Streets of gold: L.A.’s most desirable addresses


Call it A-List Los Angeles.

L.A. County has plenty of high-end neighborhoods, from Palos Verdes Estates to Pasadena. But when it comes to finding the best mansions in town, there’s still nothing quite like the golden corridor from Beverly Hills to Malibu.

This Westside area boasts one of the world’s great concentrations of premier residential estates. The highest-price home transaction ever in California took place in this territory: the 2000 sale of an 8-acre Bellagio Road estate in Bel-Air by Dole Food Co.’s billionaire owner, David Murdock, to financial executive Gary Winnick in a $95-million deal.

Bellagio is one of a dozen streets that are among the most sought-after addresses, say veteran real estate brokers. Here’s a look at these streets and why they are so coveted.

* Mapleton Drive, Holmby Hills. Home to the Playboy Mansion, Mapleton gets rave reviews for the quality and size of its properties, some of which back up to the fairways of the Los Angeles Country Club.

Arthur Letts Jr., who owned Broadway and Bullock’s department stores, was instrumental in developing Holmby Hills in the 1920s. Letts picked Mapleton to be the best street and the site of his own residence, according to Jeffrey Hyland, president of Beverly Hills-based brokerage Hilton & Hyland and author of “The Legendary Estates of Beverly Hills.”

Today the Letts estate is the home and famed party site of Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner. The street has what Hyland called “a perceived value.”

“A buyer feels more comfortable where everything around is already established and well in the double digits,” he said -- double-digit millions, that is.

* North Carolwood Drive, Holmby Hills. Just around the corner from Mapleton, North Carolwood has been the address of a stream of stars including Tony Curtis and Sonny and Cher. Gregory Peck’s longtime home was sold in 2004 for about $22 million. Michael Jackson rented on the drive at the time of his death.

At 2 to 4 acres, these are some of the biggest parcels on the Westside. Like other premiere streets, North Carolwood has a uniformity of prices, homes and lot sizes that well-heeled buyers like. “If you just bought your home for $20 million and you see other homes that look like your $20-million investment, you feel good” about your neighborhood, said Drew Mandile of Sotheby’s International Realty, Beverly Hills.

* Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu: OK, so it’s a highway, not a street. But this busy thoroughfare is the street address for a cluster of homes along Carbon Beach owned by the likes of DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen, restaurateur and Hard Rock Cafe chain owner Peter Morton and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.

Called Billionaire’s Beach, the line of oceanfront properties has protection from housing market changes because the owners never have to sell, said Stephen Shapiro, co-owner of Westside Estate Agency in Beverly Hills. “It’s like a private club, but they don’t have meetings.”

* Bellagio Road, Bel-Air. Views of the Bel-Air Country Club and the ocean distinguish this leafy road paralleling Sunset Boulevard. The record-setting Winnick estate borders the golf course.

“Most all the lots are pancake flat, so these are very big estates,” Hyland said.

* Bel Air Road, Bel-Air. Approached through the arch at the East Gate entrance of the community, this winding street has city and ocean views as it climbs. Tall, dense hedges allow only an occasional glimpse of the homes, creating an air of inaccessibility, wealth and power, said Brooke Knapp of Sotheby’s International Realty, Beverly Hills. Bel Air Road is convenient to Westwood Village and its markets, shops and restaurants.

* Oakmont Drive, Brentwood. The private street at the end of Rockingham Avenue gets top billing for its secluded setting, large mansions and light traffic compared with nearby well-traveled streets. “Once you get to Oakmont it becomes quiet,” Hyland said.

Residents include conductor Zubin Mehta and philanthropist Eli Broad, according to public records.

* La Mesa Drive, Santa Monica. This street is also known for its homes of similar value and size -- some less than 5,000 square feet. Large trees, with roots that stretch a good foot or more above ground, help provide privacy. “There’s a consistency to the street,” said David Offer of Prudential California Realty, Brentwood. Building restrictions limit the scale, contributing to the uniform look. “People like the vibe,” Shapiro said.

The north side, with views of the Riviera Country Club, has a discernible premium over the other side of the street. Homes “on the rim” can bring close to twice as much as south-side properties, which back up to San Vicente Boulevard and pick up the traffic noise, according to Offer.

* Maple Drive, Beverly Hills. There are the flats of Beverly Hills, an area with relatively small lots and commercial buildings. This isn’t it. Maple north of Santa Monica Boulevard boasts the largest lots among Beverly Hills’ flatland areas, and the homes have a continuity of design and landscaping. The street is quiet and traffic is light because a center divider prevents left turns onto Sunset, Knapp said.

* Napoli Drive, Pacific Palisades. Properties on the south side of Napoli are prized for their views overlooking the Riviera Country Club. Having a backyard bordering a golf course is like having a park behind you, Offer said.

* Amalfi Drive, Pacific Palisades. North Amalfi has canyon views to Will Rogers State Historic Park, while some homes on the south end have ocean and Riviera views. Over the years it has been popular with such entertainers as actor Cary Grant, comedian Jerry Lewis and singer Bobby Vinton.

* Malibu Road, Malibu. This coastal street is shielded from busy PCH to the east, offering ocean views and a relatively quiet neighborhood, Shapiro said. Once they move here, homeowners tend to stay: The street has little turnover, Shapiro said.

* Malibu Colony Drive, Malibu. Gates, 24-hour security and views of the Pacific make the street desirable, said Joyce Rey, who heads the estates division of Coldwell Banker Previews International. “It’s a pretty exclusive enclave,” the Beverly Hills-based agent said.

But the lots and houses, once cottages used as weekend places, are smaller than properties along Carbon Beach, which has “big, magnificent homes,” Hyland noted.

Of course, even the best streets have some drawbacks.

Pacific Coast Highway can become clogged with traffic; Mapleton -- with its Playboy Mansion -- is a regular stop on bus tours; and North Carolwood is a hot spot for sightseers.

The corners of Carolwood and Sunset and nearby Baroda Drive and Sunset have been staked out by three generations of the Hot Star Maps family since 1936.

Linda Welton, who has been selling the maps for 21 years, said she feels the Carolwood residents have come to accept and even appreciate her presence -- her mother and maternal grandfather having paved the way.

Michael Jackson’s security people asked for one of her maps, then another, which they later returned with his autograph, she said.

These days Dr. Phil stops by to say hello.

“Once David Hasselhoff wanted to know how to get to David Beckham’s house,” she said.

Standing up straighter with a mock-stern expression, Welton recounted her response: “Are you expected?”