Uncovering a Piece of Los Angeles History: The Chasan Villa

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Left: Two photos of The Chasan Villa, Right: The Avengers Compound
Note the architectural similarities between the two including shared stucco, roof, rounded and square archways.

Los Angeles has been the center of media and entertainment for nearly a century and there are fascinating aspects of the city’s real estate history that readers enjoy. If you’ve ever driven down Palos Verdes Drive from Torrance to San Pedro, chances are you’ve seen the stunning views of Bluff Cove and Surfview Park. Today, these 180° views are unobstructed by properties; however, if you drove by this stretch of Palos Verdes Drive 40 years ago, you would have seen The Chasan Villa.

Built by famous couple Fred and Roslyn Chasan between 1979 and 1981, The Chasan Villa was a one-of-a-kind Mediterranean-style villa built to the edges of the cliffs – the newest and largest home constructed in the area. A light shade of crème-colored stucco surfaced the exterior, with a mix of round and squared arches above windows, doors, and terraces supported by square capped columns. The roof and chimneys were covered in red terracotta tile, and the front terrace led to a manicured lawn. The property had a pool, a wet bar, and guest dwellings that matched the style of the main residence. Also, rare for the day in a residential property, the Villa included an elevator system that spanned from the basement to the roof deck.

By 1982, The Chasan Villa had been featured in full-page photographic newspaper spreads, showing its magnificent architecture and finishings, but the story of the dream home villa takes a surprising twist just one year later when it was destroyed. The property was built at 901 Paseo del Mar and 901 Palos Verdes Drive West, as Paseo del Mar runs intertwined with Palos Verdes Drive and ends at the entrance of the once-existent Chasan Villa. Although noted geologists had concluded before the property was built that the structure of the cliffs could support the construction, a jury later found that the city had not repaired decades-old storm drainage pipes and water lines, which caused a landslide and the destruction of The Chasan Villa and several surrounding properties.

Small cracks appeared at first all over the property, which began to grow. Within a few months some of the cracks had widened to span more than a foot, sinkholes appeared, and pipes burst forcing the Chasan family to vacate the residence in 1983 and the city to condemn the property. As part of the settlement, the city repurchased the property from the Chasan family and hired a construction crew to dismantle the remaining parts of the property over the following year. The street continued to be problematic for the city throughout the 1990s and 2010s, with further landslides occurring and damaging other homes in the area.

Today, although the only physical remnants of the Villa are a few pieces of concrete foundation near Bluff Cove Lookout, The Chasan Villa lives on in Marvel Comics. In 1984, just as the city was dismantling The Chasan Villa, Marvel introduced The Avengers Compound into The Avengers #246. This oceanfront home of Tony Stark (Iron Man), Vision, Hawkeye, and other characters shares more than a few similarities with its real-life counterpart. Marvel used the fictional address of 1800 Palos Verdes Drive for their compound showing this as an area where Palos Verdes Drive bends westward towards an unobstructed ocean front property behind “m” shaped cliffs. Although there are four addresses in Los Angeles that correspond to 1800 Palos Verdes Drive, none are oceanfront addresses that match the illustrated contour of the cliffs or road: North is over four miles from the Pacific Ocean, East is a junction between two parts of the road and nearly a half-mile from the Pacific Ocean, West is more than a half mile from the Pacific Ocean, and although South is closest to the ocean and has a westward bend, it is not oceanfront as it is on the East side of the road, set several streets removed  from the ocean, and the nearest cliffs are not contoured with an “m” shape.

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Left: Satellite View of The Chasan Villa’s Address, Right: Marvel’sIllustration of a Map for The Avengers Compound

The stretch of Palos Verdes Drive nearest to where The Chasan Villa stood at the time; however matches the criteria: a slight westward bend of ocean-front Palos Verdes Drive slightly askew from center of contoured cliffs, with Flat Rock, Bluff Cove and Surfview Park forming the three arches of the “m” shape. Besides their location, The Chasan Villa and The Avengers Compound also share many visual attributes in-common: the shade of stucco, style and color of the roofs and chimneys, a combination of round and square arches surrounding the outside of the property and squared supporting columns, the style of lawn, the pool and the elevator system to name a few.

One final irony that is shared between The Chasan Villa and Marvel’s universe is how water drainage pipes play into both storylines: in a later evolution of The Avengers storyline, their compound is leveled in-part when a sewer drainage pipe is destroyed. Sound familiar?

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