WALNUT CREEK -- The Lar Rieu house has gotten a reprieve of at least 90 days.

Just a couple of weeks after parks commissioners recommended the 1930s estate be razed, City Council members say they are interested in preserving Miriam Lar Rieu's home, which sits in what is now Lar Rieu Park.

Lar Rieu gifted her home and property to the city of Walnut Creek, to be used as a park after her death. The park, with its sweeping views of Mount Diablo, opened in 2007, four years after Lar Rieu died.

But for 10 years, virtually nothing has been done with the white brick home, which sits boarded up in the 10-acre park at 196 El Camino Corto. The public has not used the undeveloped park much, and the house and gardens on the property have fallen into disrepair.

But at a City Council meeting Tuesday, officials said they are inclined to entertain offers from outsiders to fix up the home and grounds and potentially have it used by a caretaker. A nonprofit or community group could also operate out of the house, they said.

"I think we are undervaluing this property; this house is a historic resource in our community, and we need to be more respectful of that era of our history than we are," said Mayor Pro Tem Bob Simmons. "This is ours, we accepted it, and we need to recognize that and move on."

One of the options the council took off the table was leaving the home as it is, saying a decision on what to do with it has been avoided for too long.


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Neighbors are divided on whether the house should be fixed up, and there is even a squabble within the Lar Rieu family over what should be done. Some family members have offered the city $300,000 to $400,000 to renovate it and have a family member live there as a caretaker for 10 to 15 years.

And apparently another party is interested in doing something similar.

So the council decided to allot 90 days for people to get their proposals together, with a decision on the house's future to come after that.

"I have a bias for preserving some of the old homes in Walnut Creek," said Nancy Scott, who lives next to the Lar Rieu property. She supports the city having a caretaker at the home.

"The fact that we could go 10 to 15 years without a fiscal impact to the city is wonderful," Scott said.

Some who badly want the Lar Rieu home to remain have taken it on themselves to find an "exit strategy" for the city in 15 years -- something parks commissioners were concerned about. Tom Conrad of Friends of Lar Rieu said he has contacted officials at a well-known open space nonprofit about the possibility of them taking over the house once it's renovated.

City leaders are eager to reach a decision.

The house at Lar Rieu Park, once owned by Miriam Lar Rieu, of Walnut Creek, sits vacant in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Friday, July 19, 2013. After Lar
The house at Lar Rieu Park, once owned by Miriam Lar Rieu, of Walnut Creek, sits vacant in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Friday, July 19, 2013. After Lar Rieu's death in 2003, the house and the 10-acre parcel of land was granted to the city of Walnut Creek and made into a park. Neighbors have been asking the city to make a plan for the future of the park, but the city lacks the money to do anything with the property. Now the Lar Rieu family has offered to pay for repairs to the grounds and the home. In exchange, a family member could live there for five years and act as caretaker, giving the city time to decide the future of the property. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) (Doug Duran)

"If (people) are willing to make a proposal in a reasonable amount of time, then let's get it done, and let's move forward," Councilwoman Cindy Silva said.

Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.