Developers of the hilltop Beverly Park Estates have published the second edition of a lush coffee-table book called "The Estates of Beverly Hills," complete with a chapter that puts their scenic but largely unbuilt neighborhood on a par with the fanciest homes of the Westside.
"We wanted our future audience . . . to find through reading this book that there's a new opportunity in town," said Brian Adler, principal developer of the property high above Beverly Hills.
"This is an opportunity people haven't had since the 1930s--to get a house on two level acres . . . with city and canyon views," he said. "It's the feeling of what an estate is supposed to be."
Carved out of the hillsides north of Beverly Hills in the 1960s by bulldozers moving 8 million cubic yards of earth, the land was originally intended for a country club project that was to have been named after entertainer Dean Martin.
That deal fell through, along with several other efforts involving a Teamsters Union pension fund, but developer Elliot Gottfurcht managed to consolidate 16 lots on part of the property, a ridge overlooking Franklin Canyon, before he sold out to Adler and his associates last year.
The first edition of "The Estates of Beverly Hills," financed by Gottfurcht, came out in 1984, filled with stories and pictures of the stately homes of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Holmby Hills. Hoping for gilt by association, Gottfurcht devoted a few of the book's oversized, 100% rag cotton pages to sketches of the yet-unbuilt mansions of Beverly Park Estates.
The latest edition, published this time by Adler, went on sale last month for $100 at bookstores and upscale outlets such as Neiman-Marcus. It expands its coverage of some of the older homes in Beverly Hills and neighboring high-rent districts. But it also features 14 pages of color photographs showing the gushing fountains, curling driveways, landscaped vistas and highly decorated interiors of houses built in the first phase of Beverly Park.
The first 16 lots were limited in size to flat pads of about one acre each, but the next batch of 64 properties, in a man-made bowl below Mulholland Drive, will be twice as big--big enough for almost anybody's dream house, not to mention tennis court, guest house, pool and lots of lawn.
"This is the most expensive" real estate "brochure ever circulated," said Jeffrey Hyland, a Beverly Hills real estate broker who wrote the book with Charles Lockwood, an architecture and travel writer. "And the most important thing is that no one realizes this is a promotional brochure."
Indeed, the privately printed, 170-page volume stands on its own merits. Hyland and Lockwood, together with researcher Peter V. Persic and photographers Randolph Harrison and Baron Wolman, have made a genuine contribution to local history.
Their text, based on a combing of old newspaper files and the comments of longtime residents, complements glowing photo layouts of some of the grandest chateaux this side of the Loire Valley.
The writers do not hide the pitfalls of living on a grand scale. Some of the oil barons and movie moguls who built for the centuries ended their lives in poverty, forced to sell out for as little as $200,000 at a time when lavish estates were a drag on the market.
But with athletes and entertainers raking in greater earnings every year, the market for great houses is a lively one today.
The developer has already sold houses in the remote, gated community to the Lakers' Magic Johnson, entertainer Pia Zadora and her multimillionaire husband, Meshulam Riklis, and others in the seven-figures-and-up income bracket.
"A couple of them learned about it through 'The Estates of Beverly Hills,' but mainly it was through word of mouth," said Adler, who has been involved in the project since 1979. "I've been very low-key about it, but when the most affluent buyers, the ones for whom a few million dollars either way doesn't matter, picked us, that's the greatest compliment, because they can be anywhere."
At a time when buyers of run-down mansions are confronted with rehabilitation costs of $1 million or more, Hyland said, there should be a lively demand for the two-acre estates of Beverly Park, where empty lots are going for $3.5 million to $5 million and completed houses are expected to cost $8 million or more.
"The big thing today is big estates," said Hyland, whose firm of Alvarez, Hyland & Young is the fourth-largest real estate brokerage in Beverly Hills.
"It's easier for us to sell a house for $10 million than for $2 million or $3 million," because "there are more people on the high end than on the low end, and they'd rather pay you another $1.5 million or more to build a house for them than do it themselves," Hyland said.
The clients "would rather spend the time on their own business, and they don't want a divorce."
The authors were especially proud of their entree to the Warner and Kirkeby estates, which are concealed behind gates and greenery and have not been photographed for public consumption in decades, although the facade of the Kirkeby house is known to millions as the home of the nouveau-riche Clampett clan in "The Beverly Hillbillies" television series.
Hyland and Lockwood said they were besieged by property owners whose houses were left out of their chronicle of conspicuous consumption.
"People would call up and say: 'You've got to put me in this time. I've put on a 10,000-square-foot addition,' " Hyland said.
But the authors spelled out their standards in the foreword: A property must have at least 1 1/2 acres of flat land to be considered an estate. The only exceptions in the book are the homes from the first phase of publisher Adler's development, Beverly Park. Some famous homes were excluded because much of the surrounding land was subdivided and sold off over the years. Others with large grounds did not have enough flat land.
Only 31 properties qualified in Beverly Hills, 22 in Holmby Hills and 15 in Bel-Air. The book also counts the 64 two-acre lots in Beverly Park Estates, which have yet to be built on.
"Omission from this book does not imply that a residence is any less attractive or any less valuable than the properties that are featured," Hyland and Lockwood wrote.
They also made it clear that homeowners whose dream houses did not make it into the second edition will have to learn to live with the ignominy. There will not be a third.
"Both have written extensively about Beverly Hills, Holmby Hills and Bel-Air," the foreword says about the authors. "This book represents the completion of their work on these estate properties."