Bel-Air is a very exclusive residential area in the Santa Monica Mountains and contains some of the most magnificent property in the country. Located on the west side of L.A., between Beverly Crest and Brentwood, its boundaries are Mulholland Drive along the north, Sunset Boulevard along the south, Beverly Glen Boulevard along the east, and the 405 Freeway along the west. Two entrances to Bel Air are marked by large, stately gates just off Sunset Boulevard. Beyond these gates lie streets that wind through the hills, filled with luxurious mansions surrounded by lush vegetation. The community is well known for its celebrities and entertainment industry residents, and its location in the hills affords these residents a great degree of privacy, as well as beautiful views. It’s also home to the famous Hotel Bel-Air, a longtime upper-class hideaway, and the exclusive Bel-Air Country Club. The area is primarily residential with only a small number of shops within the entirety of its 6.3 square miles.
Bel Air was founded in 1923 by Alphonzo Bell. The wealthy Bell family owned a ranch in Santa Fe Spings, where they discovered oil. The resulting fortunes enabled him to buy about 25,000 acres of land along what is now known as Bel Air Road, which he subsequently subdivided and developed into large residential lots that he called “gentleman estates”. He developed the master plan for the community with the aid of engineer and landscape architect Mark Daniels. The Italian names for the streets of Bel Air were chosen by his wife, Minnewa. The development was marketed as Bel Air Estates, “The Exclusive Residential Park of the West”. Bell, who was a religious man, required all applicants to come with referrals and letters of recommendation and no “movie people” were allowed as he believed their morals were questionable. Obviously this restriction did not hold for very long.
Not to let a great name go to waste, he also built the Bel-Air Country Club, as well as the Bel-Air Beach Club in Santa Monica. Unlike many other areas, Bel Air has kept zoning laws that date back to the 1920’s, which has helped to protect itself from over-development. Along with Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills, Bel Air forms what is commonly referred to as the Platinum Triangle of L.A.
Community and Lifestyle
Although there are multiple ways to get into Bel Air, the two most well-known points of entry are The East Gate and The West Gate. Some of most expensive homes, including television’s famous Beverly Hillbillies estate (formally known as the Kirkeby Estate), are located towards the southeast portion of Bel-Air. In this area, it will be difficult to find any property that comes with less than 1-acre of land. Homes are typically protected from the public by large trees and tall walls or fences. Still, as to be expected, security guards patrol the area regularly. More affordable properties, though still quite expensive, can be found in western section of Bel-Air near Bel-Air Road, where there are many 1960’s era homes and mansions.
The community features country club, some park space, a vineyard (see below!) and restaurants. And although there aren't all that many restaurants to be found compared to adjacent areas, the handful available are superb.
Bel Air Country Club
Founded in 1925 by Alphonzo Bell himself, the country club is one of the oldest and most central features of Bel Air. The club’s golf course, which was designed by George C. Thomas, winds through mansion-dotted canyons along a topography so steep that golfers are guided from hole to hole via such things as a tunnel, an elevator, and a photo-worthy suspension bridge spanning a gulch on the par-3 10th. Since it’s inception, the country club has been quite exclusive and its members have included everyone from Ronald Reagan and Bing Crosby, to Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise. If golf isn’t your thing, there are tennis courts as well.
Wolfgang Puck at Hotel Bel Air
The signature restaurant at L.A.’s legendary get-away oasis combines a relaxed California atmosphere with Mediterranean influences. The menu features the finest of locally-sourced ingredients, exquisitely prepared, and beautifully presented. And, naturally, you can choose to eat indoors or out. Or maybe just hang out for a cocktail at the hotel’s famous fire-lit piano bar.
Il Segreto means ‘secret’ in Italian and as the name for ‘secret’ suggests this is a quiet, homey retreat from the bustle of L.A. A relaxing evening of Italian comfort food and fine wine are what you come to Il Segreto for.
