The curious case of Cynthia Beck’s abandoned Malibu and Bel Air mansions

Paradise Cove in Malibu is perhaps the most scenic beach in the city. Blessed with a broad shore, the sand here has a soft consistency. The waves are gentle, the aquamarine water lustrous and sparkling. As such, the few dozen estate homes in the area are all terrifically expensive and owned by some of the world’s wealthiest peeps. Current residents include Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell (her $60 million compound is still unfinished), Beats baller Jimmy Iovine (also a $60 million estate), A-lister Leonardo DiCaprio (a $23 million vacant lot), entrepreneurs Richard & Laurie Lynn Stark (a $40 million shack), and LA Rams owner Stan Kroenke and his Walmart heiress wife Ann Walton (a two-house compound).

Yet every rose has its thorn, and every supermodel has her blemish. Perhaps a wonky eye or an unfortunate mole in an awkward spot, like the ear or armpit. For Paradise Cove, the 3,848-square-foot blemish is in a particularly obvious place: smack-dab in the middle of the cove, and right on the sand.

This blemish, of course, is a house.

For a few big reasons, this house is a Paradise Cove anomaly. The first is the architectural style: the mansard-roofed, Asian-influenced faux-chateau is jarringly out of place amid a sea of contemporary mansions. And the color! The house is painted a sinister shade we shall call “dungeon charcoal”.

But the main reason this place attracts attention is because it has been abandoned — or at least neglected — for many years. Since shortly after the turn of the century, apparently. And a neglected mansion surrounded by $60 million estates is a very unusual thing. Thus, the home has garnered fame (or is it infamy?) which outstrips even that of its celebrity-owned neighbors.

Adding to the intrigue, the spooky house has an (empty) underground bank vault and was abandoned with a whole sea of belongings inside: children’s toys, old receipts, various documents, even pieces of artwork. All left to (potentially) rot, as if the family’s exit was sudden and unexpected.

A quick search on YouTube reveals there are a whole slew of popular videos filmed at this house, all taken by explorers or curious lookie-loos. At least one of the vids sports millions of views.

Before we proceed, a quick word from our sponsors. Yolanda should not need to say this, but we strongly advise that y’all do not trespass on this property. Although it is “abandoned” in the sense that nobody lives there, it is still owned by an individual — and that individual is very much alive and last year paid nearly $14,000 in property taxes for this pad. Trespassing could get you into a heap of trouble, and don’t expect Yolanda to bail your sorry backside outta the clink. We have enough problems just getting our monthly support check from our miserly third ex-husband. Old bastard…

In any case, the home is inaccessible (to the public) by car. Located in an exclusive gated community, the .54-acre property is additionally tucked behind a long gated driveway that it shares with one other house — a $21.5 million snazzy contemporary confection owned and occupied by tennis legend John McEnroe and his longtime wife, former rocker Patty Smyth.

The neglected house and Johnny Mac’s pad share a gated driveway

So what is the backstory here?

Yolanda wishes she knew more, but we do have some info. Public records indicate the garish residence was built in 1979 and sold in 1993 to Gordon Getty, the San Francisco-based multi-billionaire oil heir whose family are the benefactors behind the Getty. Our boy is the son of the late tycoon J. Paul Getty, who was at one point the richest man on the globe. Seen the recent film All The Money in the World? Yep, that movie was based on this clan.

In 1999, the mostly low-profile Mr. Getty made headlines ’round the globe when it was revealed he had a mistress named Cynthia Beck and three illegitimate daughters — Nicolette, Kendalle, and Sarah — living in Los Angeles, though his second family had long been an open secret among S.F. high society.

Today, nearly 20 years later, 84-year-old Mr. Getty remains married to Ann Gilbert, his wife of 50+ years. The couple continue to reside primarily at their longtime home in SF’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, and are still society royalty. Mrs. Getty recently showed off her Christmas decorations to Veranda.

As for Ms. Beck, the “second family” scandal broke when her daughters went to court seeking a name change and claims to a portion of the Getty family trust. Shortly after that — in September 1999 — Mr. Getty quietly “sold” the Malibu pad to Ms. Beck for just over $3 million. Within a few years, the house entered its current state of neglect. Despite the lack of maintenance, however, we believe the teardown property is worth at least $12 million in today’s hyper real estate market.

Now in her 60s, Ms. Beck remains enigmatic. Yolanda does not even have a photo of this lady, nor do we know much about her three adult daughters — all of whom are in their late 20s or early 30s.

Why Ms. Beck has allowed the Malibu property to decay is also unclear. But one thing is patently obvious, thanks to records: she presides over a substantial property portfolio and owns at least twenty LA-area homes. Like the Malibu pad, many of them appear to be vacant and sadly neglected. And in fact, that Malibu house is not even her most expensive abandoned mansion.

Cynthia Beck’s $20 million Bel Air mansion

In August 1993 — just four months after he bought the Malibu pad — Gordon Getty paid exactly $4 million for a historic 3-acre estate in prime East Gate Bel Air. Our gurl Ms. Beck then paid him just over $5.5 million in 1999 to acquire title to the baronial compound.

Floraves, as the hilltop mansion was originally christened, was built in 1924 by wealthy author Gene Stratton-Porter. It was the very first mansion ever built in a massive undeveloped plot of land that became modern-day Bel Air, though Mrs. Stratton-Porter never actually lived in the home — she died shortly prior to its completion.

According to our pal Wiki Pedia, the property originally consisted of a English Tudor-style 22-room mansion with 11,000-square-feet of living space. There was also a four car garage and servants’ quarters, a greenhouse, outdoor ponds, pool, and a tennis court. However, recent aerial shots (like the one above) show that the tennis court and ponds are long gone. And the whole place is in a sad state of disrepair. It also appears to Yolanda that there may be two or more old cars (?) rusting away in the driveway.

Although the house is only a two-minute drive to Sunset Boulevard, it is located on one of the most private properties in all of lower Bel Air: secreted away at the end of a tiny lane and hidden from the neighbors via overgrown foliage. The entire place is now surrounded by a hideous barbed-wire fence.

Speaking of the neighbors, this place is practically next door to Beyonce & Jay-Z’s $88 million mega-compound — in fact, this property can only be accessed by driving right behind the sports court on their estate. (Don’t tell Bey & Jay, but Ms. Beck’s abandoned estate is actually larger than theirs, at least in terms of acreage.)

Yolanda would estimate that this Bel Air estate — even in its current derelict condition — is worth at least $20 million. And probably more. After all, Hong Kong heiress Karen Lo recently paid almost $18 million for a significantly smaller and less private vacant lot around the corner.

Wait, there’s more. Ms. Beck owns a two-parcel Santa Monica estate, which she also purchased from Mr. Getty in 1999.

The $5 million Santa Monica estate

The fortified compound is now locked up tight and features a decrepit old 3,272-square-foot home. Like the other properties, this place has been vacant for years. Land value here is probably at least $5 million, given the superb location and generous (for the area) .54-acre lot.

Westwood house, worth about $2 million

Also taking up space in Ms. Beck’s portfolio is a two-story house in the bustling Westwood neighborhood — just east of the 405 freeway. Like all the other residences, this ol’ gurl looks as though she has seen better days.

Given that Ms. Beck has so many unoccupied homes in LA, Yolanda initially thought she may have skipped town entirely. Turns out that is not the case — according to a source, Ms. Beck still lives right under our noses. In Bel Air, to be specific.

Ms. Beck’s current $7 million residence, Bel Air

In January 2001, Ms. Beck paid a non-celebrity couple $2,600,000 for a .89-acre spread located on one of Bel Air’s busiest streets. It is here, y’all, where she reportedly continues to reside. Although the 1930 residence is very large — 8,229-square-feet, according to records — it is not really a mansion. More like a sprawling ranch house.

Of note about this Bel Air house is that Ms. Beck was involved in a lengthy — and extremely costly — disagreement with her next-door neighbors, apparently stemming from a boundary dispute. In 2009, after a protracted eight-year legal war that ultimately ended with a jury trial, Ms. Beck was ordered to pay the couple next door a whopping $6 million in compensatory and punitive damages. Two years later, her neighbors won another award against her for attorneys’ costs totaling $446,302.21.

Yikes! Sounds like one heck of a disagreement. (Ironically, it would have been cheaper for Ms. Beck to just buy her neighbors’ house.)

