L.A.’s Star-Studded Neighborhood
Denzel Washington, Sylvester Stallone, Mark Wahlberg and other red-carpet regulars call this ritzy enclave home.
With homes that average 20,000 square feet, a vacant lot asking nearly $30 million and enough resident movie stars and film execs to fill a red carpet, the gated community of Beverly Park is one of the most exclusive, expensive places in Los Angeles, a land of exclusive, expensive places.
Celebrity residents include Denzel Washington, who purchased his property from Michael Eisner. Eddie Murphy, media mogul Sumner Redstone and Sylvester Stallonealso live in the enclave. Barry Bonds owned a Beverly Park home until March, when he sold his 17,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom home for $22 million.
In recent months, both home sizes and price tags have grown bigger than ever, some local residents, builders and real-estate agents say. Properties topping 30,000 square feet have become the new normal. Actor Mark Wahlberg just completed a 30,000-square-foot French manor-style home, designed by architect Richard Landry. Several nearby homes are undergoing major expansions, including one estate on 2 acres that could be valued at upward of $100 million when the work is finished, estimates agent Michelle Oliver.
John Finton, a Pasadena, Calif.-based builder who has renovated or constructed 16 homes in Beverly Park, including Mr. Wahlberg’s, says the usual upgrade he’s doing in the community today is a “down to the studs” renovation of a 20,000-square-foot home plus a 10,000-square-foot addition. New wings typically include commercial-grade gyms, bowling alleys, in-home spas with beauty salons and movie theaters. The budget for the more elaborate projects can be over $10 million—about the same amount it takes to construct a new home of that scale.
“People will come in, even if they’re buying new construction, and change it to their liking,” says Michelle Oliver, an agent who, along with Ms. Blankenship, has a $25 million listing for a Landry-designed, 12,500-square-foot European villa-style home with a guesthouse in North Beverly Park. Though the property was remodeled, “whoever buys that house would probably knock it down and build a new house,” says Bruce Makowsky,who bought it as an investment in 2011 for $13.45 million. “It’s like keeping up with the Joneses.”
Mr. Makowsky, a handbag mogul and real-estate developer, lives in a different home in Beverly Park, a 30,000-square-foot Tuscan-style estate. He says that since moving there 3½ years ago, he has seen at least 15 neighbors undertake major renovations—many in the $10 million to $50 million range.
“I could afford to live anywhere I want,” says Mr. Makowsky, who paid $22.6 million for his nine-bedroom, 15-bathroom home in 2010, according to public records. “This is a little slice of heaven.” He estimates his property, which he’s extensively renovated, is worth $100 million today.
Beverly Park is in an area known as Beverly Hills Post Office, which carries a Beverly Hills ZIP Code but is technically within Los Angeles city limits. With winding, unmarked streets that dead-end in cul-de-sacs, Beverly Park is made up of two separate communities: North Beverly Park has about 55 homes, typically with 20,000-plus square feet; South Beverly Park has 16 homes from 10,000 to 20,000 square feet on smaller lots.
In addition to the enclave’s 24/7 security staff and manned security gates, every home is also surrounded by its own private gate. Taking it a step further, several residents have their own manned guard stations.
To enter North Beverly Park, visitors and staffers must approach the two-story gatehouse and show ID. Printed directions include a note that photography is prohibited. On a recent afternoon, only the distant din of lawn mowers and leaf blowers was heard. The streets, which don’t have sidewalks, were virtually empty, except for a woman pushing baby stroller as two domestic workers in uniform walked alongside.
Near the middle of the development is a private, 4-acre park with a playground. Residents gather there for an annual holiday party and summer barbecue, but otherwise many say it sits largely unused. “I think I was there once, back in 1998,” says George Santopietro, a developer and investor who lives in Beverly Park and has built several homes there as well.
Mr. Santopietro says he was drawn to the sense of security and the relatively large lot sizes. “It’s wonderful. Where can you get anything like this anywhere in the world?” He says he updates the interiors of his Tuscan-style villa, which has “eight bedrooms, or something like that,” every three or four years.
Despite the recent wave of home makeovers, prices in Beverly Park have only appreciated between 5% and 10% since the recession, compared with about 25% to 30% in the rest of the Los Angeles, says real-estate broker Mauricio Umansky, of the Agency. That’s partly, he says, because the number of listings and sales over the past two years has been relatively low, and the most valuable properties have yet to hit the market. Also, most properties in Beverly Park don’t have sweeping views and glass walls, the kind of homes currently selling most briskly in L.A.’s high-end market. But “you get huge lots, which is very rare for the area.”
Only one home is officially listed for sale in Beverly Park, although agents say that several more, as well as a large vacant lot in North Beverly Park, are available for purchase as unadvertised “pocket listings.” The sellers of the vacant lot, which agents say is one of the last remaining in Beverly Park, are asking nearly $30 million. Mr. Umansky says he will soon list an older 10,000-square-foot (“very small for Beverly Park”) home for about $27 million.
The most recent sale was in December, when Eric Smidt, CEO of Harbor Freight Tools, sold his 10-bedroom, 16-bathroom home in North Beverly Park for $39.9 million. It listed in March for $45 million.
Beverly Park was originally envisioned as a golf course and country club, named after Dean Martin, in the 1960s. The project never got off the ground. In 1979, developer Elliot Gottfurcht, along with Brian Adler and other investors, paid $7.5 million for 325 acres. “It was a big risk,” says Mr. Adler. “People wondered what I could possibly be thinking to create 2-acre, guard-gated estates in that location.”
The developers built South Beverly Park first and decided to market it as an idyllic community of historic-feeling grand estates that would feel like Beverly Hills of yesteryear. “It turned back the clock to the way Beverly Hills was in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s,” says Mr. Adler, who went on to later develop North Beverly Park; today, he handles some resales in the community.
Early lots in South Beverly Park sold for between $750,000 and $1.5 million, according to marketing materials. The first celebrity buyer was musician Kenny Rogers, who purchased a lot in the mid-1980s and allowed the use of his name for marketing purposes, says Mr. Adler. He never ended up building a home there, and in 1987 he sold it to Richard Zanuck, the film producer behind movies like “Driving Miss Daisy” and “Jaws.” Mr. Zanuck and his wife built a 10,000-square-foot, one-bedroom home on it with a movie theater, tennis court and two guesthouses. In 2012, after Mr. Zanuck died, it sold for $20.1 million.
“From the beginning, I wanted to have a community that would be the most luxurious in the country,” says Mr. Gottfurcht, who is no longer involved in the enclave. “But did I think the homes would be $30-, $40-, $50 million? Nobody would think that.”
Adrienne Maloof, an entrepreneur and former “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” cast member, says privacy was a huge selling point when she purchased a French chateau-style home in 2004 for $12.7 million, according to public records. “You had the security of living behind Beverly Park’s gates, but the gates of your own property as well,” says Ms. Maloof, who has three young sons. “The beauty of it was that you could see people when you wanted to see them, or remain in complete seclusion.” She sold her home there in 2012 for $19.5 million, according to public records.
Beverly Park has seen its share of drama and neighborly squabbles inside its gates. Residents say disagreements over construction projects and noise issues can take on outsize proportions in a place filled with so many big names and big egos.
Some have criticized the development for its mega-estates, many designed by the same few architects. “It’s a McMansion community on steroids,” says Michael Gross, author of “Unreal Estate,” a book about the history of the luxury real-estate market in Los Angeles. “As much as Beverly Hills has no street life, Beverly Park is a thousand times worse.”
Michael Scott, a retired real-estate investor and 12-year resident of North Beverly Park, says he generally likes the community and neighborhood feel of the place, but adds that the heavy security in Beverly Park also comes with some downsides.
Parties with more than 20 cars are required to have valet parking, and large gatherings require a dedicated staffer at the front gate, making it hard to throw last-minute get-togethers. “For me, it’s a little restrictive,” he says. He’s currently a building a home elsewhere in Beverly Hills and plans to sell his 17,000-square-foot, Mediterranean-style home with a bowling alley and aviary when the new home is completed. Still, he says he has nothing against his fellow residents.
“If you ever see one of your neighbors out, even if you don’t know them, there’s definitely a common bond,” he says.