So you say you love living in Santa Monica, but truth be known, you’re just marking time until you can figure out how to make the move to that L.A. community that’s the epitome of prestigious, desirable, world-famous and eyebrow lifting even. The town you really want to claim as home is Beverly Hills.
I knew it. Most Santa Monicans harbor that secret desire, along with most Parisians, Romans, Monacans (Monaco-ans?), Moroccans, Mumbaians, Dubaians, Abu Dhabians, and definitely the folks in Tehran. But because I did the reverse, moved here from 90210, and because I just had the occasion recently to revisit Bev Hills, my advice is — stay put.
Because we know everyone wants their own Playboy Mansion, they do have a lot of “my driveway’s longer than yours” type one-upmanship in BH, resulting in some really big homes (and lots of proof that lots of money does not always equal good taste).
But my walks around Santa Monica have shown me we have our share of impressive digs (and a little bad taste too), mostly north of Montana, of course. Not much anywhere compares to the real estate north of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Hills (including Trousdale Estates) and extending west into Bel Air and Holmby Hills. The Spelling mansion with 123 rooms; I rest my wretched excess case.
For your many millions you get some real estate along with your tens of thousands of square feet of house. But in the Flats, as they call the area south of Sunset, those mansions get so close to each other you can shake hands with your neighbor out the second story window. But you wouldn’t, because after half a century in your home you probably still don’t know your neighbors. I have a dear friend who grew up there, and somehow turned out fairly normal (moving to New Mexico helped), and when she comes to visit her mom we sometimes take a walk in the ‘hood, in the Flats, and it does remind me a lot of north of Montana. But no ocean breezes.
Do I sound like I’ve turned on my former zip code? Will I do the same someday with 90405? No chance. I moved to Beverly Hills for one reason: When my son hit high school age I did the research (not so easy pre-Google) and confirmed that BHHS was ranked one of the top 10 in the nation. A public school. All you had to do was actually reside in Beverly Hills (they had two full-time undercover investigators to out families who were faking it), so I sucked it up for the high rent, much less than private school tuition, and found a decent apartment (OK, with a rooftop pool) and settled in for four years.
Every time I moved after coming to Los Angeles, it was for the schools. A great science elementary in Brentwood, then a middle school magnet in North Hollywood, then the ultimate, Beverly Hills High School, where the education is great and the lifetime connections even better.
Ferraris, music-mad friends
Right. My son couldn’t relate to anyone there except his small circle of music-mad friends at the school’s radio station (he had his own show and became program director), a fine bunch with whom he has stayed in touch. But not one of them worth a career boost.
I understood his estrangement, which I hadn’t anticipated, when he told me one of his classmates got a new Ferrari for his 16th birthday from dear old dad. That’s child abuse. What do you look forward to for your 17th? He said most of his schoolmates were more interested in fashion than music or world events.
So when the opportunity came in the middle of his senior year to buy into an apartment building six blocks from the beach in Santa Monica, I told him to get a bus schedule, we’re outta [sic] here. That was 27 years ago, and as it says at the bottom of all my columns …
But let us return for a moment to the legendary community of Beverly Hills. I got to know a few of my neighbors in our building, good folks. But it never felt like home. Two things struck me pretty quickly, the way people drive and the way they walk. In both modes, there was an air of entitlement that was almost funny at times. People walking would step into the street at an intersection without so much as a glance either way. You wouldn’t dare hit me. You do know who I am, right? Drivers had a similar self-absorption. Who put that stupid stop sign in my way? Look out! I’m late for an important meeting!
On my recent brief foray back I detected a new trick: Manhattan-style reliance on the car horn. Now, I’ve been known to give a quick little beep or two if the guy ahead of me has no idea the light changed 15 seconds ago. But those Hills folk seem to be in love with their horns now as easy expressions of their impatience and anger. They don’t beep, they lay on that horn. I saw an elderly couple crossing a very wide street at the light and mistimed it so they were three steps from the curb when the light changed. Yup, a guy right in front of them blasted his horn. He was probably too angry to consider that if they fell over in front of him with matching heart attacks he could be delayed a lot longer than three seconds.
Maybe I’m also influenced by having seen the temperature drop that afternoon from 91 degrees in BH to 71 by the time I hit Main Street. Having lived both places, I think Beverly Hills ain’t got nothin’ on us. But only if we prevent the push to develop Santa Monica into a traffic-dense Beverly Hills By The Sea.
One last thought: When walking north of Montana I have imagined living in one of those homes so much larger and more luxurious than my itsy bitsy condo. But seriously, I can’t say I would trade; nothing wrong with north of Montana, nothing wrong with Beverly Hills for many, but I just like Ocean Park too much to ever leave.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org