Peninsula pioneer puts his stamp on first-class bash
Long-time Peninsula real estate entrepreneur Ray Burns hosted a big birthday party for 38 of his closest friends and more than 150 other guests on June 15 in the patio of a special structure he owns on a leafy little side street in Malaga Cove Plaza.
“We’re celebrating the 50th year of existence of the oldest building here with the same ownership,” Burns explained, noting that the 1925 Gardner Building, the Plaza’s first, has had more than one owner during this period.
Burns spent a lot of time and even hired a party planner to ensure the event would be a first-class occasion since it also honored the 50 years the U.S. Postal Service branch on Via Tejon in Palos Verdes Estates has been a tenant in what is not surprisingly called the Post Office Building.
“Yes, indeed,” said Burns, “the Federal Government has been paying rent here since 1962, and lest anyone be concerned, has no intention of closing. In fact, a couple of months ago it renewed its lease for five years. The Postal Service is a good tenant,” he added, smiling. Fifty years ago, the rate was 45 cents a square foot. Today’s management was mum on the current rate.
Now 87, Burns is the last surviving member of the Peninsula Investment Company that owns the Post Office Building and its next-door neighbor, the Tower Building, which opened in 1963. Access between the three-story structures is only available on the third floor, Burns said, via an open hall.
The celebrated Post Office Building’s other initial tenants were British Petroleum Exploration (Alaska) Inc., the P.V. Board of Realtors, KCS Corporation, Walker-Conners Insurance, Plaza Salon, Buyer’s Benefit Insurance, Courier Typing Service and Estate Realty Company. It boasted Malaga Cove’s first elevator, Burns was proud to note. “People wondered why we’d bother to do that,” he added.
Current tenants in both buildings total 38, including the Postal Service and 16 of that number have been around for 15 years, according the Investment Company records.
Long timer, Wayne Inman has been a tenant for 44 years and Deborah Kahlo for 38 years. Kahlo’s late father, Jack, was one of the four original members of the Investment Company, according to Burns. The others were Cecil Toftness and John Dyer.
Burns came to real estate quite accidentally, he said, during a wide-ranging interview in an office in the Tower Building. “I never had a particular career in mind after I graduated from UCLA, or even after I completed my Naval service,” he said.
“I worked for my father’s business, Burns Typography in Los Angeles as a salesman, but didn’t like it, so I went to UCLA and asked what the hottest areas in Southern California were.” Their answer? Palm Springs and Palos Verdes.
“Well, I don’t like the heat,” he went on, “so I ended up in Palos Verdes. I rented a room for $55 from Walter Swindell Davis, early architect of many Palos Verdes Estates homes, and got my real estate license in 1956.”
As it turned out, Burns said he didn’t like selling real estate. “It was like waiting for something to happen.” Despite that admission, he was president of the then-called Palos Verdes Peninsula Realty Board from 1959-1960.
More to his liking, he said, was acquiring properties and creating partnerships. Typical is the one he celebrated on June 15. And through his long career, there have been many others elsewhere on the Peninsula and in Los Angeles from 1959 to 1972.
Always an avid fisherman who learned from his grandfather, Burns ties his own flies, filching peacock feathers in Malaga Cove to fashion them, and still plies the streams of Montana and other challenging chilly venues. Those visits, of course, only occur when he’s not guiding his very own glider around the countryside or playing nine holes of golf every week at the Harbor College course. “I walk the course,” he adds, as if there could ever be a doubt about a man like Ray Burns.
After all, who else but Ray Burns would host a birthday party for a building?