In the San Fernando Valley trifecta of Encino, Sherman Oaks and Studio City, common knowledge is that more exclusive, pricier properties sit south of Ventura Boulevard. Parts of Encino, like Amestoy Estates, beg to differ.
Amestoy Estates' namesake was Domingo Amestoy, a Basque sheepherder who became one of the largest wool producers in Southern California during the 1860s. He died in 1891, just days after purchasing the 4,460-acre Rancho los Encinos.
His sons assumed ranch operations, growing white wheat and barley by dry farming — a method practiced in arid areas without irrigation by planting drought-resistant crops — and changed the name to Amestoy Ranch. In 1915, they began selling the land for subdivisions. By 1944, the Amestoys had sold off the last of their property.
More than a decade later the area was rezoned from four-acre lots to properties with a half-acre minimum, spurring new development. At the time, the area's pastoral charm and thriving flora, including oak and walnut trees, attracted stars such as Esther Williams and Paul Muni.
What it's about
Largely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of its major boundaries — White Oak Avenue on the west, Ventura and Balboa boulevards on the south and west, respectively, and Killion Street on the north — the one-square-mile area is shielded by trees often reaching 80 feet high, and devoid of signs, creating an aura of anonymity. The privacy is heightened by interior streets, many ending in cul-de-sacs.
What stands out about the roughly 575 properties (excluding the apartments and condominiums on the periphery) is their scale and the typically large lots. Sprawling ranch-style homes are the norm, built with facades of stone, brick and wood, and three-car garages.
The lack of sidewalks in the area doesn't prevent morning jaunts with dogs and strollers. Ventura Boulevard's commerce, including Starbucks, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, delicatessens and eateries, is minutes away for bipeds. Families also gravitate to the picnic tables and children's play area at Encino Park on Genesta Avenue.
Those in on this hideaway are celebrities such as Ray Romano, known to patronize local eateries like Quincy's BBQ, and Edward James Olmos. (Amestoy Estates was home to comedic actor Phil Hartman when he was shot to death by his wife, Brynn, who also killed herself, in 1998.)
"We moved in 21 years ago for the close proximity to everything," said Carol Wolfe, an associate broker with Coldwell Banker in Encino, who sells in the area and established a community website called http://www.amestoyestateslifestyles.com . "My kids could bike and skate and walk to the boulevard."
Now a new generation of families is moving in, including Rick and Julie Weber and their four children, who purchased a $1.6-million home in February and upgraded the kitchen and bath.
"Our lot here is 50% bigger compared to our former home in Encino, which was south of the boulevard, and it's very quiet and private," said Rick Weber, 43, who runs a summer-camp business with a partner.
On the market
Some families are lured by the prospects of large lots. Developer Adam Zane, owner of Danierin Properties Inc., says it's not unheard of to pay $1.3 million to $1.6 million for "tear-downs." "I buy homes that don't have architectural significance," Zane said.
In February, his newly built six-bedroom, 7,500-square-foot Tuscan villa sold for $4.225 million the day before it was to have hit the market. Zane is going grander with two adjacent projects on Amestoy Avenue. One is a two-story, 8,500-square-foot Tuscan-style estate on a 26,000-square-foot lot that will sit next to a single-story, 9,000-square-foot Italian-style stone farmhouse, filling out a 37,000-square-foot parcel. A Cape Cod-style home is also under construction on 18,000 square feet of land on Aldea Avenue. The properties will be ready by early spring and fall of next year and are expected to command prices $4 million to $6 million.
The overall cooling of the home market is on his radar, Zane said. "Activity has not mellowed in this price range. But I never take anything for granted and worry daily as construction costs go up."
For lesser mortals looking for something about half as expensive, Wolfe said there are about 10 active listings in the area, including a Mediterranean-style, 5,600-square-foot home with five bedrooms and a guesthouse for $2,499,000 and a new, two-story, five-bedroom home on a small lot for $1,995,000.
Report cardAmestoy Estates is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Children attend Encino Elementary School, which scored 851 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. De Portola (Gaspar) Middle School in Tarzana scored 776 and Birmingham High School in Lake Balboa had a score of 657.
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