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The History of Bel Air

Bel Air was founded in the 1920s by one of Los Angeles’ primary real estate developers, Alphonzo Bell, who also founded the Bel Air Bay Club (an exclusive beachfront club in Pacific Palisades), and the Bel Air Country Club, which is a George Thomas designed golf course (premier private courses of his design include Los Angeles Country Club and Riviera Country Club). As history has it, Bell’s wife named the streets in Bel Air after Italian themes (such as Bellagio, Copa de Oro, Cascada, St. Cloud, St. Pierre) when the neighborhood was annexed and sold in the 1930s.  Bel Air is located North of Beverly Hills, with Holmby Hills to the East, and UCLA to the South on Sunset Boulevard. Bel Air is conveniently located minutes away from Interstate 405 to the West and a twisty stretch of Mulholland Drive on the North.

After striking oil on their ranch at Santa Fe Springs, Bell entered the oil business with his father in the early 1920s, establishing the Bell Petroleum Co., and developing what became one of the richest oil fields in California. With the ensuing California oil boom, or “black-gold” rush, competition from various less scrupulous large oil companies was fierce—several of whom, along with William Randolph Hearst, tried to drive the more honest Bell’s smaller operation out of business.

Bell, known for his almost puritanical morality and honesty, used portions of his initial profits to develop upscale real estate communities in West Los Angeles, including parts of WestwoodBeverly Hills, and Pacific Palisades. He became a visionary real estate developer, anticipating the influx of Hollywood elite and other wealthy residents who would be lured by the burgeoning film industry. In 1922, building on over 600 acres (2.4 km2) that he had acquired, Bell founded Bel Air Estates, an exclusive and upscale neighborhood now known as Bel-Air, enhancing the surrounding area with lush vegetation, new roads, and utilities; designed, laid out and developed the Bel-Air Country Club and the Bel Air Bay Club; The Riviera Country Club also owes its inception to Bell*.

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