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Inside the Nightmarish Dystopia of LA's Richest Neighborhood

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Beverly Park, the richest neighborhood in Los Angeles, sits high in the hills above Beverly Hills, behind gates penetrable only via guarded checkpoint, which guard more gates, and then megamansions averaging 20,000 square feet. A vacant lot in Beverly Park is going for $30 million. Everyone in the neighborhood is extremely rich and a lot are famous (Mark Wahlberg, Eddie Murphy, Sylvester Stallone). One dude invented Power Rangers. And it sounds like a horrifying place to live. Like "Children-of-Men-style dystopian vision of the future" awful. The Wall Street Journal has journeyed past the guards and reports back with some chilling details about this sad world that has been severed from the rest of society:

It's an impenetrable labyrinth with gates nested inside gates inside gates: It has "winding, unmarked streets that dead-end in cul-de-sacs … In addition to the enclave's 24/7 security staff and manned security gates, every home is also surrounded by its own private gate. Taking it a step further, several residents have their own manned guard stations."

It was built (beginning in 1979) out of plutocratic nostalgia for early-mid-century America, just like the Randian dystopia in BioShock: "It turned back the clock to the way Beverly Hills was in the '30s, '40s and '50s," says [original Beverly Park developer Brian] Adler."

Residents live in bottled versions of a real city, like the train in Snowpiercer: "New wings typically include commercial-grade gyms, bowling alleys, in-home spas with beauty salons and movie theaters."

There are no sidewalks and the neighborhood is eerily free of life: "On a recent afternoon, only the distant din of lawn mowers and leaf blowers was heard. The streets, which don't have sidewalks, were virtually empty, except for a woman pushing baby stroller as two domestic workers in uniform walked alongside."

Facilities built merely for show now sit unused: "Near the middle of the development is a private, 4-acre park with a playground. Residents gather there for an annual holiday party and summer barbecue, but otherwise many say it sits largely unused. 'I think I was there once, back in 1998,' says George Santopietro, a developer and investor who lives in Beverly Park and has built several homes there as well."

Photography is prohibited: Guards everywhere, empty public works projects, no photography. It really sounds like North Korea.

No one is ever happy: "'People will come in, even if they're buying new construction, and change it to their liking,' says Michelle Oliver, [a real estate] agent." Handbag magnate/real estate investor Bruce Makowsky remodeled a 12,500-square-foot house with guesthouse in the neighborhood and is selling it for $25 million, but says that "whoever buys that house would probably knock it down and build a new house … It's like keeping up with the Joneses." Another resident/developer says "he updates the interiors of his Tuscan-style villa, which has 'eight bedrooms, or something like that,' every three or four years."

There's constant major construction going on: "Several nearby homes are undergoing major expansions … John Finton, a Pasadena, Calif.-based builder who has renovated or constructed 16 homes in Beverly Park, including [Mark] Wahlberg's, says the usual upgrade he's doing in the community today is a 'down to the studs' renovation of a 20,000-square-foot home plus a 10,000-square-foot addition." One resident says that "since moving there 3½ years ago, he has seen at least 15 neighbors undertake major renovations—many in the $10 million to $50 million range."

Its biggest selling point is the total alienation it affords its residents: "Despite the recent wave of home makeovers, prices in Beverly Park have only appreciated between 5% and 10% since the recession, compared with about 25% to 30% in the rest of the Los Angeles … most properties in Beverly Park don't have sweeping views and glass walls, the kind of homes currently selling most briskly in L.A.'s high-end market. But 'you get huge lots, which is very rare for the area.'"

On the bright side, living in such an oppressive place has created solidarity among residents: "If you ever see one of your neighbors out, even if you don't know them, there's definitely a common bond," says one Beverly Parker.
· L.A.'s Star-Studded Neighborhood [WSJ]
· The 10 Richest Neighborhoods in Los Angeles [Curbed LA]
· Megamansion Enclave Bev Park Enters Phase 2: Gigamansions [Curbed LA]