By KELLI HART KEHLER/ THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The historic Villa Rockledge, a sprawling Mediterranean Revival compound on the oceanfront in Laguna Beach, will be sold at auction in December.
The property has been on and off the market in recent years and listed as high as $34.5 million. Sellers Roger Jones and Sherill Bottjer decided to auction the 1918 estate to reach a global market of buyers. The opening bid is $10.5 million.
Built by Frank Miller – known for creating the Mission Inn in Riverside – and architect Arthur Benton, the compound has been included on the National Register of Historic Places since 1984.
Miller created Villa Rockledge, which stretches across a 30,000-square-foot oceanfront bluff with a main home and seven adjacent guest villas, as a beach home for himself, said owner Jones. The property has a canopy of mature trees with pathways winding through its labyrinth of villas.
“There is so much seclusion here,” said Jones, a retired electronics industry executive. “You can’t build like this anymore.”
Jones bought Villa Rockledge in 1973 for $420,000. He became enamored with the compound and its history and spent 17 years researching it and writing a book, “The History of Villa Rockledge.”
The owner said he wanted to leave a legacy and tell the tale of his storied property.
“I wrote it down because when I’m gone, no one will ever know what happened here,” he said.
That is why it is so important for Jones and his wife, Bottjer, to ensure that the property ends up in the right hands.
The auction platform will allow Jones and Bottjer to reach out to a wide network of buyers and set a date for the home to sell, said Todd Wohl, vice president of Premiere Estates Auction Co., which is handling the sale.
The auction will take place at noon Dec. 15, and bidders can cast bids at any time until then, Wohl said. Potential buyers must register with the company, provide a registration deposit of $100,000 and tour the property.
Bids can be cast by phone, online, via proxy or in person on the date of the auction.
The property previously was listed for sale this year with an asking price of $24,995,000.
Wohl noted it can be difficult to set a value on such a unique, historical property. The nature of an auction allows buyers to establish a value that the market is willing to pay, Wohl said.
“Auctions establish a very important balance between buyers and sellers,” he said.
An auction-preview gala is being held at the property, 2529 S. Coast Highway, from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 18 to give potential bidders a chance to tour the 8,065-square-foot property and learn more about it.
A KAA Design architect who specializes in historically significant homes throughout California will address potential buyers at the auction, Wohl said.
“Principal Grant Kirkpatrick will be speaking on not only Villa Rockledge but historic architecture in the area and talk about design elements of the property and answer questions (about) what buyers can and can’t do with the property.”
The future owners of the property will qualify for tax exemptions under California’s Mills Act, which significantly reduces property taxes on buildings of great historical importance. Villa Rockledge is classified with Laguna Beach’s highest rating of “E” or “exceptional,” according to city documents. As long as owners agree to preserve the property, they benefit from lower taxes.
“There are a lot of nuances to ownership, so we want to educate the buyers and help them understand the marketplace,” Wohl said. “(Jones) took great steps to make sure that property wasn’t another McMansion.”