Mansions of Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Brentwood and Malibu

From its inception as the film-making capital of the world in the 1920s, Los Angeles has experienced several changes. The neighborhoods of Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Brentwood, and Malibu have undergone drastic shifts in design and demographics as the homeowners have changed from Hollywood royalty to sports superstars to technology entrepreneurs.

Each new generation of wealthy homeowners has different demands from the one before, and the changing nature of the mansions of Los Angeles reflects this. From the European inspired manses of the 1930s and 1940s; to the gargantuan manors of the 1980s; to the sleek, ultra modern, high-tech estates of today. The idea of what constitutes luxury may have changed over time, but the yearning for luxury has not, and as long as there are people willing to spend the money for all the creature comforts of their hearts, desire, it probably never will.

The Mansions of Beverly Hills

Beverly Hills has been—and continues to be—the location of some of the most legendary mansions in Los Angeles. Their style and decadence is unrivalled in the world of luxury real estate, but for many modern buyers, the luxury of the past is not enough for them. The result of this dissatisfaction is that many of the mansions built in Hollywood’s Golden Age end up getting torn down to build even bigger homes.

The most tragic victim of this desire for modernization is Pickfair, the Beverly Hills mansion built in the 1920s by movie stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. Pickfair was host to some of the brightest stars from around the world. And not just film stars, but literary royalty, like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; scientific royalty like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein; and actual royalty, like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and the King and Queen of Siam (Thailand).

Unfortunately, this legendary estate was razed to the ground in 1981 by actress, Pia Zadora, who claimed that it was haunted. However, most classic mansions get torn down and replaced for more mundane reasons, namely that the new owners do not think the previous home is large and grand enough. Fortunately, there is now a preservation ordinance in place to prevent classic Beverly Hills mansions from being destroyed.

It is understandable why Beverly Hills real estate is in such high demand, it is because of the simple realities of supply and demand, particularly that the latter has outpaced the former. One of the reasons that demand is so high is that Beverly Hills is a highly coveted area because of its close proximity to the shopping and entertainment centers of Los Angeles. This demand has kept the Los Angeles real estate market healthy even as the markets in New York and San Francisco have stagnated. The market will likely remain strong since few new homes are being built because of restrictive construction regulations. That will likely help to retain Beverly Hills reputation as an exclusive enclave of the rich.

The Mansions Of Hollywood Hills

Hollywood Hills is one of the most legendary neighborhoods in all the world. It is well known as being the home of the movie industry’s power players, and the diverse, opulent mansions clearly display the status of their owners to the world. As with the rest of Los Angeles, the Hollywood Hills had modest beginnings as a refuge for hardy homesteaders. During the 1920s, as Hollywood became the world’s movie-making metropolis, actors and studio chiefs started constructing luxury homes in the canyon because of how close it was to the various movie studios.

A house on the hills became the aspiration of anyone working in the movie industry at the time; however it was not until the 1950s that houses began to be built on the actual hills in earnest. Architects used the latest technological achievements that allowed them to construct homes on the steep gradients of the hillside. These new homes offered spectacular views of the canyon and the city below it, a feature that is still coveted to this day.

The desire for a house on the hills has inspired architects to design mansions like the legendary Stahl House. The Stahl House is a modernist house that was designed by architect Pierre Koenig as part of the case study experiment that ran from 1945 – 1966. This was a program commissioned by Arts & Architecture magazine that challenged prominent architects of the day to design efficient model homes to accomodate soldiers returning home from the war.

The Stahl House was built in 1959 and is considered to be one of the prime examples of twentieth century modern architecture. That status was set in stone in 1999 when it was declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Over the years, the iconic design of the Stahl House, and its spectacular view, have been featured in a number of films and TV shows, cementing its iconic status even further, and setting the standard for all homes on the Hollywood Hills.

