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Community Profile: Palos Verdes Estates

June 21, 1996|CECILIA RASMUSSEN

Palos Verdes Estates may not boast quite the astronomically high individual income rates of its neighbor Rolling Hills, which ranks first in California, but when it comes to exclusivity, the scenic city at the southern terminus of Santa Monica Bay takes a back seat to none.

It's a community where roof colors are dictated by city ordinance and homeowners are supposed to conceal their garbage cans from public view--even on collection day.

The oldest and arguably proudest of the four towns perched atop the exclusive Palos Verdes Peninsula, it is a place where Mediterranean villas hug the oceanside cliffs between century-old eucalyptus trees. Palos Verdes Estates also belongs to the same class of affluent Los Angeles suburbs as Beverly Hills and San Marino.

But it has never gained--nor has it sought--the limelight.

Founded in 1923 as a master-planned private development with strict building controls even then, Palos Verdes Estates--like the rest of the country--suffered during the Depression.

The Palos Verdes Home Assn., described as a "community body, improvement association, Chamber of Commerce and general welfare group all in one"--owed $33,723.43 in back property taxes to Los Angeles County. To settle accounts and in exchange for erasing the debt, the county wanted title to the association's parklands.

The association realized that only by becoming a city could they save the parklands. In 1939, after many battles within the city, the residents voted 419 to 412 for incorporation. Palos Verdes Estates was a city, and the county canceled most of the debt. That saved the city and its parklands, which constitutes a quarter of the almost five-square-mile town.

Thirty years later, another divisive issued emerged that ruffled feathers: peacocks, and their unsettling racket.

The peacocks arrived in 1923, a gift to a city founder from a friend who thought the place was too quiet. Thus the peacock wars began between residents who value their ornamental appeal and those who find them noisy nuisances. In 1985, the city hatched a plan to limit the number of finely feathered birds. It now takes a periodic census. If the bird count exceeds 67, some peacocks are trapped and sent elsewhere.

Palos Verdes Estate is the peninsula's only city with its own police force, and it boasts a crime rate that is among the lowest in Los Angeles County.

So a shock wave went through the town on Valentine's Day, 1994, when two of the city's 25 police officers, Capt. Mike Tracy and Sgt. Tom Vanderpool, were gunned down during a botched robbery at a Torrance hotel. They were the first fatalities in the department since it was founded in 1939. A memorial across from City Hall will honor these two officers.

Palos Verdes Estates Tidbit

PVE'S ONLY COVERUP: The Neptune Fountain--the city's official emblem, at Malaga Cove--is a scale model of the 16th-century "La Fontana del Nettuno" in Bologna, Italy. In the 1960s, after Palos Verdes Estates' Neptune was sent to Italy for repairs, it returned with something extra, something the Renaissance original didn't--a fig leaf.

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By The Numbers

City Business

Incorporated: Dec. 20, 1939

Area in square miles: 5

Number of parks: 0

City employees: 55

1995-96 budget: $8 million

*

People

Population: 13,512

Households: 4,908

Average household size: 3

Median age: 45

*

Ethnic Breakdown

Asian: 14%

Black: 1%

Latino: 3%

White: 82%

*

Money and Work Median household income: $101,703

Median household income / L.A. County: $34,965

Median home value: $725,900

Employed workers (16 and older): 6,947

Percentage of women employed: 50%

Percentage of men employed: 76%

Self-employed: 1,029

Car- poolers: 503

*

Retail Stores

Number of stores: 41

Number of employees: 109

Annual sales: $12 million

*

Families:

Married couples with children: 29%

Married couples with no children: 51%

Non-family households: 15%

Other types of families: 5%

Source: Claritas Inc. Household expenses are averages for 1994. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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