The “flats” of LA are for mere mortals. The creative crème de la Tinseltown still opts for Canyon Country.
Laurel Canyon is home to an eclectic array of architectural styles, from bohemian to contemporary— including the “Three Layer Cake House,” which sold last year for $3 million through Partners Trust.
Hollywood’s wooded canyons—Beachwood, Nichols, and Laurel, primarily—have an allure that can’t be understood in price per square foot. The canyons are magical and mystical, say the creative types who flourish here; they’re also for homeowners who aren’t put off by a bobcat or deer in the driveway or steep, winding access roads that would challenge a Le Mans driver.
At the end of the drive, though, it’s all about the view. “The higher you go, the bigger the price tag,” says Diana Torres of Keller Williams Realty. “LA’s chicest buyers—up-and-coming actors, international clients, and movie executives—all want views. They want to be segregated; they want to look down and see everything but not be in it,” she explains. Mt. Olympus properties (off and above Laurel Canyon Boulevard) offer some of the city’s best views with sizable flat lots. Plus, there are sidewalks for families—unusual in any of the city’s canyonlands.
In late 2013, a three-acre lot on its own private street at the very top of Mt. Olympus sold for $20 million—film financier and producer Megan Ellison was the reported buyer. The area continues to warrant premium pricing. Two of Torres’s current listings soar above the city at its upper reaches and are priced accordingly at $12.5 million (five bedrooms, five and a half baths, steel-faced ultra contemporary) and $10 million (five bedrooms, seven baths, 5,474-square-foot, 2003-built architectural). Pricing on both sides of Laurel Canyon Boulevard, like the housing stock built out over more than a century, is definitely not cookie cutter. “You can go bohemian or glam,” explains Julie Jones of Sotheby’s, Sunset Strip Brokerage, noting that “hip houses with a view and a pool” are in the highest demand.
Moby’s former château above Beachwood Canyon, Wolf’s Lair, recently sold for $12.4 million.
Laurel Canyon’s rock ’n’ roll legacy—check out the Canyon Country Store at the intersection of Lookout Mountain for memorabilia— is well documented. Once home to rock renegade Jim Morrison, the Canyon’s other former residents include Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and, yes, The Monkees (infamous for naked pool parties). Today, home values are well beyond an indie rocker’s reach; moneyed buyers seek out the Wonderland School District and the engaged, politically active community. “The nickname is Mayberry USA,” says Tom O’Rourke of Berkshire Hathaway California Properties of the woodsy “homespun Hollywood” enclave.
“With single-family homes so different, views, light, and cachet are the determining factors when it comes to sales price,” contends Christopher Westley of Partners Trust, Beverly Hills. Both Laurel Canyon and adjacent Nichols Canyon are natural and semirural, with hidden streams and verdant oaks and sycamores. Beachwood (the easternmost Hollywood canyon) is a bit more citified, with a small grocery store and café at mid-mountain, but it’s still far from a traditional, walkable neighborhood.
So why do residents (everyone from Christina Applegate and Andy Samberg to—back-in-the-day— Madonna) brave these hills? “People like the quiet and seclusion,” offers Anthony Stellini, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates. “There’s a sense of wildlife and detachment from city living in the canyons,” he adds. With minimal or no commercial development, no billboards, plus feathered and four-footed neighbors, “you can drive up the hill in five minutes and enter your very own world,” says Jones. (A world that can net sales prices that rival tonier canyons west, such as Coldwater and Benedict: At the close of 2014, musician and in-demand DJ Moby sold his Norman-style castle above Beachwood, known as Wolf’s Lair, for $12.4 million in an off-market listing.)
The tranquil upper reaches of Nichols Canyon are even shielded somewhat from city lights. Here, a quick commute home from mid-city can lead to a veritable lodgelike retreat. “There are no maps to the stars’ homes here,” says Scott Segall of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, who represents a Hamptons-style gated estate in Nichols Canyon for $5.5 million. “The canyon is huge for people who want privacy. It’s another world up there.”