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They loved the house. Then they tore it down. The neighbors cried

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The City Councilmember made a move to stop demolition, but it was too late

361 North Citrus Avenue.
Bianca Barragan

The dear seller letter helped close the deal.

Reuven and Shevy Gradon had fallen in love with an elegant Tudor-style on a corner lot in Hancock Park. They could envision hosting family dinners in the dining room, with its carved wood beams and leaded windows, and padded their offer with a heartfelt message: “This home is exceptional both in character and in location and is the home of our dreams,” the couple wrote in July.

The sellers were looking for a buyer who wouldn’t tear down the home—and accepted the offer.

They were “stunned and heartbroken,” then, to learn from an old neighbor on Friday, one month after escrow closed on the $2.3 million sale, that a demolition notice had been posted in the dining room.

“It really is devastating to watch these beautiful old homes be completely demolished,” said David Cole, who owned the home at 361 North Citrus Avenue for nearly a decade.

Late this morning, crews tore the home apart as neighbors watched, yelled, and cried, said Hancock resident Julie Wolfson. At one point, she said, neighbors tried to surround the bulldozer, but workers moved around them, using hand equipment to smash out windows.

“We just walked the dog, and people are [outside] crying, actual physical tears,” she said this evening.

Gradon, a real estate investor and president of Afton Properties, said he meant everything he and his wife wrote in that letter. But during escrow, learned from his contractor that his plans to expand the 2,356-square-foot home to make it work for his growing family would not make financial sense.

They decided the best solution would be to demolish the house and build a new, bigger house for his family that “will draw on the neighborhood character” for its design.

The home, reduced to rubble.
Steven Wolfson

A spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz said there has been “a swell of concern” in the neighborhood. Responding to pleas from neighbors, the councilmember filed a motion Tuesday asking the City Council to take the home into consideration as a potential historic cultural monument. That would have stayed demolition, if the motion had approved before the home was razed.

The motion inferred the demolition was not properly noticed, but a spokesperson for the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety said Gradon was clear to start work.

“I’m doing everything by the book,” Gradon said.

A city survey identified the area between La Brea and Highland and Rosewood and West Third Street as a potential historic district, because of its tree lined-streets, deep front yards, and period revival homes, and Koretz said the home itself could be “eligible for historic designation on its own.”

Built in 1927, it might have been one of the neighborhood’s original design showcase homes. It still has a plethora of period details, including a hand carved entryway, large Batchelder fireplace, and inlaid floors.

This was a kind of wonderful example of what we think is a Tudor home,” said Alison Simard, a Koretz spokesperson.

Wolfson said there are other Tudor-style homes in the neighborhood, but this one was special. “For someone to rip it down is so sad,” she said.

Gradon bristles at the notion that this is a speculative deal or a money-making endeavor.

He said he has every intention of living on the property. “This is my home,” he said.