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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

A touch of magic in the city

February 27, 2005|Allison B. Cohen | Special to The Times

Just a stone's throw from affluent Hancock Park and Windsor Square is an area of Los Angeles called Brookside. This enclave of eight streets and 400 homes is somewhat more affordable than its tony neighbors yet has similar tree-lined streets and diverse 1920s-style architecture. Plus, Brookside has something those areas can't claim: a castle.

Early days

Developed by Rimpau Estate Co. in 1920, the area -- originally called Wilshire Crest -- was built to lure wealthy families from the West Adams District. The homes, many of which were Colonial Revivals on deep lots, sold well, even through an economic downturn in 1921.

The area became known as South Brookside, which was later shortened to Brookside. Neighbors formed a political action group in 1978 to fight unrestricted commercial development along nearby Wilshire Boulevard. Over time, that group evolved into a strong homeowners association with a continued deep commitment to the neighborhood, whose activities culminate each summer with an annual potluck block party with a petting zoo and carnival-like games.

Drawing card

The name is not an anomaly. There actually is a natural stream -- the Arroyo de los Jardines (Brook of the Gardens) -- that is believed to run from the Hollywood Hills, through Brookside, on to Baldwin Hills and eventually flow into Ballona Creek. The stream is home to koi, goldfish and crawfish.

Insider's view

The Moorish-style Scottish-influenced castle is not the only unusual feature of the neighborhood. There is a privately owned theater in the backyard of one of the homes -- called the Brookledge Theater -- where magicians have performed since the 1930s.

Good news, bad news

Wilshire and Olympic boulevards, Highland Avenue and Muirfield Road bound the neighborhood. A trip downtown is quick and easy, but because the area is sandwiched between the busy streets, cut-through traffic can be a problem.

On the market

Although a home in Brookside is more affordable than one in expensive adjacent neighborhoods, prices there are still high.

The most recent sale closed in mid-February -- a 2,345-square-foot home for $1,185,000 -- according to Sandy Boeck, a Coldwell Banker real estate agent who specializes in the area. There is one property on the market now: a 3,800-square-foot Spanish-style home with four bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths listed for $1.3 million. "Inventory is almost nonexistent," Boeck said, "and we didn't have many sales in 2004."

Out and about

Some residents walk to a mini-mall at Highland and Wilshire that has nearly everything an old-fashioned main street would have: a coffee shop, an ice cream store, a shoe repair shop, even a sit-down Chinese restaurant. "If you're going to live in the inner city, there's no place like Brookside," said Sunta Izzicupo, 52, who has lived in the neighborhood for 10 years.

Report card

While most families in the neighborhood send their children to private schools, the area is part of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Wilshire Crest Elementary scored 679 out of 1,000 on the 2004 Academic Performance Index; Queen Anne Place Elementary, 692; John Burroughs Middle School, 744; and Los Angeles Senior High School, 503.

Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$400,000

1995...$219,000

2000...$414,000

2001...$452,000

2002...$580,000

2003...$674,500

2004...$790,000

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Los Angeles Unified School District; Sandy Boeck, Coldwell Banker; and Greg Fischer, historian.

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