Standing proud in Culver City

Times Staff Writer

It WAS the 1950s, and developer Stone & Stone began building the first homes in an area that had been an oil field. At the nearby ranch of Will Rogers Jr., actors and actresses learned to rope and ride for the many westerns that Culver City studios were churning out. Racial integration, a fight for schools and park space and the desire for a better life played out in newly established Blair Hills, as it did in many other communities across the country.

What it’s about

Miriam “Mim” Shapiro, one of Blair Hills’ first residents, moved into her Wrightcrest Drive home in June 1956.

At the time, she and her husband, Hank, along with their two children, were searching for a four-bedroom house, a rarity in those days, she said. They settled in the area largely because other young families were drawn to it as a place to raise children.


Today, the quiet, winding roads of Blair Hills, which are part of Culver City, offer homeowners and apartment dwellers access to a neighborhood park, the nearby Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area and Baldwin Hills Scenic State Park.

Shapiro is proud of the role she and her neighbors played in establishing Blair Hills Assn., a vocal neighborhood group that pushed for the community park, a school and, more recently, helped to preserve almost 60 acres that has become the state park, scheduled to open to the public at the end of the year. Developers had fought for almost a decade to put about 200 upscale homes on the site. The Baldwin Hills Conservancy eventually purchased the property.

The Blair Hills neighborhood is roughly bounded by La Cienega Boulevard on the east, oil wells on the south, Baldwin Hills Scenic State Park on the west and Jefferson Boulevard and Rodeo Road to the north.

Insider’s view

Paul Pitti, a Culver City native, said his parents were among the first 500 people to own property in the community. His mother worked as a personal maid for Pauline Frederick, a silent film star, and Pitti’s father, Ben, was her chauffeur and bodyguard. Pitti said he is named after Frederick.

Now 84, Pitti said his father worked on westerns and knew Will Rogers from the vaudeville circuit.

In the late 1920s, Pitti’s parents began assisting Rogers on his ranch near the Santa Monica Mountains. His father was a chauffeur for Rogers’ wife, Betty, and also taught Rogers’ two boys to rope and ride.

Pitti remembers the oil fields that preceded the homes and tree-lined residential steets that today define Blair Hills. Once, he recalls, a show horse belonging to his older brother became stuck in an oil slump southeast of what is now Blair Hills Park.

Oil remains a part of the lives of the residents here. Los Angeles County is working to establish guidelines to determine whether more drilling can or should be done.

Housing stock

Dannie Cavanaugh of Cavanaugh Realtors said people “tend to stay when they buy up there,” in reference to the low number of home sales in Blair Hills. In the last 12 months, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom, single-story home on Lenawee Avenue sold for $735,000. The 1,784-square-foot home was built in 1957.

A Stoneview Drive home sold in December for $800,000. The four-bedroom, two-bathroom, 2,023-square-foot home was also built in 1957. Another home on Stoneview sold for $600,000 in July. The 1,865-square-foot home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Report card

The Blair Hills neighborhood is served by the Culver City Unified School District, which has five elementary schools. El Marino Language School scored 903 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2008 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. El Rincon Elementary scored 835; La Ballona Elementary, 797; Linwood E. Howe Elementary, 807, and Farragut Elementary, 842. Culver City Middle scored 800 and Culver City High School, 750.