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Close In, High Up

Highland Park's Mt. Angelus area, with its steeply winding streets, is safe, quiet and offers panoramic views of Glendale, Eagle Rock and the mountains.

May 25, 1997|MARILYN TOWER OLIVER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Oliver is a Los Angeles freelance writer

When Aida and Ramiro Gonzalez went house hunting in 1992, a convenient and safe neighborhood was at the top of their list.

Aida, a real estate agent, worked in Highland Park. Ramiro's work as a truck driver took him all over Los Angeles County. Their search took them to Mt. Angelus, a hilly, picturesque neighborhood of about 150 older homes in Highland Park.

The two-story house they bought for $137,000 has a formal dining room, four bedrooms and two baths. It's terraced down the hillside.

"We were attracted by the view. From the balcony off the kitchen, we have a 90-degree view of the hills, which gives the house an open feeling," Aida Gonzalez said.

Safety was also a high priority. "We checked out the neighborhood at night and on weekends. It was always quiet. We saw people out walking at 10 and 11 at night," she said.

"The residents here try to maintain a neighborhood atmosphere," said Aida Gonzalez, an agent with Century 21 Arroyo Seco Realty, who works less than a mile from her home.

"Neighborhood kids play ball on Garrison, which is a dead-end street, and the moms get together to chat. It's also nice having St. Ignatius Catholic Church at the foot of the hill. My girls can go there when they're ready for school," said Aida Gonzalez, whose family includes daughters Leslie, 3, and Karina, 1.

Situated to the southwest of the intersection of York Boulevard and Figueroa Street, and bordered by Avenue 61 on the southwest and Mesa Avenue on the northwest, the homes of Mt. Angelus are built on a steep hill with panoramic views of Glendale, Eagle Rock and the mountains.

The neighborhood has one of the city's largest concentrations of public stairways, which link the winding hillside streets. Although some have been closed for safety reasons, most are still passable.

Mt. Angelus got its name from Cora Scott Pond-Pope, an entrepreneur who in the early years of the 20th century purchased the land from the Garvanza Land Co., the holders of the original Spanish land grant. Pond-Pope subdivided the hill and sold lots to individuals. Although the neighborhood evolved over several decades, it was largely built up by the 1930s.

The layered development of architectural styles up the hill fascinates Charles Fisher, a former resident who is active with the Highland Park Heritage Trust. His grandfather built one of the first houses on the hill in 1906.

"The houses at the base of the hill are turn-of-the-century cottages dating from 1890 to 1910," he said.

"The next layer are houses from the Mission Revival era up to the First World War. Higher up are Spanish Colonial Revival homes built in the 1920s and '30s. At the top of the hill are the most contemporary houses, which were built in the 1950s and '60s."

Most of the houses in Mt. Angelus are two- and three-story single-family homes with two or three bedrooms and several baths. A number of the homes have wood-burning fireplaces, hardwood floors and balconies.

According to Elsa Kim, office manager and agent at Century 21 Arroyo Seco, two-bedroom homes in Mt. Angelus sold in the last year for as low as $82,000 and as high as $159,000. The average sales price for all homes is about $160,000, but a panoramic view and good condition could raise the price.

As of December 1996, the most expensive two-bedroom house, with one bath, a den and a great view, was listed for $189,000. At the lower end, a smaller two-bedroom home was listed at $129,000.

"Mt. Angelus is a little pocket that even the typical homeowner in Highland Park is not aware of," Kim said. "It's an area where houses don't turn over very often because people like living there."

The area is an eclectic mix of working-class and professional singles, families and retirees. Most of the residents are whites and Latinos. Although Mt. Angelus is in an area that has its share of urban problems, the steep, winding streets make the area relatively unattractive to criminals. Neighbors quickly paint out any graffiti that appears and work with the police to solve gang and noise problems.

"Mt. Angelus is a little pocket of Los Angeles that is much as it was in the past," said Barbara Burall, who moved to the hill 55 years ago as a newlywed.

"My husband and I bought the house three months before we were married, and we moved in the night of our wedding," she said.

Burall and her late husband, Robert, raised two children in the two-story home, which has two bedrooms, two baths, a den and formal dining room. For Robert Burall, who worked for L.A.'s Department of Water and Power for 38 years, the neighborhood's proximity to his work was a major factor in the family's decision to live on Mt. Angelus, Barbara Burall said.

Great views were another plus. "My house has a Mediterranean feel to it," she said. "I have views directly west toward Glendale, and from the frontyard, I can look toward Mt. Baldy. I don't think I could be happy on flat land after living up here."

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