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Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles: Quiet Affluence Amid the Urban Hustle

Nancy and Howard Shapiro were looking for a fresh start in 2018, and for good reason. Their daughter, Elysa, now 8, had spent the past two years battling leukemia, and the Shapiros were beginning to feel like they were spending more time at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center than they were in their $2 million Cheviot Hills home.

They wanted to give Elysa, who has now been in remission for over a year, a space in which to restart her life. But they stuck to one steadfast rule during their house hunt: They weren’t going to leave the neighborhood.

“I used to always say that Cheviot reminded us of ‘Leave It to Beaver.’ It’s Los Angeles, but it doesn’t feel like L.A.,” said Mr. Shapiro, 50. “You don’t have the attitude and the hustle and bustle that you find in some of the more stuffy neighborhoods. The houses here are upscale, but the people aren’t.”

Indeed, Cheviot Hills, an affluent residential neighborhood of quiet winding streets and pretty single-family homes, has something of an Everytown, U.S.A., feel to it. It’s a feature that has served the area well. Dozens of films and television shows have been shot on the neighborhood’s handsome streets, and many of its residents have earned day rates for providing their homes to shows including “Modern Family” and “The Goldbergs.” But while residents are used to seeing film crews shut down their streets, the area feels isolated from the show-business obsession that often grips the rest of Los Angeles’s west side.

Sandwiched between Century City (home to Fox Studios) and Culver City (home to Sony Studios), Cheviot Hills offers both access to the business and a sort of escape. Neighbors meet up for backyard barbecues, trade baseball statistics and catch up on gossip while jogging with their strollers to the park. The appeal is that if you didn’t know you were minutes from Hollywood when you stumbled into Cheviot Hills, you might never realize it. And that’s precisely what the Shapiros wanted to hang on to.

“People tend to move into this area and then never move out,” said Ms. Shapiro, 49. “It’s the neighborhood.”

The couple had lived in their previous house for five and a half years, and during that time received at least five unsolicited offers. When Elysa finished chemo, they finally accepted one of those offers, trading their $2 million house on Club Drive for a $4.6 million Colonial a few blocks away.

Their new home was built in 2015 and has five bedrooms and six baths. Before moving in, they tore down several walls, eliminating one bath and combining two upstairs bedrooms into one larger one with a huge walk-in closet — what Mr. Shapiro calls “the princess suite” — for Elysa.

“She’s lucky,” said Ms. Shapiro, “but she’s been through a lot.”

(On Oct. 29, as the fast-spreading Getty Fire raged along the 405 freeway, Cheviot Hills was not under immediate evacuation orders, but area schools were closed and many kept an urgent eye on the news.)

Upscale, leafy and quiet, the neighborhood’s winding streets feature large single-family homes and little else. There is one small shopping plaza, the Cheviot Hills Shopping Center, with a Vons grocery store, a Rite Aid drugstore, a Starbucks and a few food outlets. The Rancho Park Golf Course and the Hillcrest Country Club form the north and northwest borders of the neighborhood; beneath those green spaces, the neighborhood is triangular, with Manning Avenue forming a border down to the I-10 highway to the west, and Beverwil Drive forming its eastern edge.

Credit...Beth Coller for The New York Times

The rolling green Rancho Park Golf Course occupies a chunk of the neighborhood’s 1.54 square miles. On the rest, you’ll find a range of architectural styles, including single-level ranch homes dating to the 1950s as well as classic stuccoed Spanish and Tudor revivals.

Development is on the upswing, with a number of homeowners choosing to tear down and build from scratch. The longtime Cheviot Hills home of “Fahrenheit 451” author Ray Bradbury was among those demolished in the past few years when the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne purchased it in 2015 for $1.765 million and built a hyper-modern box of metal and glass in its place. The new home pays tribute to Bradbury with intricately carved metal panels at its front and side entrances featuring quotations by the author.

