Only a few dozen homes line Palisades Beach, the oceanfront strip of sand sometimes labeled the “American Riviera” or “Gold Coast” in reference to its bygone famous residents, many of them among the biggest stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. In the 1920s, when most Palisades Beach homes were built, Old Hollywood had just launched its first crop of cash-flush silent movie stars, many of whom yearned for quaint beach getaways. Thus, most of the earliest movie star beach homes were built here, right along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Today, most Hollywood celebrities eschew the Gold Coast in favor of greener, more private coastal pastures in Malibu or Montecito, but home values along the Santa Monica sand continue to skyrocket. After all, today’s different Gold Coast buyer crop — wealthy entrepreneurs and tech tycoons — have more spending power than most celebrities.
Witness this historic beach cottage, originally built in 1922 and last sold in 1996 for just $1.45 million. The owner, a non-famous businessman from Chicago, hired acclaimed architect Marc Appleton to renovate the Spanish Colonial-style casa, and the property was subsequently featured in Architectural Digest.
Following the longtime owner’s death, the house was recently tossed onto the market with an $8 million list price. Qualified buyers apparently flocked to the residence, which received multiple offers and entered escrow within a week. And finally, after a rather brutal bidding war, the property closed at $9.975 million — yes, nearly $2 million more than the original ask.
The all-cash buyer is Palo Alto-based tech tycoon Owen Van Natta, a Silicon Valley veteran who previously served as both CEO of MySpace and an executive Vice President at Zynga. However, he’s likely best-known for his three-year (2005-2008) run as chief operating officer (and later chief revenue officer) of Facebook, after which he retained a significant chunk of company stock.
Like most homes on the Gold Coast, the new Van Natta mini-compound sits practically right atop its neighbors. But the structure itself is remarkably private, set far back from the PCH and bordered on both sides by tall hedgerows. Incoming houseguests are greeted by the property’s two-car garage and upstairs guest quarters out front. From there, a locked and camera-watched gate leads past a fountain-equipped courtyard to the main 2-bed/3-bath residence.
Dark brown hardwood floors flow throughout the structure, including in the paneled den/media room and the dining area. The fully renovated kitchen features high-end stainless appliances and Caesarstone countertops, while the oversized living room includes a fireplace and French door access to the backyard and its pool/spa kitted out with Spanish tile, an outdoor fireplace, and over-the-wall sunset and ocean views.
The upstairs master features reclaimed ceiling barn beams, a sitting area, and a private balcony with soaring views out to Catalina Island and beyond. Also in the suite is a spa-like master bath with a built-in soaking tub and steam shower.
And for the time being, Van Natta continues to maintain a massive Bay Area estate up in Palo Alto, where some of his neighbors include Larry Page, Laurene Powell Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. Last sold for $9 million in 2011, the elaborate Neo-Tudor manse has since been completely overhauled and spans nearly 11,000 square feet on nearly an acre of prime Palo Alto land with gardens, a pool, and a full-size tennis court.
Two months ago, amid much internet fanfare, the giant Palo Alto estate was listed with an elephantine $40 million asking price, a potentially record-breaking amount given that the biggest Palo Alto home sale to date went for “just” $30 million. (As of this publication date, the Van Natta manor has not yet sold.)