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Returning to the opulence of La Jolla’s Chelsea Street

Biophilic design: the idea that architecture should connect building occupants more closely to nature.

A seating area for those long, liquid La Jolla evenings.
A seating area for those long, liquid La Jolla evenings.

Let’s talk about what makes real estate unreal, and therefore worthy of consideration by our esteemed selection committee (members: me) for inclusion in our annals. For years, it was all about the dollar signs. Show me a house worth at least $8-10 million (roughly 10 times the county median, which is currently hovering around $900,000) and I’ll give it a look. But after doing that a couple of hundred times, things begin to get stale: an endless parade of disappearing walls of glass leading to patios, infinity-edge pools, and “chef’s delight” kitchens. I even hit a rut where every house featured for a three-month span had its own pizza oven, a uniquely specific and ridiculously expensive appointment that is almost assuredly underutilized, but still for some reason seems to have become a status symbol.

More recently, we’ve opened things up a bit to include some homes that might merely be very expensive, but not obscenely so, provided they piqued the committee’s interest. That opened the door for quirky places like the Pt. Loma house with a literal lagoon in the living room, the former home of a 19th-century smuggler, a few massive estates in the backcountry, and even the home of a former boxing great that’s now morphed into a central San Diego sex dungeon.

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Those kind of properties (especially the historic ones, which I try to slip in every third or fourth entry) can make for a fun break, but today we’re returning to form and heading back to La Jolla — an Unreal mainstay — to gaze upon something truly opulent. Chelsea Street, on which this nearly 8900-square-foot entry sits, wraps along the coast of southern La Jolla for a few blocks before moving inland and conceding the oceanfront to Calumet Avenue near Bird Rock. We were here back in 2020 to see an $8.5 million mansion that is dwarfed in both size and price by this week’s home, dubbed “the ORA House” by developers Blue Heron, an outfit that seems to do business mostly in the Henderson, Nevada suburbs of Las Vegas.

Look at me! Now look through me!

According to the Zillow pitch, the builder is “known for biophilic design,” or the idea that architecture should connect building occupants more closely to nature. “The brilliant integration of natural elements and indoor-outdoor living create harmony with the surrounding oceanside environment,” the listing continues. Well, that certainly seems like an easier task here in San Diego than in the desert, where outdoor living sounds like a proposition that I’d buy into for a few months a year at best. Time to have a look.

Just like last week, we start off with a pool shot, overlooking the ocean below. This may seem like old hat to Unreal regulars, but to be fair, if you’ve got a view like this, you can’t tell me you’re not going to flaunt it. Next we get an aerial view of the front, which seems to feature a lot of plain, gray concrete. I don’t hate the wood panels, though, or the three-story tower at the center of the structure through which you can see to the sea beyond. For some reason, it appears the garage door is made of panels of mirrored glass – I don’t hate this, but I’m also not the one responsible for polishing it.

Inside, the living/kitchen area has one of those disappearing glass walls, and what looks like not one but two kitchen islands — one of them serving as a built-in dining table. Back outside, we get another aerial, this time looking into the backyard. From this vantage, it seems like just about every room features a disappearing west wall and a patio or deck of some sort, the better to take in the view.

Back to the living room: a big gray wall features a small fireplace and an enormous TV broadcasting a picture...of the living room. A kitchen shot confirms my double-island theory about dining, though there’s another dining set on the patio just outside that would also be perfectly serviceable. A home office looks spartan but modern, the sort of space that you might find in a downtown office tower. A bedroom — I assume it’s the main suite — offers both indoor and outdoor private sitting areas, but the kicker comes when we look from another angle and realize there’s no separation between bedroom and bathroom. A freestanding tub is just sitting in a corner next to what looks like a walk-in shower, with a wardrobe beyond the open bath space. (The listing tells us this is a steam shower, and that there’s a laundry center built right into the closet.) Photos of another bedroom seem to confirm that this bed-bath combo concept is one the designers are sticking with; I’ll leave it up to you whether this is a good thing or an example of “when open floorplans go too far.”

Now we’re on to what looks to be a semi-subterranean entertainment space that really does the indoor-outdoor thing so well I genuinely can’t tell if this is all outdoors or if there are some retractable walls I’m missing. A billiards room leads out to some patio chairs surrounding a firepit in a space with three televisions on one wall and purple-glowing water surrounding a handful of concrete pads that have to be traversed to reach the seating area. There’s also a more decidedly indoor space outfitted with a bar, behind which several wine coolers display a few hundred bottles. An adjacent sectional sofa focuses on a theater-sized screen. We jump around through a few more bedroom shots, then end up back outside to tour some of the patios and decks we missed the first time around, including one on the top floor equipped with an outdoor kitchen and another bar.

“The ORA House provides an unmatched modern living experience with a design that has maximized utilization of the lot and vertical space,” the listing promises, before expanding a little more on what it is we’re seeing in those exterior photos. “The home offers a dramatic entry over a floating bridge leading to an expansive ocean view, led by fire and a pool spilling down two water walls into multiple vertical voids over the lower living area and entering an all gas foyer where the beach pebbles flow inside to dissolve indoor / outdoor boundaries.” Ok then!

The Chelsea parcel last sold in 2016 for a reported $4,675,000; at the time, it was the site of a 1300-square-foot home built in 1951 that, judging by the lack of interior photos in the listing, was likely deemed no longer worthy of its oceanfront site. The effective construction date of ORA House is 2021; since its rebuild, it’s been offered for sale as low as $25 million (with construction still ongoing) and as high as $32.5 million. The latest listing, from late November, seeks a sale price of $27,500,000.

