Big names line up to protect modernist house
Published: January 3, 2014
THERE ARE new efforts to
prevent a Pebble Beach home designed by one of the world’s
leading mid-century modern architects from being demolished,
including backing from the former CEO of Knight Ridder and legal
work from the attorney who has constantly thwarted Carmel’s
effort to sell Flanders Mansion.
The rundown house at 1170 Signal Hill Road — designed in the
1950s by celebrated modernist architect Richard Neutra — made
news in 2012 after its owner, Silicon Valley businesswoman Massy
Mehdipour, proposed tearing it down so she could build a much
larger, 11,933-square-foot, three-story home in its place. Her
plans were met with resistance by local architects and
Now, the Alliance of Monterey Area
Preservationists has launched a campaign to have the house
designated as an historic resource either by the state or
federal government, which would provide substantial protection
for the 1958 home from being razed, under the California
Environmental Quality Act. Members of AMAP and others believe
the structure — often referred to as the Connell House for its
first owners — exemplifies Neutra’s approach to design and is
historically significant, even though it is only 55 years old.
“The Connell House is a pure example of the modernist design
aesthetic,” according to the preservationist group, which is
composed of architects, designers and other professionals.
Neutra, who was on the cover of Time Magazine in August 1949,
designed hundreds of structures, many of them in California,
before his death at age 78 in 1970. Most of those houses
still exist. Nevertheless, his sons, Raymond and Dion, are also
calling for the Connell House to be preserved.
Dion Neutra, who mentions the Pebble Beach home in his 2012
book “The Neutras Then & Later,” called the building
“irreplaceable,” and said, “It would be a great tragedy to lose
the only authentic Richard Neutra design in all of Monterey
He added: “It remains to be seen if via this [historic]
nomination, we can really effect the salvation of this icon, the
only un-messed-up example of our ’50s work in the area.”
Flanders attorney retained
The idea of demolishing the house is also bothering a
high-profile neighbor. Tony Ridder, the former CEO of the Knight
Ridder media company (which owned the Monterey County Herald
from 1997 until 2006), has retained Susan Brandt-Hawley, the
attorney who has for years fought to prevent Carmel-by-the-Sea
from selling Flanders Mansion.
“I don’t know exactly yet what our plan is going to be because
I’ve just gotten involved,” Brandt-Hawley told The Pine Cone
Tuesday “But it’s a very important house and I am working on
Although Ridder lives about a half-mile away from the Connell
House, on the other side of the Cypress Point golf course, he
said he’s always been interested in architecture and once lived
in a home in Woodside designed by the late Joseph Esherick,
whose work also includes the Monterey Bay Aquarium. He wants the
Neutra house preserved.
“My interest is preserving important historically significant
homes and buildings, period,” Ridder told The Pine Cone. “There
are lots of other places [Mehdipour] can build a home without
tearing down something that is historically important.”
Mehdipour could not be reached this week for comment.
In a parallel effort, Carmel-by-the-Sea’s Historic Resources
Board sent a Dec. 17, 2013, letter to Monterey County officials
reiterating the structure’s significance and requesting the
county turn down Mehdipour’s application to demolish it.
“Neutra is internationally renowned and universally considered
one of the Modern Masters of 20th architecture, a very exclusive
group limited to the likes of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier,
Alvar Aalto and Mies Van Der Rohe,” according to the letter
written by Erik D. Dyar, an architect and the chair of Carmel’s
Dyar also said the house is a wonderful example for architects
and designers, and noted the building’s “oeuvre for its
exceptionally beautiful site overlooking Monterey Bay and
Cypress Point Golf Club” and Neutra’s ability to “sensitively
integrate the structure with the landscape.”
On behalf of the HRB, Dyar also urged the county to prevent
demolition of the home “by neglect.” The front door and numerous
windows of the house — which has been unoccupied for many years
— were boarded up in the past few months. Mehdipour bought the
house in 2004.
In July 2013, the Monterey County planning department notified
Mehdipour — founder and CEO of Menlo Park-based high tech
company, Skire Inc. — that an environmental impact report would
be required before it could consider demolition of the house.
Senior Monterey County planner Delinda Robinson also told
Mehdipour that “there is a fair argument that the demolition of
the existing residence on your property could cause a
substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical
Meanwhile, architectural historian Anthony Kirk of Santa Cruz
and Neutra expert Barbara Lamprecht are working on the paperwork
for the historic designation.
AMAP’s efforts can be tracked at www.amap1.org.