Beverly Hills — one of the most coveted and exclusive but famous addresses in the world. The stunning villas and mansions in styles to suit every taste are just one of the reasons the city attracts an eclectic mix of entertainment industry stars and executives, successful entrepreneurs and professionals. Convenience is another — Beverly Hills is close to Century City, downtown L.A., and the movie studios in Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
Located along the northwestern edge of Los Angeles, tucked between the ocean and the mountain foothills, Beverly Hills is a 5.7-square-mile city with a population of 33,000. But that population swells to 200,000 during the day as people come to shop in the 900 exclusive boutiques and stores, to dine in the world-class restaurants, to watch for celebrities, and to work, often in one of the myriad entertainment industry firms that have offices in this prestigious city. Premier talent agencies such as Creative Artists Agency, William Morris, and International Creative Management have offices here, as do powerhouse studios such as Dream Works SKG, Castle Rock Entertainment, and Imagine Entertainment.
The Birth and Burgeoning
Beverly Hills has come a long way since its earliest recorded roots, which began with a Spanish land grant in the 1830s. The grant was awarded to Maria Rita Vladez De Villa and was known as El Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas (the ranch of the gathering waters). Spanish explorers and missionaries transformed California from Indian territory to ranching and farming. Major Henry Hancock and Benjamin Davis Wilson bought El Rancho in 1854. They paid $4,000 for it and used it to produce wheat, cattle, wool, and oil. Ownership passed to Charles Denker and Henry Hammel in the 1890s. Denker and Hammel planted almost the entire tract with lima beans to supply the restaurant they owned in downtown Los Angeles. A few years later, the bean fields were sold for oil developments and local families with familiar names in Los Angeles history, like Doheny and Richfield, made fortunes by selling the land.
The first land developer in the vicinity was Burton E. Green whose Rodeo Land & Water Company offered lots "between the city and the sea" for $900 and up. For his first subdivision, Beverly Hills, he laid out wide, curving, tree-lined streets in 1906. The luxurious Beverly Hills Hotel opened in 1912 and to this day is faithful to its traditions of elegance and glamour. The lifestyle afforded by the hotel was largely responsible for the birth of Beverly Hills' reputation as the "home to the stars," which began in 1919 when the immensely popular silent film star couple, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, bought a Beverly Hills hunting lodge and transformed it into their legendary "Pickfair" estate. Gloria Swanson, Will Rogers, Charlie Chaplin, Tom Mix, John Barrymore, Clara Bow, and Rudolph Valentino are just a few of the other major names of the day who soon followed suit, turning the bean fields that had once surrounded the hotel into prime real estate. Will Rogers became the town's first and only honorary mayor in 1925. He led the effort to build a post office for the town on Crescent Drive. It was completed in 1933 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Beverly Hills recently purchased it to turn it into a cultural center.
In the years after World War II, the city's chic reputation continued to grow, especially with the development of the Golden Triangle shopping district, with Rodeo Drive at its center. The area was successfully marketed as "the shopping destination of a lifetime." Rodeo Drive is arguably the most recognized street in the world, having been featured in megahit movies such as "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Pretty Woman." Residents and visitors alike delight in visiting the shops of the world's most celebrated designers and retailers, including Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Harry Winston, Christian Dior, and Prada. It's a great place to go celebrity watching. A folksier yet similarly popular shopping venue is the Beverly Hills Farmers' Market, on Civic Center Drive, which offers the finest of California-grown seasonal produce every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The median price for a single-family home is $2,665,000. A local Realtor says that houses that sell the fastest and for the highest prices are those that have been completely remodeled and are absolutely move-in ready. "Buyers often don't have the time or patience to get any necessary work done," she says, adding that most current buyers are locals who are taking advantage of the equity in their current properties and moving up and Europeans who are buying on the strength of their European currencies against the U.S. dollar.