Saturday, December 07, 2013

Let's go to Beverly Hills!

About a week ago I had a super quick trip to Beverly Hills. There was a position that was open and I was invited to sit for the exam, so I took the day off and went down to throw my name in the hat. I had less than 24 hours there, but the trip ended up being good: I had a chance to reconnect with some friends and take a quick look around the famed Beverly Hills. 

My first memory of hearing about Beverly Hills comes TV, but not from what you're probably thinking of. I never saw Beverly Hillbillies and 90210 wasn't it either. The very first time I remember "Beverly Hills" being mentioned was this monstrosity:

Beverly Hills Teens. "Come live your fantasy in Beverly Hills. Come on and make your dreams come true..." Somewhere between Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Inspector Gadget there was this. The 1980s were something else and there was so many cartoons floating around. If you watch the intros to the cartoons that played on Saturday morning, I bet you'll recognize some that you've long forgotten.

But, on this trip I had a chance to take a look around the actual city of Beverly Hills. The city was established in 1914 and exhibits a rather beautiful design that takes advantage of the natural features of the area. The story is that after some oil prospectors failed to find any oil in the area, they decided to try to set up their very own city. The city was laid out by Wilbur D. Cook who was heavily influenced by the Olmsted Brothers and reflects an approach to planning called "City Beautiful". This was a movement that preferred organic shapes, placed emphasis on civic pride and monumentalism, and the need for nature near to where people lived. It was a softening of the geometric grids and the idea that cities could be better places than they were. It's a goal is still central to urban planning today, even if the terminology and ideas about how to get there have sometimes changed.

A lot of the places that we really like today came from this era and Beverly Hills is actually pretty nice. The streets north of Santa Monica Blvd curve elegantly without completely losing the efficiency that a grid system offers. The houses are mostly upscale and become nicer as you move into the actual hills. The city leaders built a very nice civic complex, starting with the city hall below. With about 35,000 people and a more geometric downtown core, it seems like they have actually done a good job at managing their growth over the past 100 years (which you can see in the image to the left). 
Of course, as beautiful as it is, with only 24 hours there's not much time to do anything... except perhaps to try some cupcakes!

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