ENV Dean’s Office Response to proposal #121:
That the College of Environmental Design explore all options to transfer ownership of the Neutra House to an organization that can give it the attention that this landmark richly deserves.
The College of Environmental Design has operated and maintained the Neutra VDL House since 1990. During this time it has had two consistent revenue streams: interest on a $100,000 endowment (+ $5,000 per year), and ticket sales for tours (+ $3,000 per year). Intermittently, these two sources have been augmented with rental fees for photo shoots and receptions. From 1997 to 2007, the college received another $10,000 per year as repayment on a loan (overpayment on construction of the IDC). This $10,000 annual payment was directed to the VDL Account according to the wishes of former Dean Linda Sanders. Until mid-2007, the annual revenue to the house was about $18,000.
In recent years the annual upkeep of the property has increased. During the last fiscal year, the operation and maintenance expenses totaled $18,500.00. With the loss of the $10,000 annual payment, the account will soon be depleted just covering basic utilities and maintenance costs.
In addition, the house is deteriorating with age and several major repairs are needed in the near future. We have identified a sagging beam in the ceiling of the second floor which has caused chronic roof leakage. The leakage has damaged the ceilings of the second floor. There is another leak in the reflecting pool on the second floor patio which has damaged the ceiling and walls of the first floor. Recently we discovered that the floor in the ground floor garage is cracked and that the adjacent foundation has settled about 1.5 inches. Since the house includes materials that contain asbestos, we estimate that the cost to repair these major items is between $350,000 and $500,000.
Over the past four years ENV has attempted to raise funds for repairs to VDL, without much success. One impediment to fundraising is that the house is already named. Further, the VDL property serves a small portion of the ENV population of students and faculty. Since the house is 35 miles from campus, it is not a convenient location for seminars, weekly classes, or even receptions. While the College of Environmental Design recognizes this home as an icon of modern architecture, it is a much lower priority for fundraising than other projects, including a new building for the college, endowed professorships, scholarships, and a faculty development fund.
Richard and Dionne Neutra had three sons, two of whom survive. The elder of these, Dion Neutra is an architect, and the Architect of Record, with his father, on the reconstruction of the main house following the fire of 1963. The younger son, Dr. Raymond Neutra is about to retire from his post as Director of the State of California’s Department of Health Services. Raymond Neutra has volunteered to undertake an effort to raise funds to maintain the house over the next two years while the college prepares the house for transfer. In order to make sure the integrity of the house will be protected, we will spend the next one to two years securing a protective easement that will prevent a future owner from changing the design intent of the house, or demolishing it.
If it comes to pass that significant funds are raised, ENV would be willing to consider keeping VDL, but a minimum of $1.5 million is needed for urgent repairs plus an adequate operating endowment. Other options to be considered, with significant new funds, are co-ownership, or transfer of ownership with access rights by Cal Poly Pomona.
We feel that it is reasonable and prudent to explore these options and we are grateful that Dr. Neutra is willing to assist us in this orderly transfer of the property to an appropriate steward. Ultimately, the disposition of the VDL property must assure its protection, while responding to the pr