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Sam Hall Kaplan

Hollywood Enclave With Spirit

January 24, 1987|Sam Hall Kaplan | Kaplan also appears in The Times' Real Estate section.

Hollywood Heights' formal block party celebrating its community spirit is held every August; the informal party is every day.

Climbing the hills northwest of Highland and Franklin avenues, the community's cluster of Mediterranean, Moorish and Moderne-style houses and apartments is one of those architectural enclaves in the varied landscape of Los Angeles that manages to be inclusive and welcoming.

Blossoming vines spill over stucco and concrete block walls lining twisting, turning streets; potted plants sit on window sills and terraces, and occasional tile work and individualistic doorways peek out from behind wrought-iron fences.

Then there are the hillsides, laced with meandering public paths and stairways tunneling through profusions of wild vegetation and presenting, from raw crests and melanges of balconies, breathtaking views of Hollywood and the city beyond.

The setting and a sprinkling of landmark structures, including singular houses by Frank Lloyd Wright and his son, Lloyd Wright, have lent themselves well to a strong neighborhood identity and spirit.

Hollywood Heights has needed this spirit, for like so many other communities in and around Los Angeles over the last few years it is involved in a continuing effort to keep its quality of life from being nibbled away by avaricious developers and insensitive bureaucrats.

These efforts have included fighting off a proposal for an out-of-scale and out-of-character housing complex on the site of a dated bungalow court by helping to get the court declared a landmark and get the county to assume responsibility for recycling it.

Most recently it was joining with the neighboring communities of Outpost Estates and Whitley Heights to exact an agreement from a developer that more than half of the space of a commercial complex planned for the area would be set aside for a full service market.

Not content with the agreement, the communities then had it translated into a city ordinance that defines the type and number of stores to be included in the complex. The resulting precedent-setting ordinance emphasizing neighborhood services was approved last month by the City Council.

"We don't need more one-hour photo service shops, video stores or junk food stands that are included in typical mini-malls," explained Grayce Baldwin, president of the Hollywood Heights Assn., at a luncheon amid a hanging garden on the terrace of her Camrose Avenue house.

"What the community needs is a supermarket, like the one we had that was knocked down for the mall," said Theo Wilson. A former ace reporter for the New York Daily News, Wilson edits a tart, tasty newsletter for the association that has done much to keep the community informed and local politicians alert.

"And that is what the ordinance guarantees, and what we are going to make sure we get," said Bonnie Wolfe, who represents the association in reviewing the architectural plans of the mall's developer.

After the luncheon celebrating the ordinance and not incidentally Baldwin's cooking (she is caterer of note), there was a tour of the tight community of about 750 families.

This included a ride up a private elevator in a mock Bolognese tower at the end of Hightower Drive to emerge amid the hillside cluster of houses and apartments. (Maintained by the 30-member Hightower Elevator Assn., the elevator requires a key. The alternative access is by stairs and pathways.)

Most of the structures in the slick, Moderne style were designed and developed in the 1920s by architect Carl Kay. An exception is 2200 Broadview Terrace, a delightful Expressionist exercise of Lloyd Wright built in 1922.

Wright's father two years later constructed one of his famous concrete "knit-block" houses on an adjoining hill at 1962 Glencoe Way. Known as the Freeman house, it is a national historic landmark.

Nearby on the top of Sycamore Drive is one of Los Angeles' more delightful spots, the Yamashiro restaurant. Set in a garden with a marvelous view of the city, the sprawling structure, a cross between an oversized California bungalow and a Japanese post-and-beam palace, was built in the early 1910s as a private home for Adolph and Eugene Bernheimer, two importers of Oriental art.

Also on the commercial edges of Hollywood Heights is the French nouveau Gothic splendor of the Magic Castle, at 7001 Franklin Ave.; the imposing English neo-Gothic First Methodist Church of Hollywood, 6817 Franklin Ave., and the tile-ornamented, modern Classical-styled American Legion Hall at 2035 Highland Ave., which for the last few years has served as an evocative stage set for the hit play "Tamara."

But what distinguishes Hollywood Heights most is the rapport one senses among the buildings, the landscape and the residents.

"This really is a special place," says Wilson.

It indeed is because those who care about the entwined heritage and future of Hollywood Heights have made it so.

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