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Hansen: Cliff house symbolizes both rich and poor

September 27, 2012|By David Hansen
  • The "cliff house" that resides above Abalone Point at the north entrance to Laguna Beach is one of the most recognizable homes along the Orange County coastline.
The "cliff house" that resides above Abalone… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

At first glance, the grand house sits like a beacon above Abalone Point, high above Crystal Cove, at the north entrance to Laguna Beach. But then you see the graffiti.

The house is, according to the California Coastal Commission, "among the most visually prominent sites along the Orange County coastline."

And for a long time over the past year, tourists were able to see "The Clash" spray painted in vintage punk-rock style.

So was the house the victim of another financial flame-out? Bad pork bellies? No.

The homeowner just wants to demolish the whole thing and build a bigger, amazing house. Until recently, the problem was a 25-foot argument with the powers that be. The homeowner wanted to rebuild closer to the edge of the cliff. Every government body said no.

As is common in these cases, the argument was resolved. Inevitably, there are conditions: easements, mitigations, setbacks, compromises, fees and ultimately, voila, a deal is made.

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In the meantime, every time the public drives by this world-class view, they have a subliminal urge to sing, "Should I Stay or Should I Go."

This house, with all its striking magnificence, has an unintended irony. Everyone assumes it's in shambles because of some financial misfortune. Hardly. The owner can afford to haggle and wait and have his people work the process.

Located at 2695 Riviera Drive, the house is owned by Nariman Yousefi, CEO of Irvine chip maker ClariPhy, and formerly a 17-year senior executive at Broadcom.

If Yousefi had his way, it would not have taken this long. He bought the house in the early 2000s but has never lived in it. He resides in Dana Point, near Salt Creek Beach, and hopes that the demolition can start within about three months.

He said the new house will be "a major improvement to what's there. It's going to feel like something that belongs on that cliff."

So Yousefi will improve the place and that's great, but what's interesting to me is how public reaction has changed as the house has become more decrepit. In other words, no one said much about the house before; now, people talk about it.

In my opinion, what this house symbolizes in a very dramatic way is the growing gap between the rich and the poor. More accurately, it's the gap between the top of the rich — or super rich — and the bottom of the poor.

Politicians like to talk about this during elections because it's a binary, volatile discussion. The facts are these:

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