Whenever OffBeat despairs of finding something decent to read in the local monopoly rag, we turn to what is indisputably the best newspaper product of its kind in the nation: the L.A. TimesSunday real estate section. In the Hot Property column, we thrill to the news of every sitcom washout or studio executive-we-never-heard-of making $.2 million on the sale of their $4.7 million Lake Sherwood estate. Last week, we were particularly intrigued to read that Robert Nesen, Reagan’s ambassador to Australia and a former Valley Cadillac dealer, has his Hidden Valley ranch up for sale. The Doric-columned brick classic was remodeled in 1995 to resemble the American embassy in Canberra, we learned. Not that anybody outside of the southern latitudes has ever seen the embassy in Canberra, but we’re thinking of adding the house to our out-of-towners’ driving tour.
The R.E. story of the week, however, came not in the Hot Property column but in the conveniently titled “Hot Properties” ad that ran right below the column jump. There, nestled amidst the Brentwood Cliff May contemporary and the Encino knoll-top 9,000-square-footer, was a picture of a desert airstrip. That’s right, an airstrip, although the ad helpfully states that Agua Dulce Airport could be purchased for $3.3 million to build your dream estate(s) or subdivision, as well.
Built in 1958 as part of an abandoned fly-in subdivision, the desert strip north of Los Angeles between Palmdale and Newhall has fallen on hard times. Much of its revenue now comes from film-shoot fees. We tried to talk to real estate guy Geoffrey C. Lands about this unique property, but he rang off a bit testily after telling us, “I’ve been working very hard to sell this property for the past six months. If you’re interested in buying it, then I’m interested in talking to you.” We were left to contemplate what it means to live in a soap-bubble city where pretending to be an airstrip is worth more than actually being one, and where one man’s dream estate can turn into another’s tract-home nightmare with a flip of a real estate agent’s hand.