Suzanne Guldimann is an author, artist, and musician who lives in Malibu and loves the Santa Monica Mountains. She has worked as a journalist reporting…
Tanya Starcevich never thought she’d be in real estate. Even though, as a single mom, she’d bought and sold multiple properties on her own.
“My dad taught me that gaining and holding on to real estate would be a good nest egg for the future,” Tanya says. “However you can do it.”
One of her deals, which she laughs about now, was after her divorce in the 1990s. Tanya had listed her house in The Recycler (a magazine of eclectic classified ads) and found a buyer! “If I’d been a real estate agent then,” Tanya says, “I wouldn’t have accepted this offer from a young couple who’d just had a bank foreclosure. But because I was a for-sale-by-owner, I gave them a chance and we closed escrow. I took the $5,000 from that house and bought another one, moving my life one step closer to where I wanted to end up, which was in Topanga Canyon.”
Tanya had come to Topanga from Canada at the age of twelve after experiencing what is still the most significant event of her life, the death of her mother, June Starcevich, from breast cancer. After his wife’s passing, Tanya’s father needed a geographic fresh start. The family landed in LA knowing no one, but Tanya and her sister found Topanga Canyon to be welcoming.
“I remember the hikes and nature, and Topanga Days,” Tanya says. “It was a big deal to meet Robin Williams who was Grand Marshall of the Topanga Days parade that year.”
After growing up here, Tanya left the Canyon, but it never left her. “I didn’t realize at age twelve that Topanga Canyon would, going forward, always feel like home. I might have thought Canada would be that for me, but it was Topanga.”
After finishing her final year of middle school at Our Lady of Malibu, Tanya travelled with her family to the East Coast and lived in New York City, which according to Tanya, “…was a culture shock!” She tested into Stuyvesant – the most prestigious high school in the country.
“When I was on my own I didn’t think I could ever make it back to Topanga,” she recalls. ”But after selling that house through the Recycler, I proceeded to list homes, putting up signs in windows, and buying and selling and moving closer.”
“Fifteen to twenty years ago I was a slave to the man,” Tanya says. “I was so tired of the rat race: working nine to five every day, dropping my kids off and going to the office, coming home exhausted – in an endless cycle with no break.
“I made a conscious effort to simplify my life. Through the Tree People, and Ed Begley, Jr. [author of Ed Begley, Jr.’s Guide to Sustainable Living: Learning to Conserve Resources and Manage an Eco-Conscious Life], I became involved in a Circle of Simplicity.”
Simplicity circles claim less is more, and find paths to joy through less work, less rushing, less debt—leading to more time with family, friends, the community, and with nature.
“I slowed down and stopped racing. In time I made some good business moves, the stars aligned, and I moved back to Topanga Canyon,” Tanya says. “Eventually I came to hold a real estate license and was making a living at it.”
Tanya raised two vibrant daughters, Patrice and Vanessa, in Topanga. They’ve inherited their mother’s poise, beauty and brains; and with Tanya’s extended family of directors, playwrights, actors, singers and dancers the family would fit as naturally on Broadway as on a Mega Agent Mastermind panel. “I was blessed to put the girls through wonderful schools,” Tanya says. “And I’m a new grandma. I’m very excited about that. As the daughter of a breast cancer victim, my goal in life had been to make it long enough to see my daughters grown and on their own, because it was a struggle to grow up without my mother. I wanted them to have it easier.
“Hope Edelman’s book Motherless Daughters, about living with a void you can never seem to fill, has always resonated with me. But now my girls are grown and thriving, and I’ve even got to see my grandson. I’m really fulfilled. I consider all this time to be a bonus. I don’t take a single minute for granted.”
Tanya was living in the Canyon when she became an American citizen, and remembers the amazing feeling of being able to vote for the first time—for Barack Obama.
“Coming into my own here has been such a gift. What a great place to be able to breathe—to see the sunset and share a home near the state park with my wonderful pandemic partner, Andy Gensler. Now I’m lying on a couch while setting up an appointment for a buyer. If I want to go see my grandson tomorrow I can do it.”
Tanya connected with a giving community when she moved to Topanga, doing “…everything I could do to be of service. It paid off.” She’s been a part of Topanga Town Council, T-CEP, Topanga Chamber of Commerce, and has volunteered at schools and old folks homes to get connected with people.
“We’re gifted to live in a small town in a big city,” says Tanya. “I love the way we come together in an emergency, like the recent fire, and how we all look out for each other.”
“Everybody talks about escaping to Canada,” Tanya says. “As a Canadian, I can understand the allure and I may explore Vancouver as a possible getaway. I also have a vision of retiring in Manhattan—and feasting constantly on art and culture. The goal is to live where I feel energized … alive.”