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Crest’s palatial mountaintop estate

We’re looking at a house built into the side of a hill, a house with a pool on top of it, and another house on top of that.

Behold: peak Crest.
Behold: peak Crest.

Unless you grew up in East County or you’ve been in San Diego for quite a long time, you’re probably not familiar with the community of Crest, a tiny hilltop hamlet of 2000 people accessible by only two main roads. Originally established in the 1920s (though at that time there were two warring factions that wanted to separate the town into the distinct communities of Suncrest and La Cresta), Crest has twice been ravaged by fire and rebuilt: first after the Laguna Fire of 1970, and more recently following 2003’s Cedar Fire. The result is a very mixed neighborhood, housing-wise. There are century-old small cabins that survived both blazes and have been added onto and improved in stages over the years. And there are others, often just down the street, that look more like sensible family homes. And in between the two, million-dollar estates constructed by shrewd owner-builders using hefty fire insurance payouts.

What you don’t expect to find, however, are palatial mansions with price tags approaching eight digits that would outclass some of the nicer homes we’ve toured in places like Rancho Santa Fe or Del Mar. But lo and behold, I found one, and we are going to talk about it today. “Unobstructed views from this palatial mountaintop estate!” shouts the opening line of Zillow’s listing for 1903 Saxton Lane, a “custom built and meticulously handcrafted 13,631-square-foot retreat” sitting on a little over four acres about halfway to Crest’s, well, crest as you head up La Cresta from the Granite Hills side of the mountain.

The photo gallery opens with an aerial shot that makes it appear that we’re looking at a house built into the side of a hill, a house with a pool on top of it, and another house on top of that. And when you consider that we’re working with about as much improved square footage as two or three more run-of-the-mill McMansions combined, and more than the sum total of some 10-12 unit apartment buildings I’ve lived in, I suppose this is entirely possible.

The underpool patio you didn’t know you wanted until now.

We get a couple more drone photos, including a lovely sunset view from the backyard, before passing through the “intricate double doors to soaring ceilings, expansive picture windows, elaborate wood work, and stone floors” that make up the entry foyer, itself large enough to house a grand piano that’s more a corner accoutrement than a statement piece taking up any considerable space. From there, we proceed to a formal living room, flanked by elaborately-carved columns and outfitted with a massive marble fireplace. The ceilings have to be at least 20 feet high, and feature enough hand carvings and gold leaf to make them look perfectly at home in some plutocrat’s house built in 1913. But our subject today is 100 years newer than that. There’s also a wood-paneled office with a gleaming dome ceiling that’s at once spacious and cozy, with a leaded glass cabinet from which I can imagine the robber barons of centuries past pulling out bottles of liquor for a toast to their latest scheme to defraud the public. It’s a decidedly sinister space, and I like it very much.

When we get back out to another living area, passing through a very formal dining room along the way, we see that “seamless transition between true indoor and outdoor living.” It’s become a trope among real estate agents, but it seems to work here. There are two walls of glass that pull back to incorporate a covered patio space into what looks like a family room, and what strikes me more than the fact that the walls open is that while the house is designed with a classic sensibility, it doesn’t sacrifice any modern luxury to get there.

The listing says the ”gourmet kitchen is every chef’s dream, with opulent cabinetry/fixtures and Wolf appliances.” It’s very nice, yes, and I am definitely a fan of good kitchens, but I think this one is entirely too large to be functional. There’s a center island bigger than most apartment kitchens, and it doesn’t even have any bar seating for friends to hang out with a drink while you prep a meal. Impressive, but I would not want to clean this place after dinner. There’s another dining nook off the kitchen, and then we’re back to the foyer, where apparently we missed the spiral staircase leading to the top level when we came in. We see a theater with a bar and shiny blue walls, but it’s unclear whether we’re upstairs now, or if we just stopped to admire the stairs before moving on.

Once we do get upstairs, we’re told to “take your pick of master retreats, as every room is en-suite and offers a unique and stunning view.” But when we get to the shot of a closet that looks like a fashion boutique, I think it’s clear that there is indeed one main suite that’s a bit grander than the others. Then again, looking at the bedroom dimensions, the smallest of the five still occupies more than 400 square feet, so maybe they all really are just that luxurious. A bunch more bedroom and bathroom shots seem to confirm that yes, perhaps there is no wrong bedroom to claim. Then we’re back outside.

Now we’re looking at a patio space with a bunch of blue skylights that — wait, we’re in the lower level now, looking up at the pool’s glass bottom. Neat. A handful of broad arches look out onto a fountain and beyond to the El Cajon Valley a few miles below. There’s also a bar/outdoor kitchen down here, along with a ping-pong table and a lot of furniture that, even though it’s outdoors, is all upholstered in white.

We get only one shot of the living area for the separate one-bedroom residence that’s adjacent to the outdoor living space on the lower level, but I’m sure it would make a perfectly serviceable place for your guests to sleep off a night of partying instead of taking their chances driving La Cresta, a road that regularly claimed the lives of reckless teenagers during my high school years in the ‘90s.

Public records indicate ownership of the Saxton estate currently lies with Eliya Boji, a Michigan real estate investor and developer. It was listed for the first time in late April with a price tag of $9,995,000 that remains unchanged to date.

