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Neighborhood Spotlight: Beverly Grove, once a wallflower, proves itself a dynamo

Beverly Grove was born as a series of car-oriented subdivisions on the far-flung outer edge of a young Los Angeles — farther out, even, than the trolleys ran.

Today, the once-sleepy neighborhood is popular, dynamic and fast-changing, and a locus of concern about the threat of the mansionization of L.A.’s historic suburbs.

Long before its tidy rows of little Spanish Revival homes began to be displaced by massive modern boxes built on spec to be shilled by the cast of “Million Dollar Listing,” before the fortress-like Beverly Center beached itself at the corner of La Cienega and Beverly boulevards and before the paparazzi stalked the stars on Robertson Boulevard, Beverly Grove was just another pleasant collection of new housing tracts.

Like the Fairfax District to the east, Beverly Grove arose out of the dusty, oil-rich plains of the old Rancho La Brea and was a popular destination for Jewish Angelenos.

It was about as far as the city of Los Angeles reached in those days, where the western city limits bumped up against button-downed Beverly Hills and unincorporated West Hollywood, with its nightlife free-for-all.

It was the kind of neighborhood that all of the oral histories remember fondly. And it’s no wonder: At the center of it for nearly three decades was Beverly Park, a popular amusement park where Walt Disney was said to have drawn inspiration for Disneyland.

Beverly Park stood near the same corner where the Beverly Center is now, at the same intersection that marks the epicenter of the 30-mile studio zone, a relic of Old Hollywood from which “TMZ” got its name.

Today the city’s most famous hospital is here, along with some of its best restaurants. The best star-watching has moved east to the Grove and away from Robertson, although the Ivy still abides. La Cienega Boulevard continues to go vertical with a new residential tower from Rick Caruso, and the tired old Beverly Center is getting yet another makeover.