Guide to Beverly Hills, California

There’s got to be something special about a place that has its own coat of arms and whose name often serves in the title of a popular motion picture. Arguably though, no other city in the world has the reputation that comes with the words “Beverly Hills.” With a population of 32,000 residing in 5.7 square miles of prime real estate, Beverly Hills is one of the safest cities in California and enjoys one of the highest standards of living in all the world. Moreover, local residents have access to the finest public schools, libraries, health care and recreation facilities in the entire United States.

No doubt people from every corner of the globe at some time in their lives have seen images of the expensive homes, fancy cars, exquisite restaurants, famous movie stars and year-round sunny weather ridiculously on display throughout this exclusive Los Angeles County community.

But the images are real and the reputation is well-earned as any economically-challenged tourist or wide-eyed film viewer knows who has experienced the city up close and personal or vicariously via the media of popular culture. And as gaudy as these images sometimes are, Beverly Hills today remains a community rich and diverse in culture, viable business interests, professional opportunities and affluent living, and cherished by those who live and work there.

A COLORFUL HISTORY:

Real or imagined, Beverly Hills personifies the Southern California fun-and-sun, laid-back lifestyle and expensive wining, dining, celebrity-watching activities for which it is so famous. But this was not always the case.

Prior to the 17th Century, Beverly Hills like much of Southern California, was a quiet, wilderness countryside populated by Native Americans until it was invaded and migrated by Spanish explorers. When California became a state in 1850, so did Beverly Hills along with its Los Angeles neighbors, begin to be settled and experience incredible growth in business and trade. In 1914 the city was incorporated and became part of Los Angeles County.

Soon thereafter silent film stars Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford influenced an assortment of motion picture people to live and work in Beverly Hills and even purchased a large tract of land where they built their famous home known as “Pickfair.” Actor Will Rogers became the first and only honorary Mayor of the City in 1925, and the City Hall was built in 1931.

Since the Second World War the city experienced continued growth in its central business and financial district which, along with its many beautiful residential neighborhoods and tree-lined merchant streets, has become the complete city it is today.

From a population of 550 when it was incorporated in 1914, and 18,000 in 1930, the city has grown to over 32,000, and welcomes millions of tourists and area residents each year who come to stroll or cruise, brush elbows with the rich and famous, shop-until- you-drop or simply “do lunch” in proximity to Southern California’s most affluent businesses and Yuppie in-crowd.

A GREAT CLIMATE:

Beverly Hills enjoys an almost year-round Mediterranean-like climate with little rain, low humidity and temperatures that consistently range from the mid 60’s in winter, to the high 80’s in summer. When there is rain, it is usually between October and May, with an average rainfall of 15 inches per year.

Like all of Los Angeles County, Beverly Hills experiences sunny weather just about any time of the year; and outdoor activities like jogging, biking and window-shopping are not only expected, but encouraged.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES:

Over 200,000 people work in Beverly Hills, and a number of prestigious law firms, banks, investment houses and entertainment companies are headquartered there. Area residents enjoy a median income of $140,000 (2002), and businesses doling out this kind of salary are not only exclusive to doctors, lawyers and stock brokers.

The two largest entertainment agencies in the world – The William Morris and Creative Artists Agency – have main offices in Beverly Hills. And L.A.’s major thoroughfare, Wilshire Boulevard, bee-lines through Beverly Hills and is host to hundreds of literary, modeling, film, music and advertising companies. With its diverse collection of three and four-star hotels and restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries, department stores, clothing and jewelry outlets, boutiques, spas, salons and mini-malls, the hospitality and mercantile professions are the dominant movers and shakers doing business and providing employment in Beverly Hills.

Largest among these and providing both temporary and permanent and medium to upper-scale paying jobs are the City of Beverly Hills, Beverly Hilton Hotel, Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, 20th Century Fox Film Studio, Saks Fifth Avenue, The Beverly Center, Gibraltar Savings, the DFS Galleria, City National Bank, Cedars-Sinai Health Systems, Neiman Marcus, Playboy Enterprises, Inc. and the law firm of Ervin Cohen and Jessup.

With over 317 salons and 967 hair stylists; 300 restaurants, bars & pubs; 100 law firms and doctors’ offices and clinics; hundreds of retail stores and shops; and dozens more film and entertainment companies in the area, Beverly Hills is home to over a thousand small to medium sized companies providing employment opportunities to those who reside in and around the “Garden Spot of the World.”

TAKING UP RESIDENCE:

Approximately 90% of the City is zoned for residential use, and in 1992, there were an estimated 15,717 total dwelling units, of which approximately 52.0% were apartments, 37.5% single family houses and 10.5% were condominiums. While inexpensive apartments and house rentals are hard to find, many rental complexes have waiting lists for both single people and small families looking for permanent housing. But anything less than $800.00 per month for a single or one-bedroom rental is almost unheard of.

