Naysayers talk about the high rents. Then they talk about the traffic. Then they talk about the high rents some more.
But it doesn't matter how much outsiders pummel the Westside. Los Angeles' captains of industry, entertainment and commerce still choose the area more often than any other, except perhaps downtown, to make their corporate homes.
The continuing allure of Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and the rest of the area is reflected in the number of top corporate executives who have their offices on the Westside. A Times survey of the salaries of officers in publicly traded corporations reflects the diverse economy of the Westside--with executives making top dollar for everything from banking and oil production to hospital management, clothing manufacture and, of course, filmmaking.
The salaries in the Times list come from the reports of publicly owned companies, which must reveal the pay of top officers to shareholders. The listing does not include compensation for the heads of private firms or for professionals, entertainers, educators, government employees and executives of large companies with local branches that make their corporate headquarters elsewhere. Additionally, the rankings are based on where executives work, not where they live.
Business experts say moguls like to work on the Westside because they live in the area. For movie makers, especially, there is the allure of working within power-lunching range of most of their partners and friends. There is also the power of tradition and even, in some cases, economy--older firms that moved to the Westside when prices were lower not only have an identity there, but either own their buildings or have locked in low rents.
"A lot of the executives live on the Westside, so it's very convenient for them to work here," said William Whyte, a Century City real estate broker. "The decision-makers want to keep that location close to where they are living. And the freeway congestion has continued to put a damper on moving around the city. People don't want the wait to get downtown."
Most entertainment executives insist on being among their own kind on the Westside, the business experts say.
"There is a certain critical mass that develops between Hollywood, Century City and the Westside," said real estate developer Rob MacLeod, whose clients inlcude entertainment firms. "When you develop networks, with business breakfasts and lunches, having concentrations of people becomes very important."
Other firms bought on the Westside early enough to avoid astronomical office prices. Occidental Petroleum Corp., for instance, has made its home in its signature building on Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood for more than 30 years. It owns the office tower.
The oil company placed five executives on The Times' list of the top 50 earners on the Westside, including No. 1, the late Armand Hammer.
The former Occidental Petroleum leader topped the list posthumously for all of California, as well, with total compensation of more than $28.7 million.
Hammer owed most of his rewards in 1990 to his own death in December. An employment agreement between the 92-year-old industrialist and Occidental required that a series of payments be made to trusts and foundations set up for Hammer's heirs.
Nearly $18.3 million went to the Armand Hammer Foundation and $4.6 million to the Armand Hammer Living Trust. Hammer's estate reeived $1.9 million in miscellaneous "benefits" payments, $12,025 in vested employer contributions to Hammer's savings plan, and $316,442 from "the senior executive supplemental benefit program." That makes a total of $25,106,046 in posthumous payments.
Hammer also earned a $1,487,326 salary in 1990, a $920,000 bonus and another $1.2 million when restrictions on a 62,712-share grant of stock lapsed at this death.
The payments were just another burden on beleaguered Occidental, which lost $1.7 billion last year, more than any other company in the state.
Occidental President Ray R. Irani also was among the best paid on the Westside. His $2.4 million put him 14th on the list, while Executive Vice President David A. Hentschel made more than $1 million to rank 39th.
Two companies that operate hospitals--American Medical Holdings Inc. of Beverly Hills and National Medical Enterprises of Santa Monica--also appear prominently in the listing of the Westside's highest-paid executives.
American Medical had more employees--nine--on the list than any other firm. The company's chief operating officer, John J. Silver Jr., led the way with total compensation of nearly $3.3 million, placing him eighth on the list.
National Medical Enterprises President Leonard Cohen was fourth on the list at nearly $5.2 million, while John C. Bedrosian, a senior executive vice president, was fifth at just under $3.8 million for 1990.