Millions in Malibu Real Estate Goes Up in Smoke

A smaller lot of land on Malibu Road is worth about $6 million, according to Rhodes, a real estate agent and resident. Currently, an 'ex' of fashion designer Perry Ellis sold her home for more than $20 million, he said.

Still, these celebrities, especially in times of disaster, "are just people," Rhodes said.

"Most of these actors and actresses live out here because they like the small-town feeling. You might end up at the movies with Barbra Streisand or at the supermarket with Pierce Brosnan," he said.

The city, with its 27-mile coastline -- the longest in California -- calls bragging rights for residents like Dustin Hoffman, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli, and Mel Gibson. And former stars Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon and Carroll O'Connor.

Malibu has a long history of providing a playground for Hollywood stars.

From the late 1800s until 1938, Malibu was the exclusive property of Massachusetts millionaires Frederick and May Rindge, who founded Union Oil and Southern California Edison. They owned the entire Malibu coastline, and cut off the public with chained gates and armed guards patrolling on horseback.

The "Malibu Colony" became a favorite of movie stars when it opened up to the public for the first time in 1929. With money problems, the widowed May Rindge was forced to invite a few wealthy celebrities to build vacation homes on her private beach.

A small cloister of Hollywood celebrities arrived in the early 1930s with stars such as Barbara Stanwyck, Clara Bow, Ronald Coleman and Gloria Swanson. Like Rindge, celebrities prized their privacy, and the colony offered protection from the curious public.

Today, the gated community -- not far from the fire-ravaged area -- is a virtual who's who of Hollywood, with residents who include Pamela Anderson, Barbra Streisand, Ted Danson, Courteney Cox-Arquette, Tom Hanks, Linda Ronstadt, Larry Hagman, Jeff Bridges and Howie Mandell, according to the Web site Seeing-stars.com.

When Johnny Carson bought his Malibu Colony beach home in 1983 for $10 million, it was the most expensive house ever sold in Los Angeles County, and had 24-karat gold fixtures in the bath, a waterfall, and 11,000 square feet of living space, the Web site says.

Malibu's dazzling beach property has been a battleground for challenging California law that holds the ocean belongs to everyone. In 2002, record mogul and film producer David Geffen waged an unsuccessful war to keep celebrity gawkers and surfers off his property.

Other stars -- like Julie Andrews and her husband, Blake Edwards -- complained that surfers were destroying their pristine views of the sea.

"The real issue here is money," Steve Hoye told Environmental News after forming an activist group Access for All. "These people who live on the beach here think that the public cannot be trusted to walk or swim in front of these million-dollar houses."

Since Geffen's failed lawsuit, the public is free to roam up to the mean tide line, the part of the beach that remains wet at high tide, Rhodes said.

"We welcome the public if they treat it well, and they don't drink and bring their dogs and cause problems," Rhodes said.

Besides the beach, hot-button issues in the city are much like those in the rest of the United States -- real estate values, the demise of small businesses, and development that changes the community, according to Malibu Times Editor Laura Tate.

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