  • 5228 Chelsea Street | La Jolla, 92037
  • Current owner: 531OC LLC | Listing price: $27,500,000 | Beds: 5 | Baths: 8 | House size: 8900 sq ft
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A seating area for those long, liquid La Jolla evenings.
A seating area for those long, liquid La Jolla evenings.

Let’s talk about what makes real estate unreal, and therefore worthy of consideration by our esteemed selection committee (members: me) for inclusion in our annals. For years, it was all about the dollar signs. Show me a house worth at least $8-10 million (roughly 10 times the county median, which is currently hovering around $900,000) and I’ll give it a look. But after doing that a couple of hundred times, things begin to get stale: an endless parade of disappearing walls of glass leading to patios, infinity-edge pools, and “chef’s delight” kitchens. I even hit a rut where every house featured for a three-month span had its own pizza oven, a uniquely specific and ridiculously expensive appointment that is almost assuredly underutilized, but still for some reason seems to have become a status symbol.

More recently, we’ve opened things up a bit to include some homes that might merely be very expensive, but not obscenely so, provided they piqued the committee’s interest. That opened the door for quirky places like the Pt. Loma house with a literal lagoon in the living room, the former home of a 19th-century smuggler, a few massive estates in the backcountry, and even the home of a former boxing great that’s now morphed into a central San Diego sex dungeon.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Those kind of properties (especially the historic ones, which I try to slip in every third or fourth entry) can make for a fun break, but today we’re returning to form and heading back to La Jolla — an Unreal mainstay — to gaze upon something truly opulent. Chelsea Street, on which this nearly 8900-square-foot entry sits, wraps along the coast of southern La Jolla for a few blocks before moving inland and conceding the oceanfront to Calumet Avenue near Bird Rock. We were here back in 2020 to see an $8.5 million mansion that is dwarfed in both size and price by this week’s home, dubbed “the ORA House” by developers Blue Heron, an outfit that seems to do business mostly in the Henderson, Nevada suburbs of Las Vegas.

Look at me! Now look through me!

According to the Zillow pitch, the builder is “known for biophilic design,” or the idea that architecture should connect building occupants more closely to nature. “The brilliant integration of natural elements and indoor-outdoor living create harmony with the surrounding oceanside environment,” the listing continues. Well, that certainly seems like an easier task here in San Diego than in the desert, where outdoor living sounds like a proposition that I’d buy into for a few months a year at best. Time to have a look.

Just like last week, we start off with a pool shot, overlooking the ocean below. This may seem like old hat to Unreal regulars, but to be fair, if you’ve got a view like this, you can’t tell me you’re not going to flaunt it. Next we get an aerial view of the front, which seems to feature a lot of plain, gray concrete. I don’t hate the wood panels, though, or the three-story tower at the center of the structure through which you can see to the sea beyond. For some reason, it appears the garage door is made of panels of mirrored glass – I don’t hate this, but I’m also not the one responsible for polishing it.

Inside, the living/kitchen area has one of those disappearing glass walls, and what looks like not one but two kitchen islands — one of them serving as a built-in dining table. Back outside, we get another aerial, this time looking into the backyard. From this vantage, it seems like just about every room features a disappearing west wall and a patio or deck of some sort, the better to take in the view.

Back to the living room: a big gray wall features a small fireplace and an enormous TV broadcasting a picture...of the living room. A kitchen shot confirms my double-island theory about dining, though there’s another dining set on the patio just outside that would also be perfectly serviceable. A home office looks spartan but modern, the sort of space that you might find in a downtown office tower. A bedroom — I assume it’s the main suite — offers both indoor and outdoor private sitting areas, but the kicker comes when we look from another angle and realize there’s no separation between bedroom and bathroom. A freestanding tub is just sitting in a corner next to what looks like a walk-in shower, with a wardrobe beyond the open bath space. (The listing tells us this is a steam shower, and that there’s a laundry center built right into the closet.) Photos of another bedroom seem to confirm that this bed-bath combo concept is one the designers are sticking with; I’ll leave it up to you whether this is a good thing or an example of “when open floorplans go too far.”

Now we’re on to what looks to be a semi-subterranean entertainment space that really does the indoor-outdoor thing so well I genuinely can’t tell if this is all outdoors or if there are some retractable walls I’m missing. A billiards room leads out to some patio chairs surrounding a firepit in a space with three televisions on one wall and purple-glowing water surrounding a handful of concrete pads that have to be traversed to reach the seating area. There’s also a more decidedly indoor space outfitted with a bar, behind which several wine coolers display a few hundred bottles. An adjacent sectional sofa focuses on a theater-sized screen. We jump around through a few more bedroom shots, then end up back outside to tour some of the patios and decks we missed the first time around, including one on the top floor equipped with an outdoor kitchen and another bar.

“The ORA House provides an unmatched modern living experience with a design that has maximized utilization of the lot and vertical space,” the listing promises, before expanding a little more on what it is we’re seeing in those exterior photos. “The home offers a dramatic entry over a floating bridge leading to an expansive ocean view, led by fire and a pool spilling down two water walls into multiple vertical voids over the lower living area and entering an all gas foyer where the beach pebbles flow inside to dissolve indoor / outdoor boundaries.” Ok then!

The Chelsea parcel last sold in 2016 for a reported $4,675,000; at the time, it was the site of a 1300-square-foot home built in 1951 that, judging by the lack of interior photos in the listing, was likely deemed no longer worthy of its oceanfront site. The effective construction date of ORA House is 2021; since its rebuild, it’s been offered for sale as low as $25 million (with construction still ongoing) and as high as $32.5 million. The latest listing, from late November, seeks a sale price of $27,500,000.

  • 5228 Chelsea Street | La Jolla, 92037
  • Current owner: 531OC LLC | Listing price: $27,500,000 | Beds: 5 | Baths: 8 | House size: 8900 sq ft
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