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.

Get a house that is zero-carbon over its lifetime…for $32 million in Malibu

It will take a little money to acquire the first zero-carbon home in California:

Photo by Vinicius Maciel on Pexels.com

The roughly 14,400-square-foot modern ranch-style house has all electric appliances and mechanical systems, and comes with an organic vegetable garden, orchard and apiary, according to marketing materials. In addition, the develop said it reduced carbon emissions during construction by using alternative building materials.

“This home will have zero [carbon] emissions throughout its lifetime,” said Scott Morris of Crown Pointe Estates, developer of the home. The average U.S. home emits 8.3 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data…

Until recently, developers have focused on reducing energy use in homes, but attention is expanding to include cutting embodied carbon, the greenhouse gases that are emitted during the manufacturing, transportation and disposal of building materials, said Cliff Majersik, a senior adviser at the Institute for Market Transformation, a Washington, D.C., think tank with public and private funding that promotes investment in low-energy building. If the developers rigorously reduced and measured embodied carbon, and offset the remaining carbon, it would be a “very impressive achievement,” he said.

According to Mr. Morris, Crown Pointe reduced the embodied carbon in this home’s construction by replacing 80,000 pounds of steel in the original home design for sustainable timber. It says it slashed its concrete usage by 14% by replacing a concrete-slab foundation with a crawl-space foundation. And rather than place a concrete subfloor beneath the wood and stone floors, it used a rubber underlay made from recycled tires. Around 25% of the concrete used is recycled, the developer said.

This is a cool feat and yet it is not exactly anything close to an average home. The irony here is that this zero-carbon home both costs so much – it is a luxury in a premium location to be zero-carbon – and it is such a big house – a reduced environmental footprint yet still taking up a lot of land and having a quintessentially American square footage. Does this make being zero-carbon a status symbol?

How long until this kind of home is within reach of more homeowners? Some of this technology would be possible in much smaller homes but it could still be costly to eliminate carbon from all the other materials.

Can you replace a $4.1 million dollar Malibu home with a McMansion?

The typical image of a teardown McMansion is something like this: in an older neighborhood, a 1950s ranch home is purchased, torn down, and replaced with a 3,500 square foot new home that dwarfs its neighbors. While this is a concern for many communities across the United States, can you possibly have a teardown McMansion in Malibu that would replace a $4.1 million dollar home?

Shangri-La was recently listed on the Malibu real estate market for $4.1 million — the first time it’s been for sale in over 30 years. Known best as Bob Dylan’s recording studio, Shangri-La was also a studio and hangout for other rockers like Clapton, Robbie Robertson, Joe Cocker and Pete Townsend. More recently, the house hosted Adele and Kings of Leon while they each spent time in the recording studio…

Listing agent Shen Schulz of Sotheby’s International explained that the current owners are looking for a buyer who will carry on the property’s legacy.

“This is a very special property,” Schulz said. “They don’t want it to be torn down and turned into a McMansion. We want a musician that will carry on the energy and pass the baton.”

Although perched on the bluffs above picturesque Zuma Beach, this home doesn’t look like a typical million-dollar beach retreat in ritzy southern California where median Malibu home values are over $1.5 million. While the home doesn’t have a pool, it does have two recording studios — an extensive one in the lower level of the home as well as a smaller one in the vintage Airstream trailer parked on the lawn.

The price of the home would suggest that it is not just any old ranch home. It is difficult to find specifics about the home itself rather than its recording legacy – even the listing or the house’s own website doesn’t say much about the actual home. The real estate listing does say that the home was built in 1958, it has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, and has a total of 4,449 square feet. This is a rather large ranch home.

But all of this makes clear that this particular home should not be bought because of a remodeled kitchen or even the views of the ocean. A buyer of this late 1950s ranch will be buying into rock history. The idea that the home would be replaced by a McMansion seems to suggest that the term McMansion here refers to a home without true character. Shangri-La certainly has character and a new home simply can’t compete with a background as a bordello and analog recording studio. While a typical argument against teardown McMansions is that they change the character of a neighborhood, the argument here is that a teardown would deprive musicians (and others?) of hallowed ground. You could build a beautiful and bigger new home with even more recording space (and egads, digital equipment?) and it just wouldn’t be the same.

By the way, this is one of the most expensive positive teardown properties I’ve ever seen. Is the price high because of the ocean views, the house’s history, or is it an effort to discourage someone from tearing down the home?