Vacant Hollywood Hills property tied to Betty Ford finds buyer

2864 E Cahuenga Blvd & Betty Ford (, Getty Images)
2864 E Cahuenga Blvd & Betty Ford (, Getty Images)

An 18-acre hilltop property once owned in part by former First Lady Betty Ford has found a buyer.

Sandra Vidal, the agent who represented the seller, said that the property was in escrow, with the sale expected to close on November 30. Vidal, citing the pending closing, declined to specify the price but said the deal was close to the property’s $30 million asking price.

The site, marketed as “a jewel for developers,” represents a rare, fairly large chunk of vacant land in the Hollywood Hills. It is located off of Cahuenga Boulevard East, directly above the 101 Freeway, with views of the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Reservoir and Downtown L.A.

The 18-acre site was created by merging multiple parcels. Part of the property was once owned by Ford, according to Forbes, and some was previously owned by the violinist Israel Baker.

Ford, a native Chicagoan who was married to President Gerald R. Ford, established a Southern California base in the Riverside County city of Rancho Mirage in the years after the couple moved out of the White House. The socially-minded first lady co-founded the Betty Ford Center, a substance abuse treatment facility there in 1982.

She might have viewed the Hollywood Hills property as a place to extend the center’s presence.

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“While there isn’t any concrete evidence of Betty Ford having plans to build a center on this land, it is a solid assumption,” Shauna Walters, a Compass agent who previously had the listing, told Forbes in 2019, “as the site has beautiful views and an overall peaceful, serene feel.”

The seller was Behzad Forat, a Studio City businessman, who bought 4.5 acres of the site from Baker in 2007 for $600,000, according to records. In 2015, Forat revealed plans to build a 250-unit residential complex on the land; at one point he was also in talks with former L.A. councilman Tom LaBonge about securing a zoning change for the property in exchange for donating part of it for public use.

But development plans fell through, and the property was subsequently marketed as a site for a spec mansion. It was listed for $30 million in early 2019, then pulled on and off the market at the same listing price. It went into contract once in April only to be relisted in October.

“He’s just ready for the next chapter,” Vidal said of Forat’s reason for finally selling. “He’s a businessman.”

Besides a residential complex or spec mansion, previous reports suggested the hilltop property could potentially be used as some kind of grand institutional building or foundation center, but for now the site’s future remains unknown.

The buyer’s identity remains undisclosed. Vidal added that she never spoke with the buyer directly and was unaware of any plans for the property.

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