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Behind the Gates: Holmby Hills

Holmby Hills is one of the most successful residential developments in United States history. From the moment that the Janss Investment Co. put its estate lots on the market in 1925, Holmby Hills became one of Southern California’s most high-end neighborhoods, with gently winding, landscaped roadways threaded with impressive mansions in a variety of architectural styles with handsome gardens and grounds.

Its desirability has never faltered. Holmby Hills may be less famous than its neighbors to the east and west, Beverly Hills and Bel-Air, but its residents know that this anonymity has enhanced their prized neighborhood’s privacy, desirability, and livability.

The marketing of Holmby Hills was relatively straightforward. First, the location was highly desirable by 1925. Holmby Hills is nestled between the well-established and successful neighborhoods of Beverly Hills and Bel Air. The long-anticipated Sunset Boulevard (briefly named Beverly Boulevard) opened in 1926, and its original two lanes provided easy access to Beverly Hills and Hollywood to the east and to Brentwood, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Second, the Holmby Hills climate was ideal, even more temperate than nearby Beverly Hills during the hot summer and fall months. The Janss Investment Co.’s advertisements and brochures held a spotlight to this benefit. “Ocean-Tempered Days” was one of their key messages. “I’ve often felt like Holmby Hills has a climate and ecosystem of its own,” said David Kramer, President of Hilton & Hyland.

Finally, the topography—gently rolling hills and flat land—was ideal for the development of sprawling estates. The Janss brothers could sell estate home sites with enough flat land for a mansion and its adjacent lawns and gardens, and the ravines at the back of the lots—which channeled winter storm runoff from the hillsides—could be planted with trees that would block views of the neighboring houses.

“Elevation and View for Your Estate Without Steep Grades,” boasted one advertisement. “Probably no estate community ever developed has offered the ‘wonderful view with easy access’ feature of Holmby Hills. Grades are extremely easy, and wide streets make driving as safe as on a boulevard.”

The Playboy Mansion.

Today, more than almost any community in Southern California, Holmby Hills is a testament to those landowners and real estate developers who seek to create long-term beauty and value and take all necessary measures to achieve those goals. Holmby Hills is known for its massive lots, expansive homes, and some of the city’s wealthiest and most prestigious individuals. “Though Holmby Hills is small in area, the homes are anything but small,” said Kramer. “A number of Los Angeles’ most storied estates have Holmby Hills addresses.”

Estates like the Playboy Mansion are near the top of the charts of the countless historic homes in Holmby Hills. In 2016, Hilton & Hyland agents represented the seller of one of Los Angeles’ most famous properties. When sold for $100 million, the Playboy Mansion was a nearly 20,000-square-foot residence with 29 rooms and every amenity imaginable. In addition to the typical luxury features, the Mansion is one of a select few private residences in Los Angeles with a zoo license.

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