Beverly Hills? Schmeverly Hills. Malibu? Middle-class. You want wealthy? You want residents-must-give-up-a-10-foot-strip-of-land-for-horse-trails wealthy? Rolling Hills is the place for you.
The hilltop town of the rich if not necessarily famous, located at the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is the wealthiest town in America, according to the most recent issue of Worth magazine.
To fit in, you'll need an average household income of $305,700 a year and should drop $587,900 on your one-story white house with earth-tone trim--the only kind allowed. To get in, you'll need a key to one of the private community's three gates.
"This is a community that truly cherishes its privacy," said Gordana Swanson, a former mayor and longtime city councilwoman in the community of 1,748. "They're not interested in publicity."
That's why the powerful homeowners association--which maintains the private roads, among other typically municipal duties--makes it impossible for newcomers to build multilevel, tourist-attracting California mansions.
The peninsula, which offers a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean--from the Port of Los Angeles to Santa Monica Bay in some places--was a big winner in the magazine's survey, with three other peninsula communities making the list of 300.
Palos Verdes Estates came in 35th and is the second-wealthiest community in Los Angeles County, with an average income of $107,800 and average home value of $580,800. Rolling Hills Estates was 125th, and Rancho Palos Verdes came in 137th.
Malibu, famous around the globe as the beach-side getaway of the Hollywood elite, was 74th overall, and Beverly Hills came in 83rd.
As if to keep Los Angeles from becoming too full of its West Coast self, the Worth survey points out that East Coast rival New York state has the most rich towns--81 of the 300, in fact. Long Island alone is home to four of the top 10.
The magazine, published by Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund and discount brokerage house, came to its conclusions by crunching updated census figures and other demographic data with the help of Los Angeles-based marketing software company Scan/US. The Scan/US programs covered "every populated inch of ground in the U.S."
The magazine also made "hundreds of phone calls to chambers of commerce, post offices, real estate brokers, and other local experts."
Among the study's other findings:
* Some of the towns where a Robin Leach sighting might not be much of a surprise--including Beverly Hills and Greenwich, Conn. (87th)--can be found well down the list. Their populations are among the largest of any of the listed cities, while many of the highest-ranking communities have only a few thousand residents.
* Towns in 26 states appear on the list, including Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, Illinois and North Carolina.
* The average income in the top 300 communities as well as another list of the top 50 neighborhoods is $146,000--more than three times the national average of $44,000.
* The average home is valued at $413,000--or four times the national average.
The survey does not take into account differences in cost of living, which the survey points out is more than twice as high in the New York metropolitan area than in greater Louisville, Ky.
Like Swanson of Rolling Hills, Colleen Hartman of Hidden Hills--a gated community in the southwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley that ranked 44th on the list--said she hoped the publicity over local riches wouldn't compromise the lifestyle for which residents pay so handsomely.
"Truthfully, not being in the news too much is better for the city," she said. Besides, she added, "I like to hear that we have less crime than anybody, or more fun than anybody, but more money--who cares?"
Times correspondent Frank Manning contributed to this story.
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Where the Money Is
These Los Angeles County communities are among the 300 wealthiest per capita in the country, according to Worth magazine.
Average Average Community Pop. Household Income Home Value 1. Rolling Hills 1,748 $305,700 $587,900 35. Palos Verdes Estates 12,847 $170,800 $580,800 44. Hidden Hills 1,879 $203,400 $488,700 45. San Marino 12,560 $175,500 $552,200 70. Point Dume 2,531 $151,600 $559,200 74. Malibu 15,747 $149,825 $555,371 83. Beverly Hills 34,116 $137,100 $587,900 91. Calabasas 15,076 $156,741 $482,656 111. Bradbury 877 $133,800 $507,500 119. La Canada Flintridge 18,560 $132,800 $507,500 125. Rolling Hills Estates 7,519 $123,100 $548,100 137. Rancho Palos Verdes 41,293 $121,900 $521,600 169. Manhatten Beach 31,149 $110,400 $498,900 214. La Habra Heights 6,422 $113,000 $429,200 218. Westlake Village 7,922 $109,500 $432,500 224. Topanga 5,305 $101,800 $437,400 251. Agoura Hills 25,143 $106.600 $395,400