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New Mansion Reflects Resurgence of Behemoth LA Homes

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By Martha Groves

Of Chateau des Fleurs’ 60,000 square feet, only about 40,000 is considered habitable by the city. The remaining third consists of underground parking and storage space, says Luke Zamperini, chief inspector for the city’s Building and Safety Department.

That appears to leave the former Spelling Manor in Holmby Hills, with 56,000 habitable square feet (plus or minus a gift-wrapping room) and a 14-vehicle carport (of perhaps 5,000 square feet), atop the throne of residential gigantism in Los Angeles County. The manor, another French-style citadel, is now owned by Petra Ecclestone, daughter of Formula One mogul Bernie Ecclestone. She paid $85 million in cash for the place, then spent millions more remodeling.

Nearby is the contemporary colossus where Tony Pritzker, an heir to the Hyatt Hotels fortune, lives with his wife, Jeanne, and their seven children in nearly 40,000 square feet, including a seven-car garage, according to the city. (Real estate blogs have put the Pritzker manse at closer to 50,000 square feet. Pritzker declined to comment on the size.)

Residents of Los Angeles’ Benedict Canyon neighborhood have battled a Saudi prince’s plan to build a sizable compound on three parcels at the end of a private road. It was originally proposed at 85,000 square feet, but an attorney for the prince says the size has been reduced.

Meanwhile, Beverly Park, a gated community of mega-homes near Bel-Air founded in 1990, is experiencing its first tear-down — of the 17,000-square-foot, fire-damaged, chateau-style manse where Lisa Vanderpump, known for her appearances on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” used to live.

Beverly Park was designed to offer the big homes not available in older communities. But Hyland noted that “17,000 square feet is a small house today, particularly if you’re in Beverly Park.”

Buyers from Singapore, Thailand, Russia and the Middle East who use L.A. as a crash pad are helping to drive the mega-house phenomenon, Hyland says.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the number of super-sized houses because real estate sources tend to focus on the value of home sales, not square footage.

Andrew LePage, a DataQuick analyst, says public records show a marked increase in sales of $20-million-plus luxury homes in Los Angeles County. From 2003 to 2008, the county recorded a total of 11 such sales. From 2010 to 2012, the county averaged 10 such recorded sales each year.

Buzz Yudell, a Santa Monica, Calif., architect, says “an inflation of expectations” is driving the big-home trend. “You start saying, ‘Shouldn’t I have an entertainment room and a gym and fill-in-the-blank because that’s what everybody’s doing?’” he says. “When does it cross over into being a pure statement — edifice complex?”

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