Convenient to LAX, the San Diego Freeway and the Marina del Rey waterfront, Ladera Heights boasts ocean views, large homes, quiet streets and an unusual moniker: the black Beverly Hills.
After World War II, the Los Angeles Investment Co. began building houses in what was then a new subdivision just south of the intersection of La Tijera Boulevard and Slauson Avenue.
Mike and Regina Conway and their two sons, Michael, 21, and Matthew, 6, moved from Inglewood into a ranch-style home in Ladera Heights in August.
Mike Conway recalled that when he told someone where he had moved, "They said, 'Oh, you live in the black Beverly Hills.'
"That comment is common among black people, but the person who told me that was a white guy so I was really surprised," Conway said. But, he said, that description made him "feel pretty good."
Predominantly African American and affluent, this unincorporated Westside community borders Culver City and Inglewood.
Black doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, educators and entertainers began moving into the spacious homes four decades ago. About two-thirds of the 8,108 residents are black, according to 2002 census figures.
The Conways paid $895,000 for their three-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot home. They lost out on their first and second choices in Ladera Heights, after they competed with 18 bidders on one property and six on another.
Good news, bad news
The Conways also moved for the neighborhood school, Frank D. Parent Elementary School.
"The school was first, then the house," Regina Conway said. "My little one just started kindergarten. Literally, we're six houses away from the school."
Not all residents share her assessment of the quality of the schools. The Ladera Heights Civic Assn. recently attempted to switch Ladera Heights from the Inglewood Unified School District to the more affluent and better-performing Culver City Unified School District. Los Angeles County education officials denied the request; the group has filed an appeal to the State Board of Education, a process that could take years.
Bud Raymond, 25, chaired the committee that led the fight. "One of the downsides about living here, unfortunately, is we're part of the Inglewood school district," he said, "Over the past 20 years, they've had a pretty rapid decline."
A production sound technician, Raymond lives in a 1994 home with his wife, Suzi Chen Raymond, a graphic designer, and their 18-month-old son, Max. They moved there in 2002 after looking at homes in Playa del Rey, Westchester and Mar Vista. Friends told them about Ladera Heights, where the Raymonds think they got more house for their money. They paid $673,000 for the four-bedroom, 2,500-square-foot house.
From the home's master bedroom, she says, Dockweiler State Beach is within view. "From the frontyard, you can see down to Marina del Rey. It's beautiful after it rains."
Still, there is that ever-present frustration that plagues most of L.A.: traffic. The buildup hits on Slauson and La Cienega Boulevard, which drivers use as a shortcut from the construction-riddled San Diego Freeway.
Most of the houses are ranch-style or traditional. Of the neighborhood's 3,500 or so housing units, there are nine on the market ranging in price from $995,000 for a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, 1,900-square-foot house to $1.5 million for a five-bedroom house in 3,900 square feet with a pool, according to Patricia Penny, of Pat Penny Realtors.
Many Ladera Heights children attend private schools. Those who go to public schools attend either Frank D. Parent Elementary, which scored 685 out of 1,000 on the 2005 Academic Performance Index Growth Report or La Tijera Elementary, which posted 666. Inglewood High School garnered 576.
Year Median Price
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; California Department of Education, www.cde.ca.gov.