The Bel-Air Restaurant
Formerly known as the Bel-Air Bar and Grill, this new incarnation by Susan Disney Lord is renovated, expanded and serves up tasty and healthy food. Inside, you’re likely to find the walls filled with art by Cal Art College students, which was founded by her father Roy Disney (brother of Walt). On the menu, you’ll find a wild selection of yummy stuff like ahi poke tacos, sweet corn and truffle tagliatelle, and grilled Scottish salmon. If you’re in a hurry and want a bite to-go, whether for breakfast or lunch, just head to the “Shack in the Back” for a salad, burrito, made-to-order sandwich, or a cup of Groundwork coffee.
Clay Pit Indian Kitchen
If you like Indian, you need to try this place. The customers go back over and over again. 4.5 Stars on Yelp has to mean something.
Since 1989, one of the areas little known gems is this 14-acre boutique vineyard whose steep hillside provides the perfect conditions for growing its Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc, and Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
For someone that does his share of eating on the road, this is just the sort of place that Beverly Glen needed. With sit-down or take-out options, you’ll find a great selection of produce, meats (sustainably raised), sandwiches, coffee, pastries and a top-notch selection of wines.
Casual, yet elegant is the atmosphere you’ll find at this French bistro, whose marble and dark blue tones may carry your spirit away to the 1960’s French Riviera. The menu includes standard bistro fare, such as charcuterie, steak frites and salads, as well as their signature Fig Leaf Roasted Salmon. In other words, something for everyone,.
Singleton Residence - 15000 Mulholland Dr. Richard Neutra 1959
One of only two Neutra homes in Bel Air, certainly deserves to be considered one of the iconic homes in the Modernist style.
Ursa Major - 15216 Antelo Pl. David Tenneson Rich 1971
Built for Wilt Chamberlain, this is one of the most unique homes in all of LA, or maybe even the universe. From overhead, it looks like a bursting star. From within, it feels like you are living in the outdoors and there isn’t a right-angle to be found. This is true even for the pool, which you can jump into while inside the house! At nearly 7,200 square feet, the home was built out of 16 tons of Bouquet Canyon stone and five freight car loads-worth of redwood - and a lot of glass.
Residence - 281 Bentley Cir. Tag Front Architects 2019
If ever there was a residence that could truthfully be described as jaw-dropping, this would be it. Set upon a 1+ acre promontory this massive, modern home that opens up to infinite views and features an gigantic infinity pool that curves around the hillside.
Oshry Residence - 1704 Stone Canyon Rd. Zoltan Pali 2003
Composed of two large steel super-structures connected by a glass-enclosed skybridge, this modern masterpiece was awarded home of the year by Architectural Digest.
Hammerman House - 201 Bentley Cir. Richard Neutra 1954
Larger than your typical Neutra, this home has been updated in a manner that respects the integrity of it origins.
Wurtzel Residence - 10539 Bellagio Rd Wallace Neff 1931
Built for studio mogul Sol Wurtzel, and the former home of Howard Hughes,and Elvis Presley, and Prince Rainier this is one of the most historic and stately properties in the entirety of old Bel Air.
The Bolton Residence - 961 Linda Flora Dr. Buff and Hensman 1971
Classic Post & Beam, Mid-Century Modern, which was sold by original owners in 2018 after a thorough restoration to return it to its original appearance. The home still even has its original Moon View deck and an swimming pool.
Salzman House - Case Study House - 1811 Bel Air Rd. Craig Ellwood 1953
One of the two Case Study houses that were not numbered, this was instead simply called The New Case Study House for 1953.
Nordlinger House - 11492 Thurston Cir. A. Quincy Jones 1948
With its cantilevered balconies, clad in a inverted stack of redwood siding, this has a bit of a Frank Lloyd Wright feel to it. In early 2019, this home was on the market and in need of restoration. As of this writing it had not yet sold.
Staller House - 901 Bel Air Rd. Richard Neutra 1955
(can only see the top of it from the stree)
Rabinowitz House - 2262 Stradella Rd. J.R. Davidson 1960
Beck House - 952 Roscomare Rd. Thornton M. Abell 1955
(can’t see very well from the street)
Residence - 939 Roscomare Rd. William Krisel 1955
Brown House - 10801 Chalon Rd. Richard and Dion Neutra 1955
(can’t see from the street)