Tuesday, July 30, 2013


Excerpts from Aug. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine:


The South Bay's unbeatable small-town beach vibe is an irresistible lure for high-profile sports stars, celebrities and others who are pushing sales prices past even 2006 highs.

By key metrics, Manhattan Beach is one of the most on-fire real estate markets in the L.A. area right now. The small beach town of 35,000 residents located just south of LAX -- known for its high-profile sports star residents and Raleigh Manhattan Beach Studios -- hit a peak median residential sales price of $1.8 million in May, surpassing the highest median price of the boom year of 2006 (and up 22 percent from the same month in 2012).

The South Bay town had the most $1 million-plus home sales of any Southern California city in 2012. Look on the Multiple Listing Service, and, as of July 22, there are just five single-family houses for sale in the burg for less than $1 million.

"Once we hit the new year, all hell broke loose -- with multiple offers on everything. Here in July, we're 17 percent higher than we were in March," says one local agent.  Bidding wars are not uncommon and inventory is still limited.

So why the frenzy? A combination of factors has turned Manhattan Beach -- originally named Manhattan by its New York developer around 1902 (the "Beach" part was added later) -- into a posh paradise.  No. 1, of course, is the big blue sea. "Well, it's really about the ocean," says Andre Jacquemetton, who has lived in the area with his wife, Maria, for a decade. (The two Emmy-winning Mad Men writer-producers recently left the show after six seasons to set up an overall production deal at Warner Bros. Television.) "When we moved to Southern California, we really wanted to take advantage of the ocean. What's the point otherwise?" he adds.

Quality public schools also are a major selling point. The Manhattan Beach district as a whole ranks as the third-best performing in the state. Says Maria, "We have kids, and it's been a really terrific place to raise your children sort of far from the craziness of a big city."

For many, the city's density -- so unlike Malibu's coastal sprawl -- is key to its Mayberry appeal. Houses, even the biggest ones, sit nearly cheek by jowl. This means that walking anywhere, and particularly to the main commercial strips, is a jiff.

"Everyone knows everybody," says writer Steve Maeda (The X-Files, Lost). "You don't have a choice. Everything is packed in so tight." Adds WME agent Cori Wellins: "I love the area because you can drop your car on Friday and not need to be back in it until Monday morning. You can walk, jog, scooter or ride your bike anywhere."

Not that the morning drive is as far as those who don't live in the South Bay might think. "I probably shouldn't say this, but it's only 30 minutes to CAA," says agent Amie Avor. "I don't want the secret to be out. I've hacked the route. It's not that hard."

More than anything, though, Manhattan Beach's sports, business and entertainment industry players have been drawn to the oh-so-SoCal vibe. "When I was a kid, my mother used to say, 'Get out of your school clothes and get in to your play clothes,' " says producer Jeremy Elice, whose wife, Nicole, is Showtime's entertainment public relations director.  "In Manhattan Beach, you have that same thing, that you're going from your work clothes to your play clothes. It's laid-back."