Montecito Heights — It may look like a cozy hilltop cottage with clapboard siding, dormer windows and sweeping city views. But 1050 Montecito Drive is actually home to an LAPD radio transmission station with two giant towers rising from the side yards. Now, after using the site for free for nearly two decades, the city is going to have to start paying $5,200 a month to rent the place from a new landlord.
While no one likes to pay for something that used be free, in this case city officials say it’s worth the cost. Tony M. Royster, who heads the city’s Department of General Services, recommended that the City Council approve a five-year lease with the new property owner.
“LAPD and [the Information Technology Agency] advise that the towers and radio equipment is vital to LAPD UHF voice radio transmission for the eastern portion of the City due to its hilltop location,” said Royster in a report to the City Council.
The hill, known as Flat Top, has been the home to radio towers since the 1940s, according to building permits. Broadcasters have ranged from pop radio station KISS FM to the Echo Park-based International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.
LAPD broadcasts from a pair of 30- and 45-foot radio towers and equipment housed in the garage of the home, according to city documents. A public radio station also maintains equipment in another part of the garage.
In May of last year, the approximately 8-acre property was sold to a new owner for $1.6 million, according to Redfin. Some community groups have been seeking to have the city buy the property and merge it with approximately 36 acres of adjacent land that is being preserved as public open space. But so far no public funds have been secured.
So, for now, officials are recommending that the city lease the site for five years with an option to buy — if and when the city finds the money.
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