Rental retreat

Villa Malibu offers the opportunity to live in the posh beachside town without the responsibility of homeownership.

The Los Angeles area is famous for its nichelike neighborhoods. There are the wealthy partygoers who nestle above Sunset, the privileged families whose domiciles lay hidden behind groomed hedges and wrought-iron gates in Beverly Hills and the actors who pay mansion prices for seaside shacks along the coast. But until now, say the developers of the luxury rental community Villa Malibu, located above Pacific Coast Highway, there was no place that offered a synthesis of social and private living in a swank location.

A 68-unit rental building bought by the Carlyle Group in 2005, Villa Malibu has undergone a complete renovation with the goal of attracting the toniest of residents. "In the past, you'd find a lot of single-family home rentals and a few older rental communities but none that offered luxury," says Tina West, president of the West Group, Villa Malibu's leasing agency. "The vision was to provide the most exclusive rental properties to date."

The result combines the amenities of a resort and a posh private home. The two- and three-bedroom apartments, the first of which became available last month, range from 1,577-2,232 square feet (about 10% are earmarked as furnished, corporate residences). Each has a valley or ocean view, as well as the "extras" one would expect with rents that start at $4,400 and go up to $9,400 a month. There are fireplaces, marble bathrooms and designer fixtures, and maid service and furnishings can be arranged for an additional fee.

But it's the property's grounds that are piquing the interest of people such as Carmen Electra and Phil Maloof, with a resort-style pool with cabanas and a fire pit, two tennis courts, a basketball court, a Zen meditation garden and a fitness center with trainers offering private lessons as well as classes. "What we're doing is showcasing the best of what Malibu has to offer," West says. "We're aggressively marketing to entertainment and sports professionals, and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of our residents will use this as a second or third home for the weekends. This is a destination for a certain kind of lifestyle."

Not to mention for complete relaxation: Villa Malibu will offer valet service to and from Zuma Beach, so there's no need to worry about parking. Once safely on the sand, however, residents will be forced to fend for themselves. "Unfortunately, the beach is public," West says. "But maybe we'll figure out how to buy a part of it."

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