"Live in a dream world high above the city, yet minutes from downtown, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, the beaches." Residents say that ad, written in 1950 for Baldwin Hills Estates, still describes their community.
Development came to this farm land in 1950. Baldwin Hills Estates was subdivided into lots for homes touted as luxurious, refreshingly modern and centrally located with panoramic views overlooking the L.A. Basin. The first streets — all named after Spanish noblemen — drew much attention.
What it's about
Right from the start, homeowners have taken pride in their custom-built houses, ranging from mid-century ranch to Tudor, Cape Cod and other traditional styles, set along quiet cul-de-sacs, dead-end lanes and meandering streets that twist and curve up, around and down the hills east of South La Brea Avenue, southwest of Santo Thomas Drive, south of the Jim Gilliam Recreation Center and north of Stocker Street in southwest Los Angeles.
Keeping the name straight matters to those — primarily African American professionals — who live here; among them retirees who fought to integrate the subdivision, named after land baron Elias Jackson "Lucky" Baldwin, despite a racial covenant that originally banned blacks. They would prefer their area, nicknamed "the Dons," not be confused with Baldwin Vista, another affluent hillside area west of South La Brea, or Baldwin Village, a tough neighborhood of apartment buildings, a world away in the flatlands closer to Crenshaw Boulevard.
Art and Kandee Copper have a postcard-worthy view. On a sunny day, they can see the Hollywood Hills, downtown skyline, mountains, Century City, Beverly Hills, the Coliseum, USC, Staples Center and Dodger Stadium. Art Copper, principal of Paul Revere Charter Middle School, said the view sold them on the house, their second in Baldwin Hills Estates. They bought the four-bedroom, 4,700-square-foot home in 1997 for $475,000. It's on one of the neighborhood's highest elevations.
Another plus, in a city where driving time matters, is its central location. Copper can get to his school near the intersection of the San Diego Freeway and Sunset Boulevard in 25 minutes. His wife spends about the same amount of time commuting to her job downtown.
Celeste Williams, an airline manager, can reach her office at LAX in 13 minutes. Her house, built on a hill and surrounded by trees and shrubs, is painted the identical shade of turquoise as a government building she admired during her travels to Aruba.
She bought the three-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bathroom home for $365,000 sight unseen in 2001 at the urging of her real estate agent, having lost three bidding wars on other nearby homes. "Feel that breeze," she said.
"The air quality is the best," she added, sharing an observation made in 1950s ads that pronounced the area "located in the smog-free hills."
Good news, bad news
Crime is minimal, said Robert Cole, head of the Baldwin Hills Estates Homeowners Assn. "The worst crime is burglaries," he said, and they happen most frequently on the through streets Don Miguel Drive and Don Felipe Drive.
The most common problem handled by the association, which enforces the covenants, conditions and restrictions that govern the area, are "neighborly disputes over blocking the view" he said, although some residents complain about the use of their streets as "a lover's lane" and a controversy is brewing over the splitting of a lot. An architectural committee must approve any addition or new home designed to exceed the height restriction. No fences can be taller than 6 feet. And if you put out your garbage cans earlier than 6 p.m. the evening before collection day, expect a written reminder of the rules.
"It's a great place to raise children," Cole said. However, some parents express concerns about neighborhood schools and send their children to private, parochial or charter schools.
On the market
Twelve of the community's 1,080 houses are on the market, according to Penny Williams, an agent with Pat Penny Realtors whose family has lived in Baldwin Hills Estates for three generations, since 1958. Those homes include an older three-bedroom, two-bath house with 1,833 square feet listed for $749,000 and a newer four-bedroom, three-bathroom, two-story house with 2,768 square feet, built in 1988, that is listed for $1.2 million.
"Most of the new houses are along Don Carlos because of the fire," she said, referring to a 1985 arson blaze that killed three people and destroyed 53 homes.
The local public schools are Baldwin Hills Elementary, which scored 773 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report; Audubon Middle School, 567 and Susan Miller Dorsey High School, 521.
gayle.pollard-terry@latimes .comSources: "Historic Adobes of Los Angeles County" by John R. Kielbasa; The Times archives; http://www.cde.ca.gov .