Beverly Hills is a city in the western part of Los Angeles County, CA, almost entirely surrounded by the city of Los Angeles. It is part of the so-called "Golden Triangle" of Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Holmby Hills. It is bordered on the north by the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, on the east by the City of West Hollywood and the Fairfax District of the City of Los Angeles, on the south by Los Angeles and on the west by Westwood Village and Century City, which are neighborhoods of Los Angeles and not separate incorporated cities.
The area that would one day become Beverly Hills was fertile because of the streams that met there in the rainy months as the waters cascaded down from the canyons that became known as Coldwater and Benedict, creating a cienega (or swamp) at the location of present day Sunset Boulevard and Beverly Drive. The foothill site had flocks of geese and ducks, bands of wild horses and herds of antelope. Native American inhabitