It’s hard to find, cell service is spotty, fire threat is high, and it’s above the Ventura County line. Yet Bell Canyon – the exclusive 1,700-acre gated community north of Calabasas (with a gate; only one way in and out) – is a celebrity magnet, where residents have included Niecy Nash , JhenÃ© Aiko, Alyssa Milano, Trey Songz, Holly Marie Combs and Shaquille O’Neal.
This year, It’s us star Chrissy Metz shelled out $ 3.5 million for a villa in Bell Canyon and emo rapper Lil Uzi Vert shelled out $ 4.4 million for a contemporary home (both residences were listed with Rodeo Realty). After moving to Texas, Joe Rogan sold one of the two residences he owned there. Rogan’s contemporary five-bedroom Mediterranean home listed with Compass traded last March for $ 3.45 million with a premium: $ 250,000 more than asked.
âIt has always been a celebrity destination community for the sake of security, privacy and peace of mind,â says Kevin Godley, real estate agent for Pinnacle Estate Properties. Last January, O’Neal sold his five-bedroom home, located in a cul-de-sac in Bell Canyon, for $ 1.85 million.
Prices range from around $ 1.5 million to $ 6 million. The lots are large and relatively attractive compared to nearby gated communities like Hidden Hills. Call it a high end, highly guarded Mayberry. The self-contained community of some 800 hospitality sites has everything residents need: two schools, a five-acre public park, an equestrian center, tennis courts, and over 70 miles of hiking trails, as well as a rural and united atmosphere.
âIt’s a hidden treasure that lets you leave the hustle and bustle and exposure behind,â says Avenue 8 real estate agent Marla Thomas, âa community that lets you trade the chaos of Hollywood for the calm of breathtaking views and unprecedented cold. It is a community that allows your anonymity and promotes your individuality expressed in a personalized home that showcases your personal tastes.
Celebrities have long wanted a house on the beach. During Hollywood’s Golden Age, legends like Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard, and Clark Gable built vast, isolated ranches in the dusty San Fernando Valley. With its trails and panoramic views of the beige and brown reserve of Santa Monica Mountain Park, Bell Canyon has the same feel – and the history behind it.
Formerly the site of a Chumash community, until 1967 it was Ward Ranch, a working cattle ranch. That year, developers bought the land and quickly renamed it Bell Canyon in honor of area pioneer Charles A. Bell. The 19th century lawyer and editor is said to have lost his arm in a shooting. They further paid homage to the canyon’s Old West past with the names of streets in the new development, such as Wild Stallion Road and Saddlebow Road.
Mid-century Modernist architect Cliff May, an innovator of the now ubiquitous California Ranch home, designed the buildings and equestrian center at Bell Canyon. He encouraged the developers to develop the lots to maintain the rural ranch setting in its most natural state. âThey retained the natural contours of the canyons and ridges, providing habitation sites stacked on top of each other,â Godley explains. “Plus, they don’t allow tombstone walls, so all the houses are separated by mature landscaping and hedges.”
Godley adds, âDue to open architectural guidelines within the community, there is a wide variety of homes, from the modern California ranch to the majestic English Tudors. “
A version of this story first appeared in the December 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.