A huge chunk of land in Bel-Air is going up for auction

January 26, 2023

Bel-Air — thanks to its impressive list of celebrity residents and impressive collection of record-setting mega-mansions — has developed a reputation as one of the ritziest enclaves in the country.

A 260-acre property that spans 6% of the famed neighborhood is being auctioned off to the highest bidder.

The auction is a last-ditch effort to sell the massive spread known as Senderos Canyon, which is one of the largest and most valuable pieces of undeveloped land left in the L.A. area but failed to find a buyer since hitting the market a decade ago.

At 260 acres, it’s three times the size of Disneyland and easily dwarfs the 157-acre Mountain in Beverly Hills, which is widely considered the finest undeveloped parcel left in L.A. It’s by far the biggest piece of land currently on the market in L.A.; second place belongs to a 53-acre spread in Granada Hills asking $1.2 million.

Despite its colossal scale, potential buyers have been sparse because of the extensive cost and time it would take to develop the property into something profitable.

Made up of three contiguous parcels, the trophy property first surfaced for sale at $125 million in 2013. No takers. In 2019, the price was trimmed to $75 million, then $60 million. Still nothing. Now, it’s being auctioned with bids starting at $39 million, representing a discount of nearly 70%.

There have been plenty of ideas for the property over the years. The land is unentitled, so it’s not yet designated for a specific use, but prospective shoppers have pitched just about everything: a goat farm, a retirement community, a luxury wellness retreat or even an outdoor campus for a school.

“Everyone has grand ideas,” said listing agent Scott Tamkin of Compass.

Renderings showcase potential uses for the prized acreage. One shows a golf course. Another depicts a horse ranch surrounded by a man-made lake.

A rendering of the property shows its potential use as a golf course.

A rendering of the property shows its potential use as a golf course.

(Sibylle Allgaier)

A more realistic vision for the land could be a handful of luxury homes, and Tamkin estimates Senderos Canyon could fit roughly 17. There are 15 to 20 acres at the top of the property that would be the easiest to develop, but building deeper into the canyon would be more difficult, requiring significantly more infrastructure and grading.

The auction is being held by Paramount Realty USA, which has handled more than $2 billion worth of real estate auctions. Misha Haghani, the company’s owner, called the property “unique and irreplaceable.”

The bidding opened on Jan. 24 and goes until March 15 — a strategic date for the owner. Roughly two weeks later, Measure ULA goes into effect, adding a 5.5% transfer tax to the deal, assuming it sells for more than $10 million.

If it sells for $39 million, the seller — a limited liability company called Giro Properties — would owe $2.145 million under the tax. To help speed things along, the seller is offering a $2-million credit if the buyer closes before the measure kicks in on April 1.

It’s the latest example of luxury property owners eyeing ways of avoiding the tax. Some are simply trying to sell off real estate before April, while others are getting more creative by looking into splitting up properties to cut their value to below $5 million — the price point at which a 4% tax is triggered.

Auctions are typically viewed as a last resort for selling a home and usually only happen once a property has languished on the market for multiple years.

In 2021, the Hearst estate in Beverly Hills was auctioned off for $63.1 million after originally listing for $195 million. Last year, a 105,000-square-foot mega-mansion known as the One sold to the highest bidder for $141 million — an all-time record for a home at auction, but a far cry from the initial asking price of $295 million.

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