1903 Saxton Lane| Crest (El Cajon), 92021

Current owner: Eliya Boji | Listing price: $9,995,000 | Beds: 5 | Baths: 9 | House size: 13,361

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Behold: peak Crest.
Behold: peak Crest.

Unless you grew up in East County or you’ve been in San Diego for quite a long time, you’re probably not familiar with the community of Crest, a tiny hilltop hamlet of 2000 people accessible by only two main roads. Originally established in the 1920s (though at that time there were two warring factions that wanted to separate the town into the distinct communities of Suncrest and La Cresta), Crest has twice been ravaged by fire and rebuilt: first after the Laguna Fire of 1970, and more recently following 2003’s Cedar Fire. The result is a very mixed neighborhood, housing-wise. There are century-old small cabins that survived both blazes and have been added onto and improved in stages over the years. And there are others, often just down the street, that look more like sensible family homes. And in between the two, million-dollar estates constructed by shrewd owner-builders using hefty fire insurance payouts.

What you don’t expect to find, however, are palatial mansions with price tags approaching eight digits that would outclass some of the nicer homes we’ve toured in places like Rancho Santa Fe or Del Mar. But lo and behold, I found one, and we are going to talk about it today. “Unobstructed views from this palatial mountaintop estate!” shouts the opening line of Zillow’s listing for 1903 Saxton Lane, a “custom built and meticulously handcrafted 13,631-square-foot retreat” sitting on a little over four acres about halfway to Crest’s, well, crest as you head up La Cresta from the Granite Hills side of the mountain.

The photo gallery opens with an aerial shot that makes it appear that we’re looking at a house built into the side of a hill, a house with a pool on top of it, and another house on top of that. And when you consider that we’re working with about as much improved square footage as two or three more run-of-the-mill McMansions combined, and more than the sum total of some 10-12 unit apartment buildings I’ve lived in, I suppose this is entirely possible.

The underpool patio you didn’t know you wanted until now.

We get a couple more drone photos, including a lovely sunset view from the backyard, before passing through the “intricate double doors to soaring ceilings, expansive picture windows, elaborate wood work, and stone floors” that make up the entry foyer, itself large enough to house a grand piano that’s more a corner accoutrement than a statement piece taking up any considerable space. From there, we proceed to a formal living room, flanked by elaborately-carved columns and outfitted with a massive marble fireplace. The ceilings have to be at least 20 feet high, and feature enough hand carvings and gold leaf to make them look perfectly at home in some plutocrat’s house built in 1913. But our subject today is 100 years newer than that. There’s also a wood-paneled office with a gleaming dome ceiling that’s at once spacious and cozy, with a leaded glass cabinet from which I can imagine the robber barons of centuries past pulling out bottles of liquor for a toast to their latest scheme to defraud the public. It’s a decidedly sinister space, and I like it very much.

When we get back out to another living area, passing through a very formal dining room along the way, we see that “seamless transition between true indoor and outdoor living.” It’s become a trope among real estate agents, but it seems to work here. There are two walls of glass that pull back to incorporate a covered patio space into what looks like a family room, and what strikes me more than the fact that the walls open is that while the house is designed with a classic sensibility, it doesn’t sacrifice any modern luxury to get there.

The listing says the ”gourmet kitchen is every chef’s dream, with opulent cabinetry/fixtures and Wolf appliances.” It’s very nice, yes, and I am definitely a fan of good kitchens, but I think this one is entirely too large to be functional. There’s a center island bigger than most apartment kitchens, and it doesn’t even have any bar seating for friends to hang out with a drink while you prep a meal. Impressive, but I would not want to clean this place after dinner. There’s another dining nook off the kitchen, and then we’re back to the foyer, where apparently we missed the spiral staircase leading to the top level when we came in. We see a theater with a bar and shiny blue walls, but it’s unclear whether we’re upstairs now, or if we just stopped to admire the stairs before moving on.

Once we do get upstairs, we’re told to “take your pick of master retreats, as every room is en-suite and offers a unique and stunning view.” But when we get to the shot of a closet that looks like a fashion boutique, I think it’s clear that there is indeed one main suite that’s a bit grander than the others. Then again, looking at the bedroom dimensions, the smallest of the five still occupies more than 400 square feet, so maybe they all really are just that luxurious. A bunch more bedroom and bathroom shots seem to confirm that yes, perhaps there is no wrong bedroom to claim. Then we’re back outside.

Now we’re looking at a patio space with a bunch of blue skylights that — wait, we’re in the lower level now, looking up at the pool’s glass bottom. Neat. A handful of broad arches look out onto a fountain and beyond to the El Cajon Valley a few miles below. There’s also a bar/outdoor kitchen down here, along with a ping-pong table and a lot of furniture that, even though it’s outdoors, is all upholstered in white.

We get only one shot of the living area for the separate one-bedroom residence that’s adjacent to the outdoor living space on the lower level, but I’m sure it would make a perfectly serviceable place for your guests to sleep off a night of partying instead of taking their chances driving La Cresta, a road that regularly claimed the lives of reckless teenagers during my high school years in the ‘90s.

Public records indicate ownership of the Saxton estate currently lies with Eliya Boji, a Michigan real estate investor and developer. It was listed for the first time in late April with a price tag of $9,995,000 that remains unchanged to date.

1903 Saxton Lane| Crest (El Cajon), 92021

Current owner: Eliya Boji | Listing price: $9,995,000 | Beds: 5 | Baths: 9 | House size: 13,361

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