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LOOKING FOR THAT DREAM HOUSE? MALIBU'S GULLS WAY COMES WITH AWESOME VIEW - AND LOTS OF BATHROOMS.

Byline: Gregory J. Wilcox

MALIBU - Sprawling across 11.5 acres atop a lushly landscaped bluff at Latigo Point, Gulls Way commands a sweeping view of the Pacific's ever-changing moods.

The compound tumbles toward the sea and consists of a huge, three-story, brick main house designed from a postcard of ``The House of the Seven Gables,'' a guest house, gardener's quarters, a two-story garage with living area on top and a stairway leading to a big beach house on the sand. Want the convenience of a fully stocked fridge just a short hike away? The main house features a kitchen on each floor.

About half the property is manicured gardens, replete with statuary, fountains and a waterfall.

Everything, except the neat greenery, is dusty, time-worn and faded.

If you have $15 million, or can qualify for an extra-big jumbo loan, Pepperdine University will sell the compound to you.

By the way, it's a seven-bathroom, one bedroom fixer-upper. That might not be bad news, though, because it is easier permit-wise to rebuild existing structures than start from scratch.

And despite the price, it sounds like a good deal.

The land alone might just be a steal.

``Land on the beach side of Pacific Coast Highway, something on the bluff, well you're going to be paying $2 million to $6 million or $7 million an acre. So something where you have all that acreage is very remarkable,'' said Pamella Whitham, assistant manager at the Malibu estates division office of Fred Sands Realtors.

She does not have the listing, by the way. That is being handled by Pepperdine's real estate division.

Gulls Way is attracting attention. Mel Gibson and family, Michael Eisner and John Cameron have all expressed interest in the property. The Gibsons opted for something down the road that needs a little less work.

But this is about more than rooms with a view.

It's about a dream come true - and one deferred.

And a life filled with love and some good business sense to make it all happen.

The latter is evident when you finally get to the master bedroom of Gulls Way's former owners, Rick and Billie Ulrich. Their dream home covers 6,000 square feet, yet the bedroom - with a picture window view over looking Latigo Bay and the Santa Monica Mountains to the east - is tract-home size.

The Ulriches were inseparable. Rick celebrated Billie's birthday every July 4 with a fireworks show.

``People knew never to ask me anywhere without also asking my husband. And I should think they definitely never asked him without me. That's just the way we were,'' Billie told the Malibu Surfside News in 1988.

Rick Ulrich had a sense of style, too. While courting Billie, he once dispatched a messenger on horseback to request a date.

The Ulriches never had children, but they enjoyed the company of people, opening their house for parties. The huge step-down front room spans a portion of the entire first floor. Upstairs, many of the rooms have gabled ceilings and the bottom floor features a big, open room easily accessible from the pool, which today is filled in and grassed over.

Now, the Ulrich name probably doesn't pop up on your tycoon radar. And for good reason. They bought the property - initially six acres - from the Marblehead Land Co., once the owners of most of Malibu, in 1943 for less than $10,000, according to some reports.

But the Ulriches did not frequent the same social circles as, say, Howard Hughes, Jack Warner or David O. Selznick, studio moguls all.

In other words, they weren't really rich. Financially comfortable might be a better description.

They operated a series of successful mobile home parks throughout Southern California, and initially moved a small trailer onto the property and set about building the guest house. It was completed in 1947, so the Ulriches christened it ``The `47 house.'' They named the compound after a passage in British poet John Mansefield's poem ``Sea Fever.''

The main house was finally finished in 1971.

And Hollywood had a lot to say about how it turned out.

To supplement their income, the family rented the property out to movie studios. Gulls Way is the site of hundreds of films and television shows, most notably ``It's Only Money'' starring Jerry Lewis, ``Fantasy Island'' and ``Hardcastle & McCormick.''

Heidi Jaeger, who works on special projects for Pepperdine's vice president of finance and administration, said some things that give the property its unique character today were left behind by a film production company.

For example, the master bathroom was remodeled by a production company, and the red paint on the driveway is courtesy of ``Fantasy Island,'' she said.

Rick Ulrich died in 1987 at age 86.

Keeping up Gulls Way alone had proved to be a daunting task for Billie Ulrich, so in 1992 - five years before her own death at age 96 - she struck a deal with Pepperdine.

It got the land and she got some money through annuities that provided her with a tax break and the right to live out the rest of her years in the place she loved.

``She wanted to be able to maintain a quality of life and have plenty of money while she was alive,'' said Rex H. Levi, Pepperdine's real estate manager.

``We work with the people's accounts, and we have tax attorneys on staff and . . . structure these deals in the best interest of the donors. It's a way for reputable charities to raise money, and everyone wins except the IRS.''

Well, not everyone wins all the time.

Pepperdine initially wanted to convert Gulls Way into a conference center. Billie Ulrich liked that idea, too.

This is the dream deferred.

Opposition from the city of Malibu has convinced Pepperdine its best option is to sell the property.

Malibu Mayor Tom Hasse, a planning commission member from 1995 to 1998, remembers the issues, but doesn't recall ever seeing a formal conference center proposal from the school during his tenure.

But he knows that the land has severe drainage problems, and the area is zoned for single-family residential use.

Zone changes, especially in the environmentally sensitive coastal area, are hard to come by.

``No matter how you want to limit the number of conferences or the number of people, it still has a conference use in a residential area,'' Hasse said of the university's plans.

When Billie Ulrich turned her land over to Pepperdine she knew that her time was running out and began dreaming of the legacy she could leave behind with Gulls Way becoming a conference center, a place where ideas could be shared and maybe some good works could be done.

That dream won't come true.

But someone with a vision will one day buy the property.

And the dreaming will start all over again.

CAPTION(S):

7 photos, box, map

Photo:

(1 -- 6 -- color) Gulls Way in Malibu - that's the main house, above - is on the market for a cool $15 million. But for the price, a buyer gets a guest house, top, a beach house, at right, manicured lawns, ocean views and all the amenities of a very, very nice home equipped with seven bathrooms.

(7) Like a room with a view? Take a gander out of the guest house, looking toward Gulls Way's main house.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

Box: BUYING A DREAM

Map: Gulls Way 11.5-acre compound for sale
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 28, 2000
Words:1235
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