Neighborhood Spotlight: Beverlywood's postwar modesty has worn off

When famed real estate developer Walter J. Leimert stood on a bunting-festooned platform in 1940 to announce the opening of his company's newest housing tract, the gathered crowd could be forgiven if it found the site less than inspiring.

The location of the ceremony was a nearly treeless expanse of countryside, on an intersection where one of the newly paved streets dead-ended in a bean field. Empty sidewalks lined the roads. A single streetlight stood on the corner. Baldwin Hills and its crown of oil derricks hovered in the hazy distance.

But Leimert saw the potential of the location. His tract, which he dubbed Beverlywood, was next door to Cheviot Hills and right down the road from Beverly Hills. It was at the rustic, underdeveloped center of the Westside, and he knew that buyers would want to get in on the ground floor of the city’s next big population center.

Before he could fully capitalize on the demand for new homes in L.A.’s shrinking hinterlands, World War II interceded. Although he had to wait until war’s end for his new neighborhood to take off in earnest, the returning crop of veterans clutching GI Bill mortgages in one hand and a cushy office job in the other were soon lining up to pick a lot and one of five styles of homes to put on it.

Beverlywood’s curvilinear streets and cul-de-sacs with their tidy homes and maturing shade trees must have seemed like a pastoral paradise in comparison with the blasted hellscapes of the European or Pacific theater. It was the new middle-class dream come true and one of the last times real estate on the Westside would be remotely affordable for work-a-day Angelenos.

These days, if you’re going to pay well over a million dollars for a home in Beverlywood, a small home built in the 1940s doesn’t really cut it. Many owners have opted to tear down the old home and build a new one right out to the property lines.

Neighborhood highlights

Center of the Westside: Century City, Culver City, Beverly Hills and more are just a short drive away, and the shops and restaurants on Pico Boulevard are well within walking distance.

Fore!: With the Rancho Park Golf Course and the Hillcrest Country Club sitting to the west, there are plenty of nearby greens to conquer for avid duffers.

Neighborhood challenges

Mansionization: Despite efforts by the city and the Beverlywood Homes Assn., mansionization remains a very real threat to the neighborhood’s character.

Expert insight

Stanley Shapiro, president of Century 21 Beverlywood Realty, said the neighborhood has grown homogeneously over the last four decades.

“The smaller houses built after WWII have become mansions, and now most of the construction is just remodeling and expanding,” Shapiro said.

He added that Beverlywood’s great location — within walking distance of both the Jewish temples of Pico-Roberston and the posh entertainment of Beverly Hills — caters to all demographics. That, combined with the area’s low crime rate and solid schools, might make it tough for outsiders to move in.

“Lots of home here have stayed within families for decades,” Shapiro said. “Instead of moving out, people simply add on to their homes.”

Market snapshot

In the 90035 ZIP Code, based on 10 sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in October was $1,595,000, up 13.7% year over year, according to CoreLogic.

Report card

Three public schools sit within the Beverlywood boundaries. Highlights include Castle Heights Elementary, which scored 898 in the 2013 Academic Performance Index, and Canfield Avenue Elementary, which scored 889.

Times staff writer Jack Flemming contributed to this report.

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