The House That Kitty Litter Built

Noteworthy new listings….

Self-proclaimed “kitty litter heiress” Joi Stephens—”daughter of the late John Stephens, founder of the company that launched Jonny Cat litter, and his wife, Betty Stephens, a Jonny Cat CEO,” according to the Wall Street Journal—and her husband, Frank Kaminski, have listed her parents’ longtime Hope Ranch home, 4400 Via Abrigada, for $88 million. The price raises so many questions. Did they pull the number out of a hat? Is it a publicity stunt? (The WSJ fell for it.) Is it so a more reasonable price will feel like a steal? Are they under the impression that it’s oceanfront? Or in L.A.? Is there gold buried underneath? The lot is three parcels totaling 11.1 acres, but much of that is buffer, and while the absurd price implies turnkey, at a minimum, the 7,265-square-foot house, built in 1961, is dated. Even more remarkably, the property is being marketed as a teardown (“a vast canvas for the creation of an unparalleled estate, allowing for 20,000 square-foot main house and two 7,500 square-foot guest houses”).


The 1928 house at 3656 Foothill Road ($7.475 million) in Carpinteria, bought for $3.81 million last March, has been given a pretty makeover. In a quirky move, however, the primary bedroom is in the adjacent building, accessed via a set of stairs and a gravel path. (The main house has two guest rooms, and there’s also an appealing guest house.) The 1.8 acre lot includes a swimming pool and a terrific tennis court, and there are ocean views, if you can ignore the agricultural infrastructure in the foreground.


There are lots of 1990s architectural choices at 501 Hodges Lane ($6.75 million): the beams that skewer the living room, the square clerestory windows, the boxy kitchen, the industrial-looking pergolas, the abstract wall relief sculpture…. Some of that can be smoothed away; more of an issue might be the two full baths for four bedrooms and the location on East Valley Road. The circular motor court has panache, however, and the stone cottage—with matching terrace—is dreamy.


614 Sunrise Vista Way ($4.298 million) in Alta Mesa also has ocean views, but the back terrace is exposed to the street and the neighbors directly below. The 1979 house wants to be redone top to bottom. In the plus column, the house is single-level, and the nine homes in the compound share a pickleball court.


The first of what I think are three spec renos, all at the same price point, is the loveliest: 909 Chelham Way ($3.995 million). (The seller paid $2.4 million in April 2023.) The 1934 house is going to work better for someone who appreciates the historical funkiness—lots of stairs to reach the front door, a carport that accesses the house via a lower-level suite, a powder room that’s about the size of a business-class lavatory. The gate in the backyard leads to Cloydon Circle, making for an easier walk to Cold Spring School.


The renovated 1985 house at 3236 Laurel Canyon Road ($3.995 million), above San Roque, is more attractive than the photos might lead you to believe. The primary and two en-suite guest rooms are all on the main level. The lower level, accessible via outside stairs, is home to an ADU that’s half kitchen—the idea being that you’re more likely entertain on the terrace than the smaller deck upstairs. P.S. Does a house this size really need two washer/dryers?


With open-plan common rooms, attractive finishes, and more outdoor space downstairs than up, 810 Largura Place ($3.895 million) feels like a similar house in a better location (the Lower Riviera). It has way better views, too. The seller paid $2.55 million in August 2023. P.S. Could that outdoor table be part of the staging?


209 La Jolla Drive ($2.795 million) is one of three midcentury houses in a row in West Mesa, with lines and materials that are borderline industrial. It has real curb appeal, if you don’t mind a carport instead of a garage, and the living room/kitchen feels airy and bright. The bedrooms, with much lower ceilings, are another story.


Also worth checking out:
••• 734 El Rancho Road ($3.595 million) Fixer/teardown on the back of Eucalyptus Hill; two of the bedrooms have stained glass windows (below).
••• 1121 Las Alturas Road ($5.85 million): Neat 1932 Winsor Soule house on the Riviera, where the seller had a change of heart (he/she paid $5.575 million in August 2023). The floor plan has challenges, though, as I wrote last time.
••• 1220 Cima Linda Lane ($4.495 million): 1962 four-bedroom on Alston Road; already in escrow.
••• 1933 Mission Ridge Road ($4.5 million): “Built in 1932, renovated in 1950,” is Zillow’s description, which isn’t exactly comforting. Already in escrow.
••• 1076 Cheltenham Road ($2.795 million): Midcentury three-bedroom in Mission Canyon; already in escrow.
••• 0 Ladera Lane ($1.75 million): 3.38-acre lot on Viola Lane.
••• 1984 Tollis Avenue ($3.25 million): 1.3-acre lot in Montecito.
••• 3053 Samarkand Drive ($2.92 million): 2008 Spanish-style in Samarkand.
••• 2380 N. Refugio Road ($3.495 million): A pair of two-bedroom houses—one built in 1926, one new—on 4.54 acres right of Highway 154.


Love real estate? Sign up for the Siteline email newsletter.




I had all the same thoughts about Abrigada but wasn’t aware it was part of a kitty litter dynasty. Lends an additional dimension of LOL to the whole thing.

Foothill is the most drab and uninspired thing I’ve seen. Doesn’t anyone doing renovations or design in town have any personality anymore? Blegh. Sometimes I browse LA listings just to see some homes that have a soul, despite hating LA with every fiber of my being.

I like that the speculators on Chelham added the tasteful stone wall out front. It wasn’t in the street view and that’s a really lovely addition.


All of the interiors of these houses have the sameness of “staging” that defies the asking prices. Probably at the suggestion of the agent who represents the seller. Whatever, the blandness of it all flatlines the imagination.