While most luxury neighborhoods are still recovering from the COVID-19 market aftershocks, California’s sleepy but searingly expensive Montecito community has seen an unprecedented number of eight-figure real estate deals close in rapid succession. The volley arguably kicked off over the summer, around the time Meghan Markle and Prince Harry paid $14.7 million for large Montecito compound, and has yet to slow.
The latest and biggest deal so far closed last week, when one of Santa Barbara County’s largest estate parcels — a 237-acre property known as Rancho San Carlos — sold for $63.3 million, almost exactly half the unrealistic $125 million pricetag with which it was originally saddled back in 2014, when it first appeared on the market. (The massive estate’s ask eventually plummeted to $75 million before it was yanked off the market.)
Despite the deeply discounted sale price, the transaction is one of the priciest residential deals in Santa Barbara County history, eclipsing the record $50 million that Oprah Winfrey paid for her fabled Promised Land compound way back in 2001. And as was first reported by Noozhawk and confirmed by property records, the new owner is an LLC connected to Riley Bechtel, a low-profile but fabulously wealthy businessman and heir with longstanding ties to Montecito.
Rancho San Carlos is comprised of at least 10 contiguous land parcels that collectively meander from the north side of a main Montecito thoroughfare to the scenic foothills above town. Toward the northern end of the property lies a 30,000-square-foot main mansion with a broad central courtyard and dozens of rooms, including 12 bedrooms and 10 baths. The sprawling structure, built in the classic Monterey Colonial style, was completed in 1931 by noted architect Reginald Johnson.
Scattered elsewhere on the property are no fewer than 10 guest cottages, an office building, and extensive equestrian facilities. But the majority of the land is dedicated to its magnificent orchards, which include 100+ acres of avocado and citrus groves.
For nearly 100 years, beginning in the late-1920s, the property was owned by the family of investor Charles H. Jackson Jr. Together with his wife Ann, Jackson custom-built the gorgeous mansion and made it their main residence. Following Ann’s 1990 death, the property was used only occasionally by the couple’s heirs, though it’s been painstakingly maintained in the 30 years since. Bechtel does not intend to subdivide or develop Rancho San Carlos, according to his spokeswoman.
Now in his late 60s, Bechtel is the retired chairman of the Bechtel Corporation, the nation’s largest construction company, which was founded by his great-grandfather Warren Bechtel in 1898 and today employs more than 53,000. Bechtel is also known for his involvement with Theranos, the ill-fated Silicon Valley startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes.
The Forbes-listed billionaire and his longtime wife Susan maintain a primary residence in California’s affluent Silicon Valley town of Woodside, though he also owns two huge Montecito mansions — one acquired in 2011 for $16 million, the other in 2015 for $6.8 million — in addition to his new $63 million Rancho San Carlos mega-compound.