The alley with a clear view to the ocean bulged with people.
“What’s happening?” my husband and I edged closer to the crowd too thick to penetrate.
“Oh, I remember, there’s the auction, this morning,” he said.
The property three lots up from ours was being sold via public auction. The sign at 270 La Brea Street read, “Superior Court Probate Auction.” We’d received a flyer in the mail several weeks past.
It was almost a “tiny” house: one bedroom, one bath, less than 800 square feet of raw shouldered sideboard, engulfed by a forest of banana and bamboo.
The auctioneer re-iterated the rules: “Only a person with a pre-numbered blue placard can bid. The bidding opens at $795,000. If you want to bid, raise your placard. Remember this auction is for cash bids only. The bidding will rise in increments of $10,000. “
Seven hundred ninety-five thousand dollars in increments of $10,000, for cash? A tear down at that price.
Immediately my thoughts flew to Maude, longtime resident of Laguna Beach. An avid reader who frequently discussed how to make the world a better place, Maude also amused everyone with improv comedy on and off stage. But recently, she hadn’t been talking so funny.
“I can’t stop working. I’m 78. There are some things I’d like to do rather than work. But if I don’t work, I’m going to have to move. I can’t afford the rent in Laguna Beach.”
The auctioneer shouted out, “$795,000.” A dozen blue placards popped up over the sea of heads.
“$805,000,” the raised cards held steady.
The bidding moved so quickly, I could barely keep track, within 90 seconds, it hit $1 million.
My focus shot back to Maude, living with her partner, Arthur, in a two-bedroom flat carved from a lovely old Laguna Beach cottage with a “below market” rent of $2,600/month. I could hear her voice in my ear.
“If I quit working, I’ll be out on the street.”
“$1,350,000,” … “1,350,000 going once, twice…sold!”
“They’re going to have to move, just like Maude and Arthur,” I said.
“Renters in Laguna Beach? Yes, they’ll have to move,” he replied.
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