Turning even a trailer park into a home for the wealthy

In Malibu, California, one trailer park on the coast has homes that sell for millions:

St. Brides Wentlooge: Lighthouse Park mobile homes by Chris Downer is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

Enter Paradise Cove Mobile Home Park, widely considered the most expensive trailer park in America. Home to 256 trailers and manufactured homes, it dates to the 1950s, when the then-owners allowed commercial fishermen to park campers there. Starting in the early 2000s, big names such as Stevie Nicks, Minnie Driver and Matthew McConaughey began buying up trailers, slowly turning the park into some of the hottest real estate in California

The draw is clear. The cove, as it is known by locals, sits on a bluff with panoramic views over the Pacific Ocean, with direct access to a secluded cove that is popular with local surfers. These are the same views that billionaires pay hundreds of millions to secure. Nearby, Edward H. Hamm Jr., a movie producer and heir to the Hamm’s Beer fortune, paid $91 million for a mansion; media mogul Byron Allen paid $100 million; venture capitalist Marc Andreessen and his wife, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, paid $177 million. Barbra Streisand’s enormous estate is perched on the edge of the same stretch of bluff as the park.

Today, the cove is a patchwork. Decades-old trailers that resemble banged-up tin cans that have been sitting in the California sun for close to half a century are snuggled up next to mobile homes that completely defy the traditional concept of a trailer. These multimillion-dollar beauties sport spacious gazebos and chic, designer finishes. There are exteriors designed by prominent architectural firms such as Marmol Radziner, known for revamping some of the most architecturally important homes in Los Angeles. Some of the wealthiest buyers have brought on high-end interior designers or used the design services of trendy, celebrity favorites such as One Kings Lane. The trailers are owned by celebs and other wealth-havers who use the cove as a beach-front refuge from their inland mansions. 

These buyers are driving prices in Paradise Cove way up, bolstered by low inventory and pandemic-induced demand for homes by the ocean, local agents said. Roughly 30 trailers have sold in the past three years for sums as high as around $5 million, according to listings website Zillow, though that figure doesn’t include a number that sold off market, real-estate agents said. In March, a three-bedroom mobile home came on the market for $5.85 million; if it sold for close to that amount, it would likely set a record for the cove, agents said. Agents point to the $5.3 million sale in 2016 of a mobile home owned by Ms. Nicks as the likely current record holder, but others noted that they had heard of off-market deals at up to $7 million.

The pictures of the location and the homes are stunning. This is no ordinary trailer park.

Such communities generally do not have a positive reputation in the United States. They offer cheaper housing, residents do not own the land under their homes, and wealthier residents generally do not want to live near them. This is why I titled one published paper “‘Would Prefer a Trailer Park to a Large [Religious] Structure'”: Suburban Responses to Proposals for Religious Buildings” because of the shocking claim from one suburban resident that they would rather live next to a trailer park in their wealthy suburb than near a proposed mosque.

I can only imagine some of the interactions between neighbors or within the community as homes go for multiple millions.

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