“RIP KURT COBAIN”: Rundown Hollywood Hills house with tie to rocker up for historical designation

2,500 sf pad sold for $1.5M to cinematographer of “Black experience”

Kurt Cobain and the Hollywood Hills property (Getty, Compass via Sotheby's International Realty)
Kurt Cobain and the Hollywood Hills property (Getty, Compass via Sotheby's International Realty)

Untimely death transformed Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain from celebrated grunge artist and global rockstar to a generation’s iconic voice of youth and anguish.

Nearly three decades on finds one of Cobain’s former residences up for a more technical historical recognition with the recent submission of an application to designate the long unkempt house in the Hollywood Hills as a Historical-Cultural Monument.

The designation application was submitted last week, according to public records, and a hearing over the matter is scheduled for next month. The identity of the applicant was not disclosed. The designation would not necessarily preclude renovation or even demolition of the house, but the city’s cultural heritage commission would be required to review any major construction plans.

The property’s connection to Cobain — despite its tie to a complicated period of the notoriously afflicted rocker’s life — was recently utilized as a selling point.

“The year was 1992,” a listing for the property beckoned. “Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love ruled the airwaves. Together they moved into this charming Asian influenced Craftsman in iconic Hollywood Heights.”

The 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home is located at 6881 Alta Loma Terrace, in Hollywood Heights near the famous High Tower elevator. The home, built in 1921, is perched on a hilltop and consists of three floors with balconies, high ceilings, a fireplace and a one-car garage. It was used as a shooting location for the 1973 Robert Altman thriller “The Long Goodbye,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Cobain and Love arrived at the house after fleeing their apartment in the Fairfax District, where Cobain’s fame and drug addiction both reached meteoric heights. The couple were away one weekend, with Love pregnant, when the apartment flooded, destroying some of Cobain’s art — the rocker was also a prolific painter — and prompting a hasty move. Several years ago, the tenant of the same Fairfax District apartment was renting out Cobain’s and Love’s former bedroom on Airbnb with limited success, New York Magazine reported.

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The couple fled to the Alta Loma house and were living there in the summer of 1992, when Love gave birth to their only child, daughter Frances. Cobain also reportedly wrote parts of “In Utero,” which would become Nirvana’s final album, while living in the house.

Alta Loma is otherwise associated with a dark period in Cobain’s life, too. He and Love began fighting, according to an L.A. County social worker who sought to remove the couple’s newborn daughter from their custody. Cobain purportedly spiraled into deeper drug addiction and depression. The rocker couple ultimately left the house the same year, moving to Seattle, where Cobain would die by suicide less than two years later.

The house fell into a state of disrepair even as it sat in one of L.A.’s most desirable neighborhoods. Records show that it traded hands in 1988, for $153,000, then again in 1999, when the property was bought by Karen S. Bryant for $425,000.

Bryant listed the property for just under $1 million in June. For the Hollywood Hills, it was a remarkably low price, reflecting its rough shape. The listing described the house as “full of original character and unique details,” including a “regal open staircase and four oversized french doors leading to a viewing deck,” but also acknowledged the property “has fallen into disrepair and is a major fixer.” Photos showed cracking hardwood floors and walls, and ceilings pockmarked with holes. In what seems to be one small closet, the words “RIP KURT COBAIN” appear scrawled in faded spraintpaint.

Cobain’s legacy appears to have produced a premium that offset its condition: the property sold in June for $1.5 million, a price consistent with other recent sales in the neighborhood. The buyer was Arthur Jafa Fielder, the Mississippi-born video artist and cinematographer best known for his 2016 essay “Love is the message, the message is Death.” The seven and a half-minute film portrays the Black experience and appears in numerous museums; Jafa has also produced music videos for stars including Jay-Z, Solange and Kanye West. He could not be reached for comment.

The City of L.A. has designated more than 1,100 Historic-Cultural Monuments. In Hollywood the sites include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Storer House; the Chateau Elysee, now owned by the Church of Scientology; and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

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