Credit...Beth Coller for The New York Times

The most affluent section of Cheviot Hills is Monte Mar Vista, in its northern corner, bordered by the Hillcrest Country Club, Cheviot Hills Park and the Rancho Park Golf Course. Many of the homes there were built in the 1920s and 1930s.

California Country Club Estates, which the locals also refer to as “New Cheviot,” is a collection of homes built on the parcel of land that was once the California Country Club.

While the median price for a Cheviot Hills home has been creeping up, its outliers have become less extreme. As of September, there had been 55 sales of single-family homes in Cheviot Hills in 2019, with a median price of $2.2 million. The lowest-priced home sold for $1.125 million, and the highest for $4.6 million, according to real estate appraisers Miller Samuel. In the same period of 2018, the median sale price was $2.079 million, with a low point of $1.05 million and a peak of $4.9 million.

Credit...Beth Coller for The New York Times

Ben Lee, a real estate broker who owns Ben Lee Properties, which is affiliated with Coldwell Banker, puts out a monthly newsletter with community news and tidbits from his own family. His tagline? “Cheviot Hills: The best neighborhood in the world.”

Mr. Lee started selling homes in Cheviot Hills before he moved there. He and his wife, Lilli Harris Lee, a former television writer who now writes the marketing materials for Ben Lee Properties, both grew up on the west side of Los Angeles. When they started looking for a home for their family (which includes three boys, now 10, 13 and 15), they wanted a community filled with families and friendly neighbors. They are now in their third home in the neighborhood, a custom-designed, seven-bedroom modernist structure with a backyard infinity pool and views of the Hollywood sign from the master bedroom.

“I always wanted to move here,” said Mr. Lee. “We really wanted to find a place where we could allow our children to grow up in Los Angeles, but not be in the thick of Hollywood.”

Cheviot Hills is affluent, but its location between film studios and its lack of a central shopping and dining area give it a sense of respite from Los Angeles’s rush. There is nowhere to have a date night, nowhere to go shopping for clothes or electronics, not even an upscale grocery store.

The Griffin Club, a members-only pool and tennis club, offers swimming, exercise classes and banquet halls that are popular for bar mitzvahs and social events. Residents gather for summer block parties, and local moms host monthly wine nights in each others’ homes. But at its core, Cheviot Hills is a place to come home to rather than a place to be seen.

“Lilli and I aren’t trust-fund kids,” Mr. Lee said. “We have both worked really hard, and I think most people in the neighborhood are like us. They’re educated and they value community. They want to live in Los Angeles, but they also really value being part of a neighborhood.”

Cheviot Hills is part of the sprawling Los Angeles Unified School District, and is served by two elementary schools. Students who live east of Motor Avenue attend Castle Heights Elementary School, while those west of Motor Avenue attend the Overland Avenue Elementary School.

Both feed into Alexander Hamilton Senior High School, which is divided into four smaller learning communities and two additional magnet programs. These include the Music and Performing Arts magnet school, the Humanities magnet school, and learning communities for business, communications, global studies, and math and science.

In the 2017-18 school year, 71 percent of 11th grade students at Hamilton met or exceeded the state benchmark for college readiness (a score of 480) on the Evidence Based Reading and Writing sections of the SAT. In math, 37 percent met the 530 benchmark score for readiness.

Across the Los Angeles Unified School District, 58 percent of 11th graders met their benchmarks in EBRW, and 35 percent in math.

Both Sony Pictures Studio and the 20th Century Fox studio lot can be reached by car in about 10 minutes, even at rush hour. Heading east to downtown Los Angeles will take 30 minutes to an hour. The Santa Monica Pier and many beaches can be reached in 15 minutes.

Cheviot Hills sits upon land that was once part of Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes, a land grant from the Spanish government issued in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t developed until 1923, when builders started constructing a community of upscale, single-family homes around the rolling green lawns of the California Country Club Estates.

Early development of Cheviot Hills was clustered around the area west of Motor Avenue, which still bisects the neighborhood. In the 1950s, the area east of Motor Avenue was also built up when the green space housing the California Country Club was ceded to developers.

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