing 1 to 3 (of 11 items)


Topanga historical society