The Mountain of Beverly Hills

The Mountain of Beverly Hills - The New York Times

Cover of The New York Times - Sunday Business Section

By Candace Jackson

LOS ANGELES — A property about to go on the market here consists of 157 acres of hilltop land in the coveted Beverly Hills 90210 ZIP code, a 10-minute drive from Rodeo Drive. With its 360-degree views, you can spot many of Los Angeles’s major landmarks in the distance, from Century City to downtown, and even — on a clear day — the Pacific Ocean. There are winding, private roads that lead to big, flat lawns the size of football fields.

The asking price? A cool $1 billion.

Aaron Kirman of Pacific Union Real Estate, the listing agent, recently drove a couple of visitors around the property, reeling off its numerous highlights and noting more than once that it was large enough to hold all of both Disneyland and California Adventure, another Disney park. (The site, which is in an area of Los Angeles known as Beverly Hills Post Office and has been newly branded as the Mountain of Beverly Hills, comes with permission to build nearly 1.5 million square feet of living space across multiple buildings.)

With views into some of Los Angeles’s priciest mansions and their swimming pools below, it had the surreal feel of an empty, mountaintop golf course in the middle of a city, with large, manicured lawns kept green by plentiful sprinklers.

As Mr. Kirman drove up toward the highest point, a helicopter buzzed by in the distance, not much higher than eye level.

It’s debatable, of course, whether any potential buyers will agree with Mr. Kirman that this undeveloped plot is really worth $1 billion. Outrageous asking prices, particularly in Los Angeles, are nothing new. A $500 million listing for a speculatively built 100,000-square-foot home on a four-acre hilltop in Bel Air is the city’s record-setter so far. (That home hasn’t officially hit the market yet but is being shopped around at that amount as construction wraps up.)

Such price tags are often a way to grab attention rather than a true indicator of market value. If mega-expensive properties sell at all, it’s often for a mega-discount. Take the $100 million sale of the Playboy Mansion in 2016 — Los Angeles’s most expensive home sale at the time. That was a 50 percent discount off the $200 million asking price.

Mr. Kirman said the $1 billion price was justified partly because it would be impossible to assemble so much acreage in such a prime location ever again.

“This is a crown jewel,” he said. “For that billionaire who wants that privacy on the highest peak of Beverly Hills, it’s a great opportunity.”

Mr. Kirman is going to have to sell someone on the idea that plunking a billion dollars into a personal property is a good idea. No one has yet to come close to crossing that threshold, at least not publicly. In 2014, an 18-acre oceanfront Hamptons compound sold for $137 million — the record for a single-family home in the United States. This year, a Malibu property sold for $110 million, Los Angeles County’s current record. A Saudi prince paid $300 million for a property in France, thought to be the highest price ever paid for a home in the world.