WHY HOLLYWOOD IS FLOCKING TO THE BIRD STREETS NEIGHBORHOOD
The showbiz enclave high above the Sunset Strip offers stunning views and prices -- even if the recession has taken a toll.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 21 issue of the Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On a recent afternoon, Blue Jay Way was buzzing with activity. A caravan of mammoth 12-wheeled trucks lumbered down the steep street, hauling tons of dirt from the excavation site where a multimillion-dollar house is being built. Construction workers nearby unloaded a cargo van and chatted idly. The workday din was interrupted -- but only briefly -- when a two-tone Rolls-Royce blasted up the half-mile-long street, the sedan's bleating exhaust note catching the attention of the laborers.
The scene says a lot about the bird streets neighborhood, one of Los Angeles' most exclusive and sought-after enclaves. On Blue Jay Way, for example, three residences are under construction; nearby on Thrasher Avenue, another two are being built. The neighborhood -- known for its stunning views and extreme privacy -- became exceedingly popular during the real estate boom of the past decade, and prices soared. Property values have taken a hit during the economic downturn, but because the neighborhood includes only a few hundred properties, it remains pricey and in serious demand among producers, actors and moguls alike. Still, those who are now buying in the area -- there are a handful -- are scoring deals as houses routinely sell for less than their asking prices.
Residents in the neighborhood, which is named after its many avian-themed streets, include A-listers Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Jodie Foster and Keanu Reeves; musician Herbie Hancock; talk show host Byron Allen; producer Megan Ellison; The Big C showrunner Jenny Bicks; Hustlerpublisher Larry Flynt; and Sunset Tower Hotel owner Jeff Klein and producer John Goldwyn.
In August, Matthew Perry ($8.65 million for a sleek custom home) and Gateway Inc. co-founder Ted Waitt ($11.53 million for a residence with an indoor/outdoor pool) purchased in the community; Christina Aguilera sold a four-bedroom residence for $4.65 million; and Jennifer Aniston and boyfriend Justin Theroux inked a deal for a rental that costs roughly $17,000 per month.
"Five years ago it was hot, but it wasn't as hot as it is today. There is no disputing this is one of the most valuable areas in the city," says luxury home developer Steve Hermann, who has built several residences in the area. Two of these, on adjacent properties, are now owned by Ellison, a True Gritproducer and daughter of Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison. She owns a third adjoining residence and has spent nearly $33 million to acquire the properties. Her dealmaking has been the subject of great speculation as residents wonder about her plans for the compound; she declined comment.
Brokers and residents say the neighborhood's superior "jetliner" views of the city and proximity to the Sunset Strip -- a drive from Soho House to the top of Blue Jay Way takes less than five minutes -- make it more desirable than other tony hillside enclaves, such as Outpost Estates or parts of Bel-Air. Ben Bacal, a Keller Williams Realty agent who represented the sellers in the Perry and Waitt deals, says homes that are considered teardowns can fetch as much as $7 million if the lots offer "10 out of 10" views. And homes without views can be valued at half of what comparable homes with views are worth. Indeed, residences with superb views fetch among the highest prices in L.A. on a per-square-foot basis. Perry purchased his home for $2,162 per square foot; Waitt bought his for $2,026 per foot. Those prices are typically achieved only in neighborhoods such as Malibu's Carbon Beach.
It may be surprising to some, but the bird streets neighborhood is not without its sense of community. "It's a really nice feeling in a city where there is much more anonymity than you would really like," says Hollywood divorce attorney Laura Wasser, who has represented Aguilera and Angelina Jolie. The neighborhood's most obvious expression of communal togetherness is its Doheny Dining Club, an open group that meets roughly twice a year for progressive dinners that have drawn up to 50 people. Founded in 2008, the group attracts actors, producers, lawyers, doctors and such, says attorney Lindsay Berger Sacks, a DDC co-founder. (She declined to name the members, though Wasser says she's an attendee.) "We didn't think this was the kind of community that wanted to get to know their neighbors," says Sacks. "But it seems that everybody wants that."
BIRD STREETS: BY THE NUMBERS
Houses for Sale: 15
Average Price: $5.92 million
Price Range: $1.25 million-$18 million
Houses for Rent: 7
Average Price: $17,071/month
THE "BLUE JAY WAY" HOUSE: $17,000/month: The Blue Jay Way residence where late Beatles guitarist George Harrison lived in August 1967 when he wrote the iconic song named for the street is a rental. Now occupied, the 4,116-square-foot abode includes three bedrooms and offers panoramic views. The setting provided Harrison with the lofty vantage point from which to write the psychedelic song about waiting for his friends to pay him a visit. (Sample lyric: "There's a fog upon L.A., and my friends have lost their way.") Broker Josh Buxbaum, who handles leasing of the property along with Stamie Karakasidis for the undisclosed owner, says the house "has a really special feel to it."