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It’s hard to find, cell service is spotty, the threat of fire is high, and it’s over the Ventura County line. Yet Bell Canyon — the exclusive, 1,700-acre gated community north of Calabasas (with one gate; one way in and out) — is a celebrity magnet, where residents have included Niecy Nash, Jhené Aiko, Alyssa Milano, Trey Songz, Holly Marie Combs and Shaquille O’Neal.
This year, This Is Us star Chrissy Metz shelled out $3.5 million for a Bell Canyon villa and emo rapper Lil Uzi Vert splashed out $4.4 million for a contemporary home (both residences were listed with Rodeo Realty). After moving to Texas, Joe Rogan sold one of two residences he owned there. Rogan’s five-bedroom Mediterranean-contemporary home listed with Compass traded last March for $3.45 million at a premium: $250k above asking.
“It’s always been a destination community for celebrities due to the security, privacy and serenity,” says Pinnacle Estate Properties real estate agent Kevin Godley. Last January, O’Neal sold his five-bedroom home, located on a Bell Canyon cul-de-sac, for $1.85 million.
Prices range from about $1.5 million to $6 million. Lots are large and a relative steal compared with nearby gated communities like Hidden Hills. Call it an upscale, highly patrolled Mayberry. The self-contained community of some 800 home sites has everything residents need: two schools, a five-acre public park, an equestrian center, tennis courts and more than 70 miles of hiking trails, plus a tight-knit, rural feel.
“It is a hidden treasure that allows you to leave the hustle, bustle and exposure behind,” says Avenue 8 realtor Marla Thomas, “a community that allows you to trade the chaos of Hollywood for the calm of breathtaking views and unparalleled chill. This is a community that allows your anonymity and promotes your individuality expressed in a custom home that showcases your personal taste.”
Celebrities have long had a hankering for a home on the range. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, legends like Barbara Stanwyck, Carole Lombard and Clark Gable built expansive, secluded ranches in the dusty San Fernando Valley. With its trails and panoramic view of the beige and brown Santa Monica Mountains Park Reserve, Bell Canyon has the same feel — and the history to back it up.
Once the site of a Chumash community, until 1967, it was Ward Ranch, a working cattle ranch. That year, developers purchased the land and soon renamed it Bell Canyon after area pioneer Charles A. Bell. The 19th-century lawyer and newspaper editor was said to have lost his arm in a shootout. They further paid homage to the canyon’s Wild West past with the names of the new development’s streets, like Wild Stallion Road and Saddlebow Road.
Mid-century modernist architect Cliff May, an innovator of the now-ubiquitous California Ranch house, designed Bell Canyon’s buildings and equestrian center. He encouraged developers to lay out the lots to maintain the rural ranch setting in its most natural state. “They kept the natural contours of the canyons and ridges offering homesites that are stacked one on top of another,” says Godley. “Additionally, they don’t allow slumpstone walls, so all the homes are separated by mature landscaping and hedges.”
Adds Godley, “Because of the open architectural guidelines within the community, there’s a huge variety of homes from California modern ranch to stately English Tudors.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Dec. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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