Beverly Hills' poorest residents live above Whole Foods Market

Not surprisingly, there is a big gulf between the haves and have-nots in Beverly Hills, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

While the richest fifth of Beverly Hills households make an average of nearly $661,000 a year, the poorest bring in less than $14,500.


That means the wealthiest fifth make more than 45 times as much as the poorest fifth, the biggest gap between rich and poor among California cities of similar size or larger, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of Census Bureau estimates spanning 2010 to 2012.

Times reporters Emily Alpert Reyes and Martha Groves explored the unlikely place in Beverly Hills where some of the city's poor citizens live:

And nowhere is that more obvious than at the apartments above the Whole Foods. The building is indeed the only housing in Beverly Hills subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, city officials say.

Its elderly residents include longtime Beverly Hills denizens who suffered catastrophic health problems or failed to save adequately for retirement, along with poor Angelenos who had previously lived elsewhere.

For the formerly affluent, staying in Beverly Hills is a comfort, a part of their lives that didn't have to change along with their fortunes. For those who have never known wealth, it is an unexpected foray into a radically different world — a chance to be part of a famously ritzy community, on a budget.

Built in 1984 on city-owned land, the complex has 151 units. It is one of 18 buildings operated by the nonsectarian, nonprofit Menorah Housing Foundation. Residents typically pay about 30% of their income for rent, although medical expenses can qualify tenants for reduced payments.

Applicants must be at least 62, with a maximum income of $29,000 for one-person households.

Inside the dorm-like building is a community room where classes are held on knitting, light exercise and conversational English (for the many Farsi-speaking residents). From the central courtyard, residents can survey the dome of nearby City Hall.