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The Neighborhood of Bel Air

Bel Air is an affluent residential community in the hills, just east of Brentwood. Together with Beverly Hills and Holmby Hills it forms the Platinum Triangle of Los Angeles neighborhoods.

Bel Air is situated about 12 miles west of Downtown and includes some of the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. It borders the north side of UCLA along Sunset Boulevard. At the heart of the community sits the Bel Air Country Club and the Hotel Bel Air. The community was founded in 1923 by Alphonzo E. Bell, Sr.

It is bordered by Brentwood on the west and southwest, Westwood on the south, Beverly Hills Post Office on the east, and Sherman Oaks on the north. Bel Air is home to numerous Hollywood celebrities and high-profile corporate executives. The Bel Air Association has been operational since 1942, dedicated to preserving the life-style and property-values of their residential community. The Bel Air Association is located at the entrance of the East Gate of Bel Air at 100 Bel Air Road.

              The Bel Air west gate at Sunset and Bellagio

The Residences

Residences in Bel Air tend to be private and hidden, by dense foliage and gates, from the winding roads of the community. Residences range from relatively modest ranch-style houses, to lavish mansions and magnificent estates. While some houses in Bel Air seem quite modest from the outside, often lying mere feet from the street, they still have large grounds. In general, the higher up the mountain, the smaller the building lots, and more modest the houses. However, those residences along roads such as Stradella Road and Linda Flora Drive provide panoramic views of the Los Angeles basin and Catalina Island. The most desirable houses are near the main entrances of the Bel Air Country Club, because they boast views of both the country club and much of Los Angeles. Lower Bel Air boasts many of the most expensive homes in the community, largely because of their proximity to Sunset Boulevard, a major thoroughfare.

Multi-family housing is not permitted and ordinances regarding architectural styles, landscaping, and lot sizes exist to preserve Bel Air. Although no one is necessarily banned from entering on foot, most of Bel Air lacks residential sidewalks (unlike Beverly Hills) to discourage the public from walking around the community. Bel Air is also patrolled by local security companies.

President Ronald Reagan lived in a house in Bel Air from his retirement as President in 1989 until his death in 2004, and former First Lady Nancy Reagan continues to live there and attends nearby Bel Air Presbyterian Church.

Neighborhoods

Of several entrances, there are two main ones: the East Gate at Beverly Glen and Sunset Boulevards, and the West Gate at Bellagio Road and Sunset Boulevard, opposite an entrance to UCLA. Bel Air is generally subdivided into three distinct neighborhoods: East Gate Old Bel Air, West Gate Bel Air and Upper Bel Air.

Attractions

The UCLA Hannah Carter Japanese Garden is located in Bel Air . It was inspired by the gardens of Kyoto. Many structures in the garden - the main gate, garden house, bridges, and shrine - were built in Japan and reassembled here. Antique stone carvings, water basins and lanterns, as well as the five-tiered pagoda, and key symbolic rocks are also from Japan. Several hundred tons of local stones came from the quarries in Ventura County and the foot of Mt. Baldy, northeast of Los Angeles.

Television and film

Television shows and movies have been filmed in Bel Air, or are said to take place in the community. Exterior shots for the Beverly Hillbillies were shot in and around the 1938 French neoclassical-style mansion at 750 Bel Air Road, built by Lynn Atkinson (and later sold to hotelier Arnold Kirkeby after Atkinson's wife refused to move into a house she thought too ostentatious.) After the exterior shooting was completed, the residents of that address forbade any more filming, as passers-by would wander onto the property and ask to see 'Granny'. Exterior scenes from movies such as Get Shorty have also been filmed in the area. Several television films of The Rockford Files were filmed in Bel Air. The television sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was set in the neighborhood although the exterior shots used were filmed in nearby Brentwood. The Bel Air Film Festival, first held in 2008, is an annual international film festival held in Bel Air and the Los Angeles area.

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