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Celebrities, once banned in Bel-Air, now find homes are under threat from fire

Several homes are burning in Bel-Air as fire closes the 405 Freeway and forces evacuations.

Bel-Air was originally envisioned as a “Community of Gentlemen’s Estates” by oil tycoon and real estate magnate Alphonzo Edward Bell, who forbade celebrities to buy property in his exclusive neighborhood.

But a wave of new money generated by a booming movie industry opened the gates for Hollywood elite. Tinseltown luminaries such as Judy Garland, Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Alfred Hitchcock are among those to have called the area home.

Bel-Air has remained the neighborhood of choice for many high-profile names seeking privacy and exclusivity, with residents including Jay-Z and Beyonce, Elon Musk and Jennifer Aniston.

But fire is the great leveler, even on the Westside.

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On Wednesday, a wind-driven wildfire erupted in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air, where homes are among the nation’s priciest. The blaze has consumed 150 acres and a handful of homes, according to Los Angeles fire officials, while prompting the closure of the 405 Freeway for part of the day.

Among those directly affected by the Skirball fire is billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose 13-acre estate and working vineyard have been partially consumed by the blaze, according to reports.

Murdoch, 86, paid $28.8 million for the property, named Moraga Estate, four years ago. That’s about 12 times the October median sales price — $2.45 million — for single-family homes in Bel-Air, according to CoreLogic.

The tony Platinum Triangle pocket, long associated with money and Old Hollywood glamour, has a prominent place in wildfire history. In 1961, fires ravaged Bel-Air and Brentwood over a two-day period, destroying hundreds of homes.

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By the numbers

18%/82%: The percentage of Bel-Air renters versus homeowners.

81%: The percentage of white residents that make up the population of 7,317 in Bel-Air.

1,783: Number of households earning $125,000 or more in Bel-Air.

38,000: The square footage of a mega-mansion built on speculation in Bel-Air. Asking price: $250 million.

197,272: Bel-Air’s median household income in 2008.

$39,000,000: The price paid for a Paul McClean-designed mansion in Bel-Air, the most expensive home sale in the area in 2016.

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neal.leitereg@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATHotProperty

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