Anyhoo. In addition to these five uber-expensive homes, records show that Ms. Beck owns at least fifteen smaller LA properties — most of them located in or around the up-and-coming neighborhood of Echo Park, on LA’s east side. Many of those structures also appear to be in various stages of disrepair — yet her total property portfolio is still worth $50 or $60 million.

Yolanda wrote all this because abandoned mansions have always fascinated your gurl. Why someone would neglect a property that could easily fetch a small fortune on the open market is a mystery to us. Sure, we understand these estates can cost major moolah to maintain. But why continue to pay property taxes — Ms. Beck’s total tax bill is well into the six figures each and every year — for unused homes?

The real estate market has never been hotter, kiddies. By selling the Malibu and big Bel Air spread alone, Ms. Beck would have enough cash to buy a retirement home in Beverly Park, LA’s most exclusive gated community. Easily.

But for whatever reason, she will not sell. And so the infamy persists, and the gossip continues.

18 Replies to “The curious case of Cynthia Beck’s abandoned Malibu and Bel Air mansions”

  1. Great article; thanks for all the research you did!

    As least with the Bel Air and Malibu houses, it appears that work was started on them and then halted. I don’t know what that means, but it seems odd if true.

  2. Awesome post! Best ever. Fascinating.

  3. Sounds like there is some sort of bizarre legal situation going on between Ms. Beck and Mr. Getty that’s preventing her from selling the homes. The transferring of money and property between the two make it even more suspect. Maybe she is waiting for Mr. Getty to die before selling the houses just to be safe, who knows.

    1. That was my first thought too. Usually when very expensive homes get abandoned, its because there’s a fight over ownership in the background. She must be waiting for the old man to die before selling the homes.

  4. YOLANDA HAVE YOU SEEN THAT ROSANNA PANSINO AND HUSKY STAR CRAFT LISTED THEIR TARZANA HOME? https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/5004-Veloz-Ave-Tarzana-CA-91356/19947088_zpid/

    1. And it’s priced very fairly and there’s an open house tomorrow apparently? She must really want to move fast.

  5. Rabbi Hedda LaCasa says: Reply

    I agree with Sam and Porky: There may be title concerns. In Kazimierz, the Jewish quarter of Kraków, Poland, a few homes have remained empty since WWII, as clear titles cannot be obtained. (While visiting, I strolled past the home on the square where legendary Madame Helena Rubinstein was born, along with the finer next-door home, where in later years Madame claimed to have been born!) Thanks, Yolanda, for yet another great post.

  6. Such a fascinating read! Nice work Yolanda.

  7. Just found your blog, and I love it so far. This particular article however, is my ultimate favorite! Thanks for writing this.

  8. Clarke Harris Bates says: Reply

    Ummm, what’s with the Evancescence video link at the end? Like Why?! Is that about the homes? Is there a correlation? Funny though 😩😩

  9. Great story. Please post an update when Getty dies or the houses sold.

  10. I believe the Bel Air mansion was once occupied by Greta Garbo as well.

  11. Totally enjoyed reading this story. The house in Bel Air built by Gene Stratton-Porter is amazing. I looked up other info about her also. Love the old time stories also.
    What is up with Cynthia Beck? I just don’t get it. Thanks for the great story.

  12. This was GREAT!! Have you ever been able look into the birth records for her children’s last name? Perhaps they can be located as well … ?? Keep us posted with more – LOVE this blog.

  13. Albermarle Garfinkle says: Reply

    She’s a prisoner of a money war.Albeit enduring in comfort. I guess she believes she doesn’t have enough for a secure future or maybe wants a bigger slice, so lawsuits-lawyers-trust funds create a situation where she benefits more by retaining ownership but doing nothing. Her daughters will spend a lot of time with trustfund attorneys sorting this out later.

  14. Where did her money come from??

  15. I really enjoyed the write up , but the hose was a little dissapointing, too many people not enough space to move? and there wasn’t a ‘proper room in there?

  16. She may be doing this in revenge(not divorcing his wife for her). He’s quite different from his father and may live a lot longer than MsBeck.Sounds like she is alot more aggrevated than he is…stress can kill! Never underestimate your Sugar Daddy!

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