Introducing Westwood & Around
With its reputation for old-Hollywood glamour, top-end couture and posh dining still circulating in the collective consciousness, Beverly Hills remains impressive to those who stroll Beverly Blvd and Rodeo Dr for the first time. But if you take a closer look, you might see some slippage. Most if not all of the downtown Beverly Hills shopping is of the corporate variety. The names are here – Prada, Gucci – but most of it is designer in label only (the best shopping is actually on N Robertson). The architecture is also feeling a bit dated, and aside from a few talent agencies and restaurants that still draw power lunchers, Hollywood doesn’t have such a heavy footprint here anymore either. That’s not to say that Beverly Hills is without her charms, it’s just not the scene it was in Dean Martin’s day. Still, there remain more Ferraris per capita here than anywhere else, along with 111 gardeners per sq mile, and the median home value comes in at a cool $1.8 million.
Some stars are holed up in the hills and canyons north of Sunset Blvd, but Beverly Hills’ wealth is mostly new money, brought by Iranian immigrants who’ve been settling here since the Shah’s fall some 30 years ago. In March 2007, the city elected its first Iranian-born mayor, Jimmy Delshad.
Downtown, several city-owned garages offer two hours of free parking, including one at 9510 Brighton Way. For two hours of free valet parking, head to the garage underneath Two Rodeo (enter from Dayton Way).
West of Beverly Hills, past the mini-downtown of Century City, a commercial district created and named for the 20th Century Fox Studio, is a college town plopped into the middle of a big city. Westwood is practically synonymous with UCLA, the huge campus of which is hemmed in by Sunset Blvd and the Westwood Village. The village is pedestrian-friendly but it’s increasingly vacant these days as the charming, but aging, movie theaters continue to lose traffic to nearby multiplexes, and LA nightlife pulls students out into the wider world. A farmers market along Weyburn Ave livens things up on Thursday afternoons. You can snag an hour of free parking in the public garage at 1036 Broxton Ave.
North of Westwood, Bel Air is a favorite hideaway of stars whose sybaritic homes are generally hidden behind security gates and dense foliage, among them the great Quincy Jones’ estate and Hef’s Playboy Mansion.
Brentwood, west of the I-405 (San Diego Fwy), is just as exclusive and home to one of LA’s big attractions, the hilltop Getty Center. Despite a high celeb quotient (Spielberg lives here), it’s pretty low-key, and young professionals like the location, close to Santa Monica and only 20 minutes from the Sunset Strip. Marilyn Monroe died in her home at 12305 5th Helena Dr, but more recently Brentwood made global headlines when Nicole Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were murdered at 875 Bundy Dr. In the subsequent criminal trial, her husband OJ Simpson was (in)famously acquitted.