Owners of Marilyn Monroe house sue LA over demolition



Marilyn Monroe Home Wikicommons and Zillow

The lawsuit filed last week alleges that the city of LA took part in “backroom machinations” in order to landmark a house that does not meet criteria for status as a historic cultural monument to “arrange the desired outcome.”

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Public outcry was vocal enough to save Marilyn Monroe’s final home from demolition by its new owners last year, but a new lawsuit may place the home under new threat.

A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Los Angeles County last week alleges that the city of LA took part in “backroom machinations” in order to landmark a house that does not meet criteria for status as a historic cultural monument and prevent it from being demolished.

Heiress Brinah Milstein and her husband, reality TV producer Roy Bank, bought the home where Marilyn Monroe died at Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood during the summer of 2023 for $8.35 million and made plans to tear down the property. As owners of the house next door, they planned to combine the two properties into one, the lawsuit stated.

The couple’s plans drew backlash from fans, however, who argued that the 1929-built property was a part of Hollywood history and a physical reminder of Monroe’s legacy.

The Latin phrase “Cursum Perficio” is inscribed on the property’s porch in tile, which roughly translates to “The journey ends here,” although its origins are unknown. Monroe died in the home in 1962 at the age of 36, about six months after buying the property, from a drug overdose.

The home’s owners disagree that the property has strong ties to Monroe, however, arguing that is has had 14 owners since Monroe died and been substantially altered over the last 60 years through various remodels.

“There is not a single piece of the house that includes any physical evidence that Ms. Monroe ever spent a day at the house, not a piece of furniture, not a paint chip, not a carpet, nothing,” the lawsuit states.

The city of LA had issued a demolition permit to Milstein and Bank on Sept. 7, 2023, after which, LA City Councilmember Traci Park said she received hundreds of emails and phone calls urging the city to make the home a cultural monument so that it could be saved from destruction. The next day, Park held a press conference on the issue while wearing red lipstick and a blonde bob wig in a nod to Monroe. Afterwards, the City Council voted to begin the landmark consideration process and nullified the demolition permits.

This summer, the council will vote on whether or not to declare the house a historic cultural monument. The lawsuit seeks to cancel that vote and allow the owners to demolish the property.

In January as Milstein addressed the Cultural Heritage Commission, she suggested relocating the home instead of designating it a landmark, and secured backing from Authentic Brands Group, which controls Monroe’s estate and is a co-owner of Graceland, Elvis Presley’s home.

The city’s application for the home’s historic designation stated that many of the alterations were completed before Monroe bought the property “and therefore have gained significance as related to the period of her occupancy.”

The application also states, “The subject property is the first and only residence Monroe ever purchased by herself and represents a portion of her productive period and an embarkation on a new phase of her life.”

After the public’s outcry to the demolition permit, in “a spasm of activity” city staff “arranged the desired outcome,” rather than following their own codes, the lawsuit alleges.

The Brentwood Community Council, which represents approximately 35,000 people, including homeowner and business groups, as well as other homeowner associations in the area, reportedly oppose the designation of the home as historic and support the idea of relocating the estate.

Actor Chris Pratt and his wife, Katherine Schwarzenegger, also recently received heavy public criticism for razing an architecturally significant midcentury modern home that was built in 1950 to construct a new, 15,000-square-foot property.

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Email Lillian Dickerson





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