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Bel Air at a Glance
  • Population: 10,475
  • Median price, single-family home: $1,995,000
        (2008)
  • Median price, single-family luxury home:
        $8,299,000
  • Land area in square miles: 8.7
  • Residents per square mile: 1,246
  • Distance from downtown L.A.: 14 miles
  • Solds: 94 (2008)

  • Privacy and Prestige
    Tucked among the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains above Sunset Boulevard, beautiful Bel-Air is just west of Beverly Hills and north of UCLA. A community of the city of Los Angeles, it is characterized by hilly, winding streets, and lavish estates, most of which you can't see because they are at the top of long, gated driveways and because of heavy foliage. Despite the foliage, many homes have panoramic city and canyon views.
    History
    Alphonso E. Bell acquired more than 600 acres west of the city of Los Angeles in 1922 with the intent to create what he decided to call "Bel-Air Estates." He was determined that the neighborhood become an exclusive and upscale neighborhood, so he enhanced the area with new roads, utilities, a country club, and lush and exotic vegetation. Originally, the famous Hotel Bel-Air's main mission-style building housed Bell's estate planning and sales offices. Those offices were adjacent to the Bel-Air Stables, where resident boarded the horses they rode along the miles of equestrian trails through the canyons.

    Bel-Air flourished. In 1946, hotel entrepreneur Joseph Drown bought 18 of the original acres and began to develop the Hotel Bel-Air, aiming to create an elegant pastoral hotel hideaway. He hired architect Burton Schutt to convert the original buildings and build the hotel's 62 rooms. Drown transformed the grounds into lush and tree-filled gardens and added Swan Lake to the picturesque front lawn. The luxuriant five-star hotel became a favorite of the rich and famous, and that tradition continues to this day.

    Who Lives Here—and Why?
    Because of its easy access to the San Fernando Valley and L.A. Westside communities that are home to most of the West Coast's entertainment industry facilities, Bel-Air attracts many wealthy people who work in the that field. It is especially popular with stars, because, as previously mentioned, most of the homes are hidden up long, gated driveways and by the surrounding heavy foliage, ensuring privacy and keeping curious tourists at bay. The many, many celebrities who live or once lived in Bel-Air (too numerous to name them all) include Sonny Bono and Cher, Pierce Brosnan, Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, Johnny Carson (an ex-wife now owns the home they once shared), Bing Crosby (his home was later demolished and replaced by producer Aaron Spelling's famous 123-room home), Tony Curtis, Clint Eastwood, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Judy Garland, Cary Grant, Alfred Hitchcock, Casey Kasem, Art Linkletter, Leonard Nimoy, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson (before their divorce), Telly Savalas, Elizabeth Taylor, and Henry Winkler.
    House Prices
    The median price for a single-family home is currently $1,995,000. Keep in mind that this statistic is based on MLS sales, and many multi-million-dollar estates are not listed on the MLS.
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    Story by Jacqueline Shannon
    Photos by Bob Thompson

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    Print Date: 9/27/2021
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