Villa Rockledge will go on auction Dec. 15. (Coastline Pilot / November 29, 2012)

The historic Villa Rockledge is up for auction.

Bidding for the oceanfront estate will start at $10.5 million, considerably less than the $25 million asking price earlier this year. The winning bidder will be required to produce a check for an un-refundable 10% of the bid when the hammer falls, according to owner Roger Jones.

"It's a wrench to sell it," Jones said on Wednesday. "But it is time."

Jones has owned the estate for almost 40 years. He was 33 years old when he bought it in 1973 for $420,000 from the late Dick Matson.

"It scared the hell out of me," Jones said. "But in those days, the rent carried it."

In today's economy, you would not be able to come close to building the house, let alone buy it for the price he paid.

"And you'd never get Coastal Commission approval," Jones said. "It is built right on the bluff."

Jones doesn't plan to revisit Villa Rockledge after it is sold. He said he couldn't bear it if radical changes were made.

Villa Rockledge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is rated as E for Exceptional by Laguna Beach. Owners qualify for substantial reductions in their property taxes under the California Mills Act, as long as they don't make major changes in the buildings.

The main 5,000-square-foot house has five bedrooms and five baths. There are also six villas, one of which Jones rented for five years before he bought the property, and parking for 12 cars on the 30,000-square-foot bluff-top parcel.

Auction publicist Mike Hoye claims the house is the oldest, oceanfront home in Laguna and one of the only properties in Laguna Beach with access to a private beach — 120 feet of beach just below the cliff-top dwelling.

Jones said he will miss the views.

Villa Rockledge started in 1918 as a summer home for Frank Miller, who also built the Mission Inn in Riverside. The Laguna Beach Historical Society's history of the property states that Miller named the Laguna property Mariona, for his wife.

Jones documented the property's past in his book, "The History of Villa Rockledge."

"It took me 17 years to write it," Jones said.

Jones and his wife, Sherill Bottjer, plan to stay in Laguna, but in smaller quarters. That means finding a place for all the collectibles, the furniture and Jones' beloved books amassed in the 40 years he has owned Villa Rockledge.

He swears that this time the sale will go through, unlike 2009. The house was on the market in May of that year for just under $35 million.

At the time, he said he was getting too old for a house of the size of Rockledge. Besides, he wanted capital to finance a film of a book by the late Laguna News Post publisher John Weld.

However, at the last minute Jones decided not to sell.

"But this time it is for real," Jones said. "And the book is one of my main projects if we get over this."

There has been considerable interest in the property.

Chris Spencer, operator of Spencer Recovery Centers Inc., has visited the property three times, Jones said.

Prospective bidders may tour the property by appointment. They must pre-register and submit a $100,000 cashier's check to show good faith, refundable if the bidder pulls out, Jones said. People bidding in person, may bring their check on the day of the auction, Dec. 15.

For more information, visit premiereestates.com.