Bel Air: An Enclave With a Touch of the Italian Countryside That Attracts the ‘Top of the Industry’
BY LAURA HOUSEORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON SEPTEMBER 24, 2016|MANSION GLOBAL|
An exclusive enclave that once eschewed the Hollywood limelight, Bel Air is now a haven for celebrities and high-net-worth professionals looking to maintain a low profile yet still live lavishly.
“It’s Sunset Boulevard on the South, Mulholland Drive on the North, and between Beverly Glen and the 405 Freeway,” explains David Kramer, executive vice president of Hilton & Hyland luxury real estate. Within Bel Air there are three distinct sections: Upper Bel Air, West Gate, and East Gate.
An affluent enclave, homes in Upper Bel Air can be found from $1.5 to $5 million, which is modest in comparison to West Gate, where estates start at $2.5 million and jump to a couple hundred million (developer Nile Niami is building a home with an asking price of $500 million). Older homes in East Gate are still the most desirable and range from $7 million up to $250 million, on average.
The original, iconic style in the neighborhood is Mediterranean and manor home-inspired architecture. However, Mr. Kramer notes, “Now you’re seeing a lot of the older homes torn down and people are building modern homes, just like in the rest of the city.” Boutique and big name architects, such as Paul McClean, are reshaping the traditional landscape of this storied area.
A six bedroom, eight bathroom Mediterranean estate available in Bel air for about $6 million
What makes it unique:
“It was started in 1923 by Alphonzo E. Bell, Jr. (a congressman and heir to an oil, ranching, and real estate fortune), and he wanted it to be reminiscent of the Italian countryside, so it’s very lush” Mr. Kramer says. “You don’t have cars parked on the street, you have larger lots, and it’s very private.”
The lack of street parking coupled with the secluded setting is ideal for those who wish to keep the prying eyes of the paparazzi away. John Giddins, a realtor and advisor with Sotheby’s International Realty also points out, “It’s centrally located and close to everything. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in the immediate area, Brentwood, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Hills.”
Luxe amenities in the neighborhood:
Bel-Air Country Club, Hotel Bel-Air and several private schools including Marymount High School and the Harvard-Westlake School. Upper Bel Air also has two upscale retail areas with luxury shopping and restaurants.
Who lives there now:
Wealthy business people in technology and entertainment, and actors. Mr. Kramer says, “It’s less the young, hip crowd and more the top-of-industry, although there’s definitely been a decent amount of celebrities through the years. The thing that’s interesting is that Alphonzo Bell did not want celebrities originally. They wanted nobody from Hollywood—they thought it was not tasteful.”
Despite Mr. Bell’s initial plan, entertainers and those with household names charmed their way into Bel Air. Jack Benny, Alfred Hitchcock, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Wilt Chamberlain and Meg Ryan have all had addresses here. Today, if one needs to borrow a cup of sugar, they can buzz the gate of Jennifer Aniston, Elon Musk, Joni Mitchell, or Darren Star.
“We are in a seller’s market. There’s little supply and high demand. If a property is priced at fair market value, we tend to see multiple offers and often properties sell for over asking,” Mr. Giddins says. “If you drive around the area you will see an incredible amount of construction. Developers are tearing down homes and building massive estates, some with ocean, city and canyon views.”
As for any market fluctuations, Mr. Kramer remarks, “Bel Air has never been hurt that badly. It’s always done fairly well. It’s like an old name brand—Gucci or Louis Vuitton, if you will. It’s very healthy, it’s very consistent, and there’s always demand. There’s not nearly as much movement in Bel Air as in other parts of the city, so when homes come up and they’re good, they get bought.”