On the southern slopes of the Baldwin Hills, just a stone’s throw from the pump jacks that dot the Inglewood Oil Field, lie the upper reaches of Ladera Heights, one of the wealthiest neighborhoods on the Westside.
Its median household income tops Brentwood’s, and its inventory of architecturally intact Midcentury Modern homes is almost unmatched in Los Angeles. Yet it is rarely mentioned in the same breath as other celebrated pockets of postwar residential architecture.
Geography has something to do with that, certainly, as it’s tucked away behind the oil fields, two cemeteries (one Catholic, one Jewish), and the charmless sprawl of Culver City’s Fox Hills business district.
Part of it may also be because the wealthy residents of Ladera Heights are more likely to be of the professional class rather than the attention-drawing celebrity residents of nearby Baldwin Hills, View Park and Windsor Hills.
Ladera Heights is a relatively new neighborhood as well. The first homes were not laid out in the lower Old Ladera portion of the neighborhood until the late 1940s, and many homes in the hills were built after the 1970s.
It was all scrubland before the first foundations were laid by the L.A. Investment Co., a real estate concern run by Reuben Ingold, who helped develop many of the communities in and around the Baldwin Hills.
Beginning in earnest in the 1950s, the company began selling land to developers eager to get their hands on virgin territory on the booming Westside. They built houses, thousands of them, as fast as they could get permits from the county.
Young architects such as Charles W. Wong and Robert L. Earl cut their teeth designing homes in Ladera Heights. Earl would go on to design luxury residences for stars such as Warren Beatty and Madonna, including a number of homes in Donald Trump’s Rancho Palos Verdes development, and Wong built celebrated houses across the Baldwin Hills.
When Los Angeles’ discriminatory housing practices were struck down by the courts in the 1960s, affluent African-Americans, led by baseball great Frank Robinson, began buying in Ladera Heights and neighboring communities.
Where some communities experienced rapid demographic shifts, Ladera Heights did not see racially anxious whites fleeing their new neighbors in the numbers that Baldwin Hills and View Park did, and today the neighborhood is one of the more diverse on the Westside.
An idyllic enclave: Isolated from the web of surface streets clogged with Waze-wielding commuters, Ladera Heights represents a peaceful oasis on the bustling Westside.
Silicon Beach-adjacent: As L.A.’s tech corridor has subsumed everything between Santa Monica and El Segundo, Ladera Heights offers hillside living with a commute even Elon Musk would love.
Meet your neighbors: With a strong community spirit and a foundation of longtime residents, Ladera Heights is one of the rare L.A. neighborhoods where people get to know each other.
Here come the speculators: Ladera Heights’ proximity to Culver City and other hot tech hubs is sure to drive prices in what is already an expensive market upward.
“Ladera Heights homes are stylish and well-kept,” said Natalie Johnson, a broker active in the area since 2010. “They make for a beautiful neighborhood, but you probably won’t find one for under $1 million.”
She added that across the neighborhood’s three informal sections — Old Ladera, Upper Ladera and Lower Ladera — properties generally fall between $1 million and $2 million.
The Midcentury aesthetic extends beyond the homes. Pann’s diner, an iconic L.A. eatery that appeared in “Pulp Fiction,” adds Googie architectural style to the area, she said.
“People here are passionate about the neighborhood. The Ladera Heights Civic Assn. regularly hosts events and works hard to make sure it maintains its identity,” Johnson said.
In the 90056 ZIP Code, based on three sales, the median sales price for single-family homes in May was $1.092 million, up 7.8% year over year, according to CoreLogic.
The single public school in the Ladera Heights boundaries, Frank D. Parent Elementary, scored 749 on the 2013 Academic Performance Index.
Highlights in the area include Farragut Elementary and Culver City Middle, which scored 943 and 858, respectively. Nearby high schools are Culver City High, which scored 832, and Inglewood High, which scored 600.
Times staff writer Jack Flemming contributed to this report.