The story goes that a high-level member of a royal family, of the prince/sultan/sheik variety, was house shopping in Orange County a few years ago, viewing estates in Pelican Crest, Pelican Point and Shady Canyon. He looked at Vista del Lago, the 12.5-acre compound under construction at One Pelican Hill that at one time was listed at $87 million. He looked at $20 million and $30 million homes on Harbor Island, in Bayshores, Irvine Cove and Emerald Bay. Finally, he spotted a piece of land large enough to accommodate an O.C. estate.
Pelican Hill Resort's world-renowned
golf course beckons the über-wealthy.
“How much?” he asked, pointing toward the open space of Crystal Cove State Park.
“It’s protected land,” he was told. “It’s not for sale.”
“This is America,” he is said to have replied. “Everything is for sale.”
The story is instructive on at least one point: O.C. is a desirable global destination for the world’s wealthiest travelers, real-estate investors and luxury shoppers.
We’re talking about the one-tenth of 1 percent who are free to travel the world and live anywhere they please. More and more are choosing O.C. as a place to stay, if only for part of the year.
Take a drive up San Joaquin Hills Road and look across the arroyo to One Pelican Hill, the 16,600-square-foot estate that once took its Vista del Lago name from its private lake. It’s now owned by Japanese newspaper publisher Toshiaki Ogasawara, 81. Ogasawara is publisher and chairman of The Japan Times and chairman of Nifco Inc., a plastics company established in 1967, when he was named the firm’s president.
He reportedly paid cash, $18.5 million, after an April auction that drew four bidders (down from 12 or so, many also foreign nationals, who were expected to bid).
Around the bend from the Ogasawara estate is The Resort at Pelican Hill, where wealthy Middle Eastern families again took up residence in the weeks preceding the 30-day Islamic calendar month Ramadan, which began July 20. (In London they call it the Ramadan Rush when Middle Eastern visitors and vacationers account for 80 percent of the occupancy of many five-star hotels, according to British reports.)
Locally, the impact is obvious to anyone who frequents the area’s coastal enclaves and luxury centers. An upscale Middle Eastern aesthetic is evident on the beaches, in the stores and at the resorts, as fashionable women in designer head scarves shop at South Coast Plaza and Fashion Island; valets park luxury automobiles with Arabic license plates flown in for the summer; and security men with large, cash-filled briefcases sit discreetly in clubs and restaurants as their clients dine, ready when the time comes to settle the tab in large bills.