Home prices range from $500,000 to $10 million for an one to five bedroom home and for the sprawling estates for which Beverly Hills is so well known. The number of households in the city is 14,564, of which 8,024 are family households. But since very few residents are pulling up stake to live elsewhere now as in recent years, and new real estate construction is in short supply, neither is currently a buyer’s or seller’s market.

Having one of the best and most drug and crime-free school system in the U.S., there are six public schools in Beverly Hills, of which five are elementary, and its namesake high school of which the long-running popular television program “90210” was filmed. There are also six private schools which provide education to children and adolescents in grades K through 12.

Beverly Hills has over a dozen area parks and recreational facilities providing numerous services and outdoor activities to senior citizens, children, families and visitors alike. Largest among these is Roxbury Park which offers lawn bowling, little-league baseball, soccer fields, golf putting, basketball courts and a recreation center for both seniors and children.

Individuals and families alike can stroll along any of the city’s many manicured parks and tree-shaded streets and pause to take in the sights or enjoy a picnic lunch or read a good book. The city has more than 20,000 trees. And each street – as originally designed for urban living in 1914 – is planted with a different variety of tree to please the eye of sightseers and horticulturists alike.

DINING & LODGING:

From the ritzy shops and boutiques on Rodeo and Camden Drives to the world-renown Beverly Hills Hotel on entertainment-laden Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills is centrally located in Los Angeles County and within 20 minutes driving distance to busy Downtown Los Angeles and the beaches of Santa Monica and Malibu along the Pacific coast. This means literally hundreds of mouth-watering restaurants everywhere. Especially along La Cienega Boulevard’s “Restaurant Row” on the eastern city outskirts, where international cuisine and occasionally affordable meals of every kind are served daily in both family and romantic settings.

Some of the more elegant eating houses along Restaurant Row are the Beverly Hills Cafe, Red Lobster, The Stinking Rose – A Garlic Restaurant, Caffe Carrera, Samurai, Lawry’s The Prime Rib, Matsuhisa, Delmonico’s and the Gaylord Indian Cuisine.

Souplantation is a local favorite where an extensive, all-you-can-eat fresh salad bar and a variety of hot, baked bread are offered daily at $6.69 during lunch and $7.79 for dinner.

Another favorite is The Pine House. It is opened daily from 11:00 am to 11:30 pm and serves a number of reasonably-priced entrees in Hong-Kong style cuisine and is centrally located in the Beverly Connection Mall on La Cienega Boulevard.

Nearby Planet Hollywood, Johnny Rockets and Hard Rock Cafe are three of the most popular eateries in town where along with American cuisine, moderately-priced meals, Americana ambiance and live entertainment, celebrity watching remains the premier cultural pastime.

Or one can try the newest outbreak of trendy restaurants, clubs, bars and cafes serving everything from soup to nuts on Beverly Drive and Little Santa Monica Boulevard. Among these and many others throughout Beverly Hills are Prego, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Susanna’s Italian Cuisine, Bamboo’s House Chinese Cuisine, Balducci’s Trattoria, California Pizza Kitchen, Hamburger Hamlet and the famous celebrity hangout Chasen’s on North Canon Drive.

Larry Parker’s 24 Hour Musical Coffee Shop on Beverly Drive serves breakfast 24 hours a day and has a menu of exotic health drinks, smoothies, creative vegetarian dishes and hundreds of hamburger and fresh Mexican food dishes prepared authentically.

Located two blocks from world-famous Rodeo Drive and considered the place for great American food is RJ’s. It offers a casual, upbeat atmosphere, large plates of Cal-Mex appetizers and entrees including the Pecos Chicken Breast dinner for $7.45 and grilled salmon sandwich priced at $9.75.

Beverly Hills is renowned for its many spendy, exotic hotels. The Peninsula Beverly Hills is the only 5-Star and 5-Diamond hotel in Southern California and features 196 luxuriously furnished rooms, including 16 newly renovated villas and suites situated in beautifully landscaped fountain gardens. Its incredible rates are: single rooms for $325, double occupancy at $395, and $700 suites and $5,000 villas for one night’s stay.

The Hotel Del Flores on Crescent Drive is a little easier on the pocket book. Overnight prices at this pleasantly-furnished hotel range from $65 for single occupancy and $72 for double.

THE BEST IN SHOPPING:

Beverly Hills offers the finest and broadest array of ready-to-wear clothing, jewelry, accessories, shoes and stylish home furnishings for every visitor, every occasion and every budget. Retail sales on Rodeo Drive average approximately $700 per square foot, among the highest in the nation, and sales along Wilshire Boulevard’s department store zone average more than $600 per square foot, second only to New York City.

