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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE: WHITLEY HEIGHTS

Valentino slept here

January 13, 2008|Josef Molnar | Special to The Times

Whitley Heights was the Palatine Hill of the golden age of Hollywood, with commanding views for its cultural rulers. Today, residents are drawn to the community's winding streets, friendly, welcoming atmosphere and those same picturesque panoramas.

Beginnings

The neighborhood is named after Hobart Johnstone Whitley -- known as the "father of Hollywood" -- who helped build the area into the entertainment mecca it would later become. In 1918, Whitley Heights was designed to become the crowning jewel of his development empire, and Whitley commissioned designers and artisans to build a neighborhood along a steep hillside in a style reminiscent of an Italian neighborhood.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday, January 17, 2008 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Whitley Heights: The Jan. 13 Neighborly Advice feature stated that a 1924 home recently on the market for $1.35 million in Whitley Heights was formerly owned by W.C. Fields. Fields never owned the house.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, January 20, 2008 Home Edition Real Estate Part K Page 7 Features Desk 1 inches; 34 words Type of Material: Correction
Whitley Heights: The Jan. 13 Neighborly Advice feature stated that a 1924 home recently on the market for $1.35 million in Whitley Heights was formerly owned by W.C. Fields. Fields never owned the house.

Affectionately called "the Hill" by its residents, movie legends such as Barbara Stanwyck, W.C. Fields, Jean Harlow and Rudolph Valentino were drawn to the lofty perch by the grand vistas of Los Angeles and eagerly purchased parcels to build residences suited to their tastes.

What it's about

Located a few blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard between Cahuenga Boulevard and Highland Avenue, the neighborhood is hardly obscure to those in the know. Many are drawn to its meandering, foliage-lined lanes and Italian architecture. Respect for the privacy of those who live there is a hallmark of the neighborhood. A slow drive through the western entrance at Milner Road, which overlooks the Hollywood Bowl, reveals the staggered construction along the hill. Nearly every home has a window or two with amazing views.

Most homes are shrouded in greenery, but despite the natural barrier, the residents enjoy interacting with one another, said Xavier L. Carrica, who lives in Whitley Heights. The neighborhood is home to singles as well as families, he added.

"There are two or three families with kids, and around other hillside areas there are couples in the entertainment industry, plus there are single people I know," Carrica said. Residents meet frequently for get-togethers and hold monthly meetings of the Whitley Heights Neighborhood Assn., which helps to maintain the area's integrity as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone through its annual $25 to $50 fees and bequests from residents. According to Alison Connell, president of the association, the neighborhood has even pooled money for community landscaping or repairs.

Good news, bad news

Few other areas, outside of Beverly Hills, have been saturated with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood like Whitley Heights. Many of the 150-plus homes have been occupied by celebrities over the years, and real estate listings frequently mention those former residents, said Tim Swan, a Whitley Heights resident and real estate agent with Prudential California Realty.

Although they have modest amenities by today's standards, most of the million-dollar homes in Whitley Heights retain the character and attention to detail absent from newer construction. Ornate great rooms and impressive foyers of oak and other hardwoods show that the homes were built to impress visitors and residents alike, and servant quarters leading to the kitchen and other utility rooms are in many of the homes.

The characteristic winding roads are not conducive to street parking, but with the expansive views and landscape, residents seem to be open to compromise.

Residents quickly become aware of the irritations of living so close to the heart of Hollywood tourism and the 101 Freeway. There is traffic congestion and tourist activity, but it does little to detract from the desirability of the neighborhood.

The development of the 101 after World War II bisected the Hill, destroying many landmark homes, but residents took it in stride and have decorated the sound barrier with lush foliage to mask the intrusion.

Housing stock

Homes in Whitley Heights are in demand, Swan said, owing to the neighborhood's location, the homes' histories and the fact that just one or two houses are generally on the market at any given time.

Drawbacks for some buyers are the small rooms in many residences and lack of built-in amenities such as laundry rooms and storage space.

A 1926 home with four bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms in 3,200 square feet that was once owned by Carole Lombard and William Powell was recently listed at close to $1.4 million. A similarly sized home built in 1924 and having a refurbished gourmet kitchen with granite countertops, formerly owned by W.C. Fields, listed at $1.35 million.

Report card

Children may attend the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hollywood Senior High School scored 617 of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Bancroft Middle School scored 689, and Selma Elementary scored 722.

josef.molnar@latimes.com Sources: www.whitleyheights.com; www.cde.ca.gov

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