Is everybody suddenly down and out in Beverly Hills?
It would seem that way from a new study that lists the country's 50 most expensive suburbs but somehow doesn't include Los Angeles' ermine enclave.
Authors of the report say that, far from intending to slight Beverly Hills, they have handed the city its highest honor. Beverly Hills, they contend, is just too expensive, too exclusive, too rich and too famous to meet criteria of the survey.
The study, sponsored by a nationwide home relocation service and released Tuesday, named Greenwich, Conn., and Mill Neck, N.Y., both with average home prices of $1.2 million, as the country's most expensive suburbs.
The first California suburb mentioned, ranked fifth nationally, was Atherton, south of San Francisco, where homes go for about $910,000, based on current summer sales.
San Marino (average homes for $630,000) did no better than 20th, while La Jolla ($505,000) had to settle for a 36th-place tie with Holmdel, N.J.
Then what of Beverly Hills, a city of studio-size homes where Kenny Rogers recently moved out and Marvin Davis moved in and $21.5 million changed hands in the process?
"We didn't include Beverly Hills because Beverly Hills is unto itself," explained Steve Solomon, president of the Solomon Organization of New York, the firm that structured and conducted the survey.
"With Beverly Hills you're actually talking multimillion-dollar homes to the point where it wouldn't be fair to make comparisons with other areas in the survey . . . upscale, single-family, private homes, where the sales activity represents 1% of the market place.
"We also don't see Beverly Hills as a suburb where there are commuters who daily go into Los Angeles."
There were other notable omissions from the survey, sponsored by the Relo Broker Network, a Chicago-based residential broker referral organization of 1,100 members serving 13,000 communities.
Malibu didn't make it. "I don't think there's a Relo broker there," said Solomon.
Newport Beach? "Same problem as Malibu," added Solomon. "That's one deficiency of the survey, not the most scientific study of conditions in the real estate market place."
That confession, however, did not appease Jeffrey Hyland, president of the Beverly Hills Board of Realtors.
He sizzled at the suggestion that any survey of expensive homes would exclude his turf.
Beverly Hills, he said, can match Greenwich unit-for-unit, asking-for-offer, mansion-for-chateau, any sale of the week.
Said Hyland: "From Santa Monica Boulevard on up, the average teardown (cost of site clearance) begins at $1 million and that's a small, sub-scale lot. Closer to Sunset, you can't buy a teardown for less than $2 million."
Even in the Beverly Hills equivalent of a low-income neighborhood (the area south of Santa Monica Boulevard and the area behind the Beverly Wilshire Hotel) nothing comes cheap.
"We've had two sales there of $1 million apiece," said Hyland.
And home expenses for Marvin Davis, it should be noted, did not end with his purchase price for the Rogers' house.
Before moving in, Davis spent an additional $10 million upgrading his new home.