The Banana Republic, Cartier, The Sharper Image, The Custom Shop, Hong Kong Custom Tailors, Club Monaco, French Connection, Chanel, Ann Taylor Inc., Christian Dior, Rene Mancini, Fleur de Lis, Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. and Giorgio of Beverly Hills are only a few of the exquisite shops and boutiques offering top-of-the-line apparel and accessories to both men and women.

Two great places to shop and find bargain-priced groceries are the Whole Foods Market on Crescent Drive and Farmers’ Market on North Canon Drive. Hundreds of local and imported breads, cheeses, juices and fresh produce are on sale each day and at very affordable prices.

For cigars, cigarettes and well-priced booze, there’s the Beverly Hills Liqueur Store, The Cheese Store, Elie’s Cigar Room and Hannibal Cigars. For jewelry and precious metals, try the Beverly Hills Watch Company, Jewelry & Loan, Zina Sterling Silver and Bal’s Jewelry Coin & Loan Company.

Beverly Hills is probably the hippest place on earth to spend your money. And mass merchandising sits comfortably with some of the most famous names ever to grace brand-named commodities including Valentino, Zegna, Bulgari, Gucci, Chanel and Chrisitian Dior.

Today Beverly Hills has become more user-friendly for shoppers and gawkers alike. Perhaps Julia Roberts got ignored in the big hit movie “Pretty Woman” until Richard Gere started throwing hundred dollar bills around. And for a while Detroit policeman Eddie Murphy was appropriately snubbed in “Beverly Hills Cop,” until he won over the BHPD with brain and brawn.

But these days you don’t have to parade in a Giorgio Armani suit or Gucci gown or be a big-name movie star to shop and window-shop the pristine streets of Beverly Hills. You can come dressed in blue jeans and turtleneck sweater or even in a jogging suit. Paper and plastic of every currency are welcomed year-round, with no questions asked and no nose turned up!

RELIGION & WORSHIP:

The Jewish and Christian religions by far outnumber other religious groups in Beverly Hills. But smaller denominational faiths such as Episcopal, Pentecostal, Unitarian, Buddhist, Assemblies of God and the Friends, to name only a few, provide services and religious facilities to both resident members and tourists seeking prayer and worship during their stay in Beverly Hills.

ENTERTAINMENT:

Beverly Hills offers one of the most beautiful park settings in the world at its 18.5 acre Greystone Park. Frequently used for photography in catalogs and advertising campaigns, and as a backdrop for weddings and parties, the park has been featured in films like The Bodyguard, The Phantom, Witches of Eastwick, Indecent Proposal, Ghostbusters II and Nixon.

Visitors can enjoy a monthly guided walking tour of the many public art galleries and museums throughout the city’s Civic Center by taking the Art Walking Tour which is offered on Saturdays on an ongoing basis.

The Beverly Hills Public Library can be visited at the completion of the tour and is considered a regional cultural treasure with its large collections of books, paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs and artist books.

The Virginia Robinson Gardens, the Art and Architecture Trolley Tour, and the Museum of Television & Radio are a few other entertaining activities available year-round for those who like their experience sprinkled with historical background and cultural insight.

Visitors can also ride the Beverly Hills Trolley, which canvasses celebrity homes and enumerates some of the historical and architectural sites throughout the city. Free parking is available in 10 city structures and along the city’s many crosswalks. And Beverly Hills’ “Golden Triangle” is a walking paradise for those searching for fashion, food and photo opportunities.

Locally, Los Angeles provides the best in sports and musical entertainment, with its own major league baseball, basketball and soccer teams as well as the Los Angeles Philamonic Orchestra and Los Angeles Opera Company, Hollywood Bowl, Greek Theater and the Shubert Theatre and plaza mall with its many quaint pubs and fast-service restaurants in nearby Century City.

A number of multi-complex film houses, grocery and general shopping outlets and major department stores and boutiques are located at the Beverly Center Mall and Century City Shopping Center as well as at a number of other local malls, all within a few minutes driving distance of Beverly Hills.

Quite possibly, on any given day one can catch a glimpse of Bruce Willis strolling Robertson Boulevard or Julia Roberts shop-hopping some of the many internationally-renowned fashion houses along Rodeo Drive.

For any way you spell it, the city is one bustling, glamorous, glittery town to get wined and dined and do some serious damage to the plastic. And, while not a cheap place to live, for those who work there and occasionally come to visit, Beverly Hills can be savored inexpensively and vicariously any day of the week and unforgettably most any time of the year.

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