The free market system is really a beautiful thing. Truly. Here in America, anyone with the dough can buy whatever house they want, with no government interference. Yes, yes, we know that there are some general regulations, and certainly the SEC and such keeps a watchful eye on buyers of these homes. But generally, folks can do as they please. Doesn’t matter where the money comes from. In LA, we see buyers from all over the world, people who got their money in all sorts of interesting ways — legitimate or not.
Whether that is fair and “right” is a matter of opinion. All Yolanda knows is that our blog posts would probably be far more boring without the free market thingamajig. But we digress.
Last night, a little birdie unexpectedly rang Yolanda’s proverbial bell and inquired about whether A-list celebrity couple Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes had quietly purchased a lovely old mansion in the posh San Gabriel Valley city of San Marino.
Huh? San Marino? Seriously? But sure enough, Ms. Mendes and Mr. Gosling were papped at the house in question just last month.
San Marino, y’all, has long and consistently been ranked one of the wealthiest cities in all of California. But in the past 40 years of so, it has undergone a demographic shift more dramatic than almost anywhere else in LA. In the 1970s, San Marino was a 99.7% white city — mostly old-money WASPs — with a racist past. Today, in 2018, something like 70% of homes in the city are owned by wealthy Chinese or Taiwanese folks — most of them with enormous new-money fortunes. And that percentage is only increasing.
These days, San Marino and (to a greater extent) the neighboring city of Arcadia are known as the “mistress cities” because billionaire Chinese businessmen frequently pony up millions to house their extracurricular girlfriends in area mansions. For a video explaining more about this — ahem — unique phenomenon, click here.
Do not misunderstand, kiddies. San Marino — located just south of bustling Pasadena — is an amazing small town known for its historic grand mansions and for having one of the best school districts in LA. For decades, Yolanda’s grandparents owned a modest house only 5 minutes’ drive away from the property Mr. Gosling and Ms. Mendes considered buying. So we know damn well that this place is gorgeous and peaceful in a way that most luxury neighborhoods out west are not.
However, despite its great wealth, San Marino is certainly not home to many Hollywood celebrities, nor does it have the attractions that most A-listers value. There are only a tiny handful of eateries in town, and all of them are mom-and-pop style and completely unpretentious (save for Julienne — which has a reputation around town for being the favored lunch spot of “the trophy wives of San Marino”). Sorry kids, there is no Craig’s anywhere around here, and no place to see-and-be-seen by paparazzi.
(Then again, Mr. Gosling and Ms. Mendes are not your typical A-list celebrity couple. Despite their high profiles, they are ultra-private — almost obsessively so. They have rarely been photographed together and have never given an interview as a couple. And In fact, by the time Ms. Mendes gave birth to the couple’s second child, almost nobody even knew she was pregnant. Heck, these two might even be secretly married by now — who knows?)
Anyway, if any of y’all find yourselves in San Marino, we highly suggest you try the delicious sushi at Yoshida, a tiny and favored spot of area locals. Or, if you crave an orgasmic bowl of clam chowder or fresh swordfish sandwich, check out San Marino Seafood. A bit pricey, yet totally worth it. Trust Yolanda.
We did a little asking around and quickly heard back from a knowledgable source who told us that Ms. Mendes and Mr. Gosling have been looking for a large home in the Pasadena/San Marino area and did, in fact, make an above-asking-price offer on the house in question. However, y’all, they are not the new owners. Their offer was beaten, trampled, annihilated! Records now show the property was sold for $9.5 million cash to a Chinese lady. To be specific, the deed says the new owner is “Yi Huang, a single woman”.
Yolanda has no idea who Ms. Huang is or where she gets $9.5 million cash for a luxury home, but she obviously wanted this place like the dickens — she paid $1.5 million more than the $7,995,000 asking price. Clearly there was a fierce bloodbath of a bidding war up in here. Shall we check out what drove everyone so cray-cray?
The historic Villa delle Favole estate was built by acclaimed Pasadena architect Clarence L. Jay way back in 1924 and sits on a lovely, mansion-dotted street just a quick skip from the Huntington Library. Featuring a celeb-pedigreed history — it was sold by prolific TV producer Mark Cronin, who bought it in 2010 from Malcolm In the Middle actress Jane Kaczmarek and her ex-hubby, The West Wing actor Bradley Whitford — the property is fortified with a double-gated circular driveway, security cameras, and a detached three-car garage tucked privately into the rear of the 1-acre lot.
At various times over the past 94 years, the Italian Revival-style home’s interiors have been respectfully updated, most notably by designers Cynthia Bennett and Matthew White. Many original architectural details remain, including in the classy library (check out those leaded-glass windows and the original Batchelder fireplace)!
One thing that has definitely been significantly updated is the kitchen, which now includes a SubZero refrigerator and a host of other high-end appliances. The massive center island includes an eat-in area, and the breakfast nook rests next to the service staircase.
There are a total of 7,612-square-feet of living space on the property, including the detached 1,200-square-foot guest house. The main house offers up 5 beds and 4 baths, with the upstairs master suite featuring a fireplace, sitting area, built-in soaking tub, and a custom walk-in closet with lustrous hardwood flooring.
Speaking of the guest house, it includes a living room, an rather unattractive kitchen, and an unexpectedly large bedroom suite with French door access to the backyard. Elsewhere, the expertly-designed villa includes numerous outdoor sitting areas for enjoying the gentle San Marino breezes.
Just because this place is 94 years old does not mean it ain’t know how to party. Out back is a raised swimming pool, a raised spa, and an outdoor kitchen. Also out there is a spacious lawn and an elegant boxwood parterre garden.
As we say, this area is currently home to only a handful of celebrities, though that could be changing. Meryl Streep just bought a Pasadena mid-century, as did funnywoman Kristin Wiig. Oscar de la Hoya owns a spectacular old Pasadena mansion, as does Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Erika Girardi. And comedian Larry Wilmore lived in San Marino for many years prior to his recent divorce.
By the by, Yolanda feels bad that the dream home of Mr. Gosling and Ms. Mendes slipped away. We know that freebie-loving celebs are accustomed to getting what they want. And usually without having to yank out the classic “Don’t you know who I am?!” card! But if it makes the couple feel any better, this bidding war loss situation is not entirely unheard-of, even in the A-list ranks.
Sofia Vergara — who for years has been the highest-paid actress on TV — was famously outbid on Debra Messing’s prime East Gate Bel Air estate. Poor Ms. Vergara nearly thought she had the deed in hand, but it was snatched at the last minute! Her mortgaged offer was ultimately trumped by a late $11.4 million all-cash bid from a hedge fund-rich New York couple (Michael Barnes & Lisa Underwood). For anyone curious, Ms. Vergara instead had to “settle” for a $10.6 million mansion in Beverly Hills.
That just goes to show, y’all, that our real estate market remains a bastion of capitalism. Fame, power, and smooth-talk alone will not buy a house, not if you ain’t willing to ante up the biggest bucks.
Or, in more succinct terms, money talks and the bullshit walks.