This is one of those places where you suck in your breath, let out a low whistle and think, "So this is how the other half lives." Nestled in the mountains, Thousand Oaks' Hidden Valley might be called the millionaires' bargain club.
What it's about
First, let's talk about what it isn't. It isn't the Sherwood Country Club, the premier golf community right next door that has drawn the likes of hockey giant Wayne Gretzky and Memphis Grizzly Mike Miller. Although many Hidden Valley residents no doubt play on the Lake Sherwood golf course, what they go home to is far more genteel, ranchy and less manicured.
Residents of Hidden Valley's 60 or so homes -- including 10 in the gated White Stallion community -- are horse ranchers, gentleman farmers and hobbyist winemakers mixed in with captains of industry who just want a nice place to raise their kids. There is even a sprinkling of longtime homeowners living in more modest houses than the Mediterranean and English country mansions that are now emblematic of Hidden Valley.
Lots are a minimum of 20 acres, and the settings are straight out of a Grey Poupon commercial: long circular driveways, polo field lawns, tennis courts and service entrances.
Don't be blinded by the wealth, said Kathi McLean of Re/Max Olson, Westlake Village. Many residents are here mainly for the family lifestyle, she said. "Having such large lots means 'You want a soccer field?' Out comes the tractor."
Perhaps the most famous resident -- at least the richest -- is octogenarian David Murdock, who has repeatedly made Forbes magazine's list of the planet's wealthiest people. He owns Dole Food Co., the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables. Murdock built the Sherwood Country Club and is responsible for much of the area's development. He lives on a 2,000-acre estate -- the biggest parcel in Hidden Valley -- high atop a hill overlooking land he developed.
Long before Murdock purchased the land in 1984, the Sherwood lake area already had a vivid history. Originally known as Lake Canterbury, the 165-acre lake got a name change after the area was used in the filming of "Robin Hood" -- starring Douglas Fairbanks -- in 1921, and people began calling it Sherwood Forest and Maid Marian Park.
Who goes here?
This is a celebrity-studded neighborhood -- Jamie Foxx bought here recently, joining Tom Selleck and former Major League Baseball player Todd Zeile and his wife, 1984 Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Julianne McNamara.
Sophia Loren owned a ranch here for many years but has since sold La Concordia; Sylvester Stallone was one of the original Hidden Valley owners. Hidden Valley is a "secret," said Re/Max Olson agent Jordan Cohen. "Just compare this to Westside prices."
No doubt it's a relative bargain to those who shop for homes in the multimillion-dollar price range, but Cohen acknowledges that some people find the 30 miles or so to the studios to be just too far away from the hubbub. Others appreciate the fact that an $8-million home here would cost four times as much in Bel-Air and wouldn't come with the peaceful acreage.
Only three properties are on the market right now. Some land parcels are also available.
The homes include a $7.9-million privately gated estate on 20 view acres with separate guest quarters, a sports court and a home theater. The 9,000-square-foot home has been remodeled over the last 18 months.
Also on the market is a 12,600-square-foot newly built French chateau with seven bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. It is listed at $13.9 million. The home is set on a promontory 1,200 feet above sea level that provides spectacular views. There is a 3-acre vineyard, a wine cellar, a home theater and a 2,000-square-foot master bedroom suite accessible by private stairway. The flooring is stone and hardwoods with hand-carved mahogany columns and cabinetry. There is a raised spa and a 40-foot creek that flows into a 30- by 60-foot infinity pool surrounded by natural rock.
The third available property, at $15.9 million, is still under construction. The estate has seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms in 13,500 square feet.
Hidden Valley children can attend public schools in the Conejo Valley Unified School District. Westlake Elementary scored 908 out of a possible 1,000 in the Academic Performance Index Growth Report for 2007. Colina Middle School scored 886; Westlake High scored 835.
Sources: Kathi McLean, Re/Max Olson, www.mcleanteam.com; Jordan Cohen, Re/Max Olson, jordancohen.com; api.cde.ca.gov.