Amazon Studios and Apple both recently have signed leases at Culver Studios (once owned by Cecil B. DeMille and later Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball), the movie lot anchored by the “Mansion,” a white, columned structure that was Tara for certain scenes in Gone With the Wind. HBO is planning a move to the Washington Boulevard site of restaurant supply store Surfas, with architectural group Gensler tapped to design. The former 1980s Sony Pictures Plaza building is mid-makeover and will house a mix of offices and retailers (Equinox already has leased 32,000 square feet). Nearby, the $300 million Ivy Station project will include a 148-room boutique hotel, apartments, offices, shops and restaurants.
The new arrivals join Beats, Disney’s Maker Studios, gaming company Scopely, digital marketing firm SteelHouse and PopSugar LA — many of them clustered around the Hayden Tract, a former industrial area now known for its architecturally experimental buildings. The influx of world-class creative businesses has in turn impacted the area’s residential market — the median home sale has jumped 27 percent in the past year, according to Trulia. “When you have high-paying jobs in a region, increases in home prices follow suit,” notes UCLA Anderson School of Management professor Paul Habibi. “And the fact that it’s a sovereign, independent city with its own services, planning and zoning is attractive to developers and investors.” The May 2016 extension of the Expo Line, linking Culver City to Santa Monica, has only added to the allure.
Real estate agent Todd Miller has been seeing a lot of buyers who are priced out of Beverly Hills and Santa Monica — “tech and entertainment people who make good money and want to buy or live in high-end rentals,” he notes. “I used to tell people Culver City homes would all be million-dollar homes when they were selling for $600,000 to $800,000 a few years ago, but now I have to start saying they’ll be $2 million homes. It’s crazy.”
Ty Burrell didn’t double his money, but he came close: The Modern Family star bought a 1,680-square-foot condo for $865,000 in 2010 and sold it in April for $1.432 million. Ali Wong (Netflix’s Baby Cobra) and Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira also have homes here. Current listings include a 968-square-foot bungalow for $1.5 million and a 3,400-square-foot contemporary for $2.75 million. “Demand is high and inventory is low, so we have clients who will look into areas that border Culver City,” says Debbie Weiss, who recently helped producers Derrick and Adriane Hopper Williams buy a Ladera Heights home for $1.58 million.
Culver City offers a unique small town/big industry juxtaposition: Tim Robbins’ Actors Gang invites kids for free workshops (with the star often in attendance), while Harrison Ford heads to dive bar Back Stage. But as housing prices surge toward $1,500 a square foot, gentrification is a hot topic on the city’s Facebook page, moderated by Dan O’Brien, a Boy Scout Troop leader and editor at Fox Broadcasting. Discussions about the lack of affordable housing are occasionally punctuated with posts by incoming buyers requesting recommendations for vegan chefs and personal trainers. “Price per square foot is very high,” says Habibi, but he adds that limited lot size will keep the city from becoming a one-percenter enclave. “Ten-million-dollar homes aren’t coming there anytime soon.”