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Neighborhood Spotlight: Hidden Hills offers gated seclusion A-listers seek

HIDDEN HILLS, CA-MAY 01, 2013: Ultra-marathon runner Shannon Farar-Griefer, right, works out runni
Runners on a trail in Hidden Hills.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

This year when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian completed the $20-million renovation of their Hidden Hills mansion and moved in, it marked the ascension of the 1.7 -square-mile gated city to the peak of celebrity-enclave heights.

Of course, in their never-ending quest to buy ever more extravagant mansions in the west Valley, stars such as Drake, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have been migrating to Hidden Hills in growing numbers over the last few years.

It’s a remarkable turnabout for a tiny city that was conceived as a rustic retreat from the go-go atmosphere of the postwar building boom, which transformed the Valley from an agricultural breadbasket into a dense suburb of more than 500,000 people.

For landscape architect and developer A.E. Hanson, that rapid growth — and the traffic, smog and crowding that went with it — presented an opportunity.

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He purchased land in the hills at the far western end of the Valley and, tearing a page from the marketing plan for his other gated community of Rolling Hills, placed a billboard on Ventura Boulevard that called out to harried suburbanites with the siren cry: “1,000 Acres of Elbow Room.”

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A sign shows the folksy spirit of Hidden Hills.
(Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times )

Like Rolling Hills, Hidden Hills was a gated community of 1-acre lots. There were no sidewalks or streetlights (there still aren’t) and equestrian uses of the land were not just allowed, they were encouraged. In 1961, the neighborhood incorporated in order to stave off annexation by Los Angeles and preserve its semirural character.

From the beginning, Hidden Hills had appeal for celebrities, although more so of the B-movie variety than the A-listers who now call it home. The first house sold in Hidden Hills was a model home purchased by actor Leo Gorcey, and over the years sports figures such as Dodgers great Don Drysdale also bought in the neighborhood.

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Eventually, as traditional celebrity hot spots such as Beverly Hills were overrun by tour buses ferrying eager movie fans up and down once quiet streets to gawk at the mansions of the stars, the exclusivity of Hidden Hills became a draw for top-tier performers of all stripes.

Now, the arrival of megastar power couple Kimye, various other Kardashian and Jenner family members, and additional big-name stars has indisputably shifted the glitzy epicenter of Nouveau Hollywood to Hidden Hills.

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(Los Angeles Times )

Neighborhood highlights

Privacy, please: Hidden Hills’ secluded location and gated access keep out the paparazzi and overzealous fans, allowing A-list residents to Instagram their gilded lives in relative peace.

Saddle up: Equestrian activities are still central to life in Hidden Hills, which has bridle paths instead of sidewalks and no fewer than two riding schools.

Staying connected: As exclusive as Hidden Hills is, it offers easy access to the 101 Freeway, and nearby Van Nuys Airport puts worldwide private jet travel a short drive away.

Neighborhood challenge

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The embiggening of Hidden Hills: This formerly semirural retreat has become an enclave of massive homes, raising concerns among some residents that its character may be in jeopardy.

Expert insight

Marc Shevin, who’s been selling homes in Hidden Hills since 1990, said driving through the front gate is like driving into the country.

“The first thing you see is a sign that says, ‘Slow down, relax. Children and horses at play,’” Shevin said. “It puts you in a different mind-set.”

He added that many of the city’s high-profile residents move in when they have small children. For instance, he sold a house to Jennifer Lopez after she became a mom.

Nearly every lot is at least an acre, with many spanning far more, so there’s plenty of privacy between homes. The building codes are strict, Shevin added, which maintains the rural vibe. No structure can surpass 30 feet. At least 65% of every lot has to be green space.

“People in the community got really into Cape Cods the last few years, but now the hot trend is contemporary farmhouses,” Shevin said. “A lot of the new constructions feature reclaimed stone and lumber on the exterior.”

The primary no-no, Shevin said, is box-style contemporaries.

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Market snapshot

In the 91302 ZIP Code, based on 13 sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in March was $1.265 million, down 34.6% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

Report card

The one public school in Hidden Hills, Round Meadow Elementary, scored 902 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index.

Other bright spots in the area include Calabash Street Elementary, which scored 887, and Lockhurst Drive Elementary, which scored 868.

Times staff writer Jack Flemming contributed to this report.

hotproperty@latimes.com

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