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City Smart | Community Profile: Rolling Hills Estates


Has there ever been another community willing to import a peacock expert from 2,000 miles away to teach good manners to its own raucous peacock flock?

Today, Rolling Hills Estates, with its sprawling green pastures and trademark white fences, is the only city in the Southland whose City Hall has two hitching posts for the convenience of its horseback constituency.

Rolling Hills Estates, one of the four wealthy cities on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, clings tenaciously to its own identity. Although landlocked, its country roads are cooled by sea breezes and lined with pepper trees instead of sidewalks and street lights. Its ranch-style homes reflect a rustic lifestyle often centered on equestrian pursuits.

Unlike its three more or less equally upscale neighbors, Rolling Hills Estates has some large businesses: a country club, a shopping center and a private landfill.

For almost half a century, the town's stamping ground, the landmark Rolling Hills General Store and Post Office, has also had a public hitching post. Clerks are on a first-name basis with customers, and regularly answer the phone calls of worried parents asking whether their kids arrived safely on the school bus that stops outside.

The city got its start thanks to two enterprising men, one from England, the other from New York.

In the late 1890s, an Englishman named Harry Phillips managed the Bixby Ranch, which then covered the entire peninsula. He introduced thoroughbred Hereford bulls and marketed beef to a growing Los Angeles. He is also credited with encouraging Japanese farmers to rent ranchland for $10 an acre to cultivate vegetables.

The Bixby Ranch was sold in 1913 to New York banker Frank A. Vanderlip Sr., who envisioned the verdant region as California's Riviera and who ultimately built up the peninsula.

After World War II it became a favorite residential choice of aerospace executives, and later, of many other professionals.

Since the city incorporated in 1957 out of fear of being gobbled up by adjacent Torrance, residents have continued to maintain 30 miles of city-owned horse trails. But tennis courts are gradually replacing the old corrals.

To stimulate new business, the city and the Palos Verdes Peninsula School District transformed a long-vacant 43-acre intermediate school campus into a community center; the city earns money by leasing out space. City planners are also working on a rezoning plan for some areas, to allow businesses and new housing to share space on the same block.


* Peacock wars: In 1992, a peacock farmer from Iowa, author of "The Wacky World of Peafowl," was paid $200 a day plus expenses to control the noisy but ornamental birds. The expert's advice for controlling the birds never quite worked out because some locals adore the fowl and persist in feeding them.

* Habitat: The family of gravel magnate Linden H. Chandler donated 26 acres of open space, where visitors may walk or ride horses.


By the Numbers


Date incorporated: September 18, 1957

Area in square miles: 4

Number of parks: 7

Number of city employees: 30

1995-96 operating budget: 4 million



Latino: 4%

White: 79%

Asian: 16%

Black: .8%

Other: .2%



Population: 7,789

Households: 2,779

Average hopusehold size: 3

Median age: 43



Median household income: $88,294

Median household income/LA County: $34,965

Median home value: $669,400

Employed workers (16 and older): 3,991

Women in labor force: 53%

Men in labor force: 75%

Self-employed: 571

Car-poolers: 365



Married couple families with children: 30%

Married couple families with no children: 48%

Other types of families: 7%

Nonfamily households: 15%



Number of stores: 46

Number of employees: 417

Annual sales: $42 million

Source: Claritas Inc. retail figures are for 1995. All other figures are for 1990. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

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