Beverly Park is an exclusive community in the excruciatingly manicured hillsides between Beverly Hills and Mulholland Drive. Normally, it’s the kind of place where civility reigns.
But lately, an uncivil war between the north and the south of Beverly Park has broken out, a kind of battle between the estates.
The crisis erupted last year when northerners started restricting access through their community. Residents of South Beverly can still get through, but their visitors, gardeners, construction crews and nannies cannot. From North Beverly Park’s gate at Mulholland Drive, the visitors and workers are forced to go east to Coldwater Canyon Drive or west to Benedict Canyon Drive a detour of seven miles along narrow and often crowded streets.
And so the southerners have responded with a lawsuit. That pits North Beverly Park residents, including media barons Sumner Redstone and Haim Saban and aviation titan Steven Udvar-Hazy, against South Beverly Park residents, including basketball star Earvin “Magic” Johnson and producer Richard Zanuck.
Residents in the north say the restrictive policy is necessary because the southerners have refused to pay for upkeep of the private street, even though they use the street regularly. They claim the service staff and guests of southern residents often drove too fast and got access to the private street when they had no intention of stopping at any homes in the south, using it as a shortcut for commuting.
“Their gardeners were coming through on off days,” said Michael Scott, a retired real estate investor who has lived in North Beverly for six years. “At what point does it become abusive?”
Southerners would not comment, but in court papers they claimed there is no basis for them to pay for upkeep of the north’s streets.
A key hearing in the multiparty case is scheduled in Superior Court in Santa Monica later this week, with a jury trial to follow in the months ahead.
If the case does make it to trial, some of the city’s wealthiest residents will likely be called to testify about the comings and goings of their domestic workers, providing a glimpse into the oasis that is Beverly Park: an intensely private enclave of luxurious estates.
“It was planned as an exclusive community, and it certainly has lived up to its expectations,” said Joyce Rey, a Beverly Hills real estate agent who followed the development of the community since it began in the mid-1980s. “I have a client now who specifically wants that area.”
The valley is dotted with 61 Italian- and French-inspired villas that range in size from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet. The monumental mansions are outfitted with gyms, home theaters, pools and tennis courts. The price for such luxury is staggering.
For example, Ronald Tutor, chief executive of building contractor Tutor-Saliba Corp., last month bought a not-yet-completed 27,000-square foot house in North Beverly for $36 million. Tutor’s purchase eclipsed the $30 million that a 35,000-square-foot mansion garnered in 2004 from an unidentified buyer.
Beverly Park was developed in two phases. South Beverly was built in 1984, and North Beverly in 1989. There are separate homeowners associations.
After the northern residents arrived, they enclosed their community with manned guardhouses but gave the southerners and their guests unfettered access to their private roads because access would be a problem otherwise.
Besides the gate on Mulholland, another gate on Summitridge Drive guards traffic coming from the south.
Southern residents argue in court documents that the nearly 20 years of neighborly relations ended when their friends and workers were denied entrance, and northerners “simply decided they did not want the homeowners of South Beverly Park freely passing what they now viewed as their exclusive domain.”
However, the north residents paint a different picture. In court documents, the northerners contend that the southern residents’ dog groomers, car washers, antique dealers, pool men and partygoers were turning their roads into an expressway for commuting.
The northern residents claim that the southerners’ construction workers would line their trucks along Mulholland Drive in the early morning hours as they waited to pass through the gated entrance.
In March 2006, the North Beverly homeowners association asked their southern neighbors to pay 20 percent of the costs to maintain their roads, gates and private security. The sum, $121,000 a year, would be about $7,500 per home in the south.
The southern residents ultimately refused to pay because they believe the request was not supported by the homeowners association’s rules.
Several South Beverly residents declined to comment on the ongoing dispute, and other homeowners did not return calls seeking comment. Lawyers for the South Beverly homeowners association did not return repeated calls for comment.
Robert Bisno, a real estate developer who has lived in North Beverly for seven years, said the northern residents had the right to ask their southern neighbors to help pay to maintain the roads and gates that they have used since the adjoining communities were developed.
“The north absorbed the costs of the south, but believed the south had an obligation to pay some share of the costs, and the south disagreed,” Bisno said. “When push came to shove, the north looked to block the south.”
While Bisno is siding with his northern neighbors this time, he has been in conflict with them in the past.
In 2002, the Bisnos were sued in Los Angeles Superior Court by the association because their overdone gates violated the homeowner covenant, and a suggestive abstract sculpture offended other residents, including Christine Hazy, wife of Steven Udvar-Hazy and a powerful member of the association.
In 2007, a state appellate court ruled against the Bisnos, preventing them from installing the gates and sculpture.
As for the current battle between the north and south, some North Beverly residents said that they suggested the warring parties take the dispute to private mediation. But real estate investor Scott said the southerners refused to settle the dispute out of court.
“We asked them to go to mediation, but they said no, and our next step was to stop all friends and contractors from using the road,” he said.
Attorneys on both sides are focusing on the language of the northern homeowners association’s rules, under which they grant an easement “reserved for the benefit of those Members of Beverly Park Homeowners Association.”
However, the South Beverly homeowners contend that the term “members” extends to their guests and workers, who have the right to pass through the gates. The southerners claim that the Beverly Park developers intended to allow their guests, employees, family members and business associates access through the gates when they drafted the rules.
One northerner is sympathetic to the problems the gate battle is causing for the south.
Norman Zadeh, founder of skin magazine publishing company Perfect 10 Inc., said his fellow neighbors should set aside their differences and play nice.
“I would be outraged if my workers and guests had to make a huge detour to reach my property,” Zadeh said. “And on that basis we should be sympathetic to their needs and acts as good neighbors and let them use the road here.”
The Rich and Famous
Some South Beverly Park residents:
Daniel Blatteis, real estate investor
David Sydorick, car collector
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, basketball player
Mohammed Gharavi, cardiologist
Paul Daneshrad, real estate investor
Richard Zanuck, director
Samuel L. Jackson, actor
Some North Beverly Park residents:
Alec Gores, private equity manager
Avi Arad, entertainment executive
Barry Bonds, baseball player
Denzel Washington, actor
Eddie Murphy, actor
Haim Saban, media chief
Jami Gertz, actress
Larry Flax, restaurateur
Martin Lawrence, actor
Michael Medavoy, movie producer
Norman Zadeh, magazine publisher
Paul Reiser, actor
Robert Bisno, real estate developer
Steven Udvar-Hazy, aviation chief
Sumner Redstone, media chief
Sylvester Stallone, actor
Ze’ev Drori, technology executive