The Mansions Of Brentwood

Brentwood is a prime residential neighborhood located in the heart of Los Angeles. Like the rest of the three B’s—the other two being Beverly Hills and Bel-Air—Brentwood is desirable because of how close it is to the shops and entertainment. It is also desirable because it has a small-town, suburban feel despite the wealth of its residents. Another attraction is how safe Brentwood is compared to the rest of Los Angeles; it also has several high quality public and private schools, which makes it a more family-oriented neighborhood.

As one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Brentwood has more than its fair share of luxurious mansions; however, it is one of the many LA neighborhoods that supported the anti-mansionization movement, known officially as the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance. Many Los Angeles residents objected to the rise of what are colloquially known as McMansions, in their neighborhoods.

These new mansions are not located in areas with large amounts of square footage to hold the house and all its trappings. Instead, they are located in residential neighborhoods with regular one and two story homes; the new owners tear down the old home and build their new, much larger home, using up as much space on the property as possible. This often means that these new homes are uncomfortably close to the houses on either side of them, an arrangement uncomfortable to the neighbors who have to live near these new developments. Another problem for residents is that they feel that these new McMansions do not fit the neighborhoods in which they are located and that they have a detrimental effect to the look and feel of the neighborhood.

These litany of complaints led to the passing of the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance, which limits the size of homes that can be built in certain residential areas. It also encourages homes with more personality, as opposed to the box-like designs of the McMansions. Brentwoodians strongly support this measure, but some felt that this could reduce property values in Brentwood. That has not happened as home prices have risen in Brentwood, and other areas that have passed the anti-mansionization measures, so it seems that the efforts to preserve the look and character of Brentwood and other LA neighborhoods has been a success.

The Mansions of Malibu

Malibu is known for its multiple beaches and its laid back surfer vibe, thanks to 1950s beach movies like Gidget. These days, Malibu still retains that feeling, but it is also home to some of the most luxurious mansions in America, they are also some of the most innovative mansions in America. Architectural legends like A. Quincy Jones and Richard Neutra have designed many of Malibu’s mansions. Modern masters such as Ed Niles and Richard Meier are also responsible for some of the most attractive homes in Malibu. One of the standouts is the Malibu Wing House, a mansion designed using the wings of a decommissioned 747 aeroplane.

One of the reasons Malibu mansions are so expensive is that many of them are located on valuable beachfront property. Beach side homes are more highly coveted and tend to appreciate in value more than those located land side. One of the more famous stretches of land in Malibu is known as Billionaire’s Beach. It is officially named Carbon Beach, and this half-mile strip of land contains the expensive mansions of industry leaders. These include Jeffrey Katzenberg, the CEO of Dreamworks; Haim Saban, creator of the Power Rangers; Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle; and David Geffen, the richest man in Hollywood.

David Geffen’s Estate is built on four different lots, he managed this by cutting a deal with the California Coastal Commission. Since the property would cut off access to a public beach, he had to build a walkway that would provide entrance to it. However, he padlocked the gate to the beach, and for twenty years refused to open it for the public. This is a common practice for homeowners whose mansions are located next to public beaches; they also hire security guards to confront and remove beach-goers. These guards claim that the beach-goers are trespassing on private property when that is not the case, since the beach is open for everyone.

Eventually David Geffen, and all the other owners of beachside mansions had to relent and allow unfettered access to the beach near their homes. It is understandable that these wealthy homeowners would want to restrict the public from being so close to their private property. It is also understandable that they would want to limit access to the strip of beach located near their property. However, while the mansions they build are their own private property, the beach is for everyone.

The Mansions of Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Brentwood, and Malibu Reflect the Changing Times

The mansions of Los Angeles are always changing, whether it is an old mansion being destroyed to make way for a new one, or a mansion being built in a place that is undesirable to the neighbors around it. The mansions of Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Brentwood, and Malibu are not just abodes for the mega-rich, they are also timestamps of the era in which they were built.

Sometimes, they remain to offer current and future generations a glimpse of past glamor as well as architectural and design trends of yesteryear. Other times, they are erased so that new mansions can make their mark on history. Whether that mark will be permanent or ephemeral is up to the whims of chance, but the existence of mansions will be eternal.