Westside Oasis : Beverlywood's well-kept homes, private security draw residents to unincorporated area

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Sheri Ross Gordon is a writer and editor in Culver City

Every year, Beverlywood resident Greg Bernstein has to buy more and more Halloween treats. "This time, I felt like I should just buy out a candy store," joked the 36-year-old attorney as he recalled the stream of children who lined up on his doorstep.

"When we first moved in here, we were the youngest family on the block. Now, there are tons of kids. The area's really changed."

But a few blocks away in this neighborhood south of Beverly Hills, resident Dorothy Millner, 72, says the area hasn't changed much at all.

"Beverlywood is just as it was when I moved here in 1959. The streets are still safe, the schools are still good and the homes are still well kept." Back then, Millner and her husband, Martin, paid $49,500 for their three-bedroom home on Monte Mar. "The community has really worked on maintaining Beverlywood," she said.

Members of the Beverlywood Homes Assn. (which includes all 3,000 residents, since it is mandatory to join the association when you purchase a home in the neighborhood) say that by paying such close attention to the area's upkeep, they have attracted young buyers and won the loyalty of longtime residents.

The association, which collects fees of $250 to $350 a year from each homeowner, strictly enforces the community CC&R;'s (covenants, conditions and restrictions). Among other rules, residents may not put up fences or walls in their frontyards. They must paint their homes only in colors that can already be found in Beverlywood, and they must seek approval from a design-review committee for any exterior modifications. If CC&R; violations are not rectified, a lien can be placed on a home.

In keeping all homes to the same standards, the community avoids a haphazard, unkempt look, association board members contend. Some residents do grumble about "being told what color to paint my house or how to do earthquake repairs," but for the most part, they insist the benefits of living in a private community far outweigh the drawbacks.

Overzealous real estate agents sometimes stretch the true boundaries of Beverlywood, which is bordered by Robertson Boulevard on the east, Beverwil Drive on the west, Airdrome Street on the north and Beverlywood Street on the south. Signs clearly mark the entrances to the community. As graffiti, burglaries and other signs of decay continue to crop up along and to the east of Robertson Boulevard, Beverlywood homeowners have become even more diligent about enforcing these exact perimeters.

The 1,400 houses inside this small area (about a mile and-a-half north to south and the same east to west) are home to primarily affluent professionals with growing families and retirees, like the Millners, who have held onto their properties. The younger residents, many of whom are lawyers, doctors or executives at the nearby film studios, enjoy the area's proximity to Beverly Hills and Century City and its easy access to the Santa Monica Freeway, just south of Beverlywood. In terms of ethnic makeup, the community is predominantly Caucasian; three-quarters of the residents are Jewish, drawn to Beverlywood because it's within walking distance of synagogues and kosher markets.

Prices in Beverlywood start at $325,000 for a three-bedroom, two-bath home of 1,200 square feet. But first-time buyers beware: Demand is high for these lower-end homes, even with their less-desirable locations on the eastern edge of the community; one such property was sold in hours, with a line of prospective buyers still waiting outside.

A mid-level Beverlywood home--2,000 square feet, three bedrooms and a den--sells for $400,000 to $450,000. The neighborhood's most exclusive homes can be found in the center of Beverlywood, on the streets that spiral off of Circle Park. There, homes range from $500,000 to $600,000 for a 2,500-square-foot, four-bedroom home. All properties in Beverlywood are zoned for single-family living only; the bulk of the homes were built in the late 1940s and could be described as California contemporary.

"Beverlywood maintains its values better than other neighborhoods in the area--better than Beverly Hills or Westwood," said Prudential real estate agent Rick Cummings, who has been selling properties there for 33 years. "The homeowners really keep an eye on things."

Brian Dror, 23, and his wife Tabitha, 25, agree with Cummings' assessment of Beverlywood. The couple, who paid $325,000 for a four-bedroom 2,100-square-foot house on Rexford in January of 1994, like the area's serenity, the fact that there are no "party animals" to disturb them or their two young children.

Brian, a computer consultant and international trade specialist, appreciates seeing the Bel-Air private security patrol cars (which the association pays for) traverse his street every half hour or so. "The extra security makes a big difference," he said. "Criminals would rather not go into Beverlywood when they can go somewhere else without a patrol."

Beverlywood's reputation as a suburban oasis on Los Angeles' often congested Westside attracted Brian Witten and Apalla Chopra in April 1994. The newlyweds, both 28-year-old attorneys working in downtown L.A., had been looking in Pasadena ("too hot") and Mar Vista ("too far") when they spotted a 1,550-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath home on Bagley Avenue.

"We didn't think we could afford this area, but the $326,000 price tag fit our budget," Witten said. "We love the Old World charm to this neighborhood, all the families walking around together on the weekends. Beverlywood is as suburban as you can get and still be in the city."

Ed Zimbler, who has lived on Sawyer Street since 1988 and serves on the board of the association, said Beverlywood is a perfect spot for home buyers who enjoy gathering at the delis and shops of an urban location but still want the safety and quiet of a suburban setting.

"When I go into an area restaurant, I always run into lots of my neighbors," said the 35-year-old commercial real estate financier. "We all know each other."

Nowhere is Beverlywood's community spirit more evident than at Castle Heights Elementary School, one of two grade schools in the neighborhood. (Junior high students go to Palms Middle School and senior high students attend Hamilton High, all part of the Los Angeles Unified School District.) Although many parents in Beverlywood send their children to private school, according to Castle Heights Principal Sandra Carter, 65% of eligible students in the neighborhood attend her K-5 campus. And in certain ways, her school is more like a private campus than a public one: Parents hold elaborate fund-raisers to provide such extras as an art-appreciation program, a school librarian, a physical education coach and additional aides in the classroom.

Just as Beverlywood residents have set their minds to improving their children's education, so have they focused on other community concerns. For many years Beverlywood has suffered from extensive cut-through traffic, commuters trying to find an alternative to the 10 Freeway, said Ginny Kruger, planning deputy to former Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, who used to represent Beverlywood.

For the past three years, she's been discussing with residents how left-turn restrictions, speed bumps and additional stop signs could help control traffic on busy Beverlywood streets. Improved traffic flow should come within a year, she said. What impact the expansion of the 20th-Century Fox lot, located on Pico Boulevard about two miles northwest of Beverlywood, will have on the community is less cheap.

Along the way, Beverlywood residents have earned Kruger's respect. "They are a very hands-on, hard-working group of homeowners who are proud of their community," she said. "I take my hat off to them."

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At a Glance

Population

1995 estimate: 3,785

1990-95 change: 3.9%

Annual income

Per capita: 48,645

Median household: 73,402

Household distribution

Less than $30,000: 18.8%

$30,000 - $60,000: 19.5%

$60,000 - $100,000: 25.9%

$100,000 - $150,000: 17.3%

$150,000 +: 18.0%

Beverlywood Home Sale Data

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Sample Size 758 (for 10-year period) Ave. home size 1,940 (square feet) Ave. Year Built 1944 Ave. No. Bedrms 2.84 Ave. No. Baths 2.12 Pool 17% View homes 3% Central air 10% Floodzone 52% Price Range $141,000-845,000 (1994-95) Predominant Value $360,000 Age Range 5-75 years Predominant Age 48 years

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Average Sales Data

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Year Total $ per Median Sales sq. ft. price 1995* 64 $188.18 $347,031 1994 91 $188.86 $343,186 1993 46 $206.89 $387,500 1992 53 $235.70 $435,849 1991 59 $258.02 $481,016 1990 45 $271.66 $470,000 1989 71 $259.15 $481,394 1988 104 $225.27 $411,538 1987 106 $183.94 $338,830 1986 119 $140.35 $256,029

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*1995 data current through December.

Source: TRW Redi Property Data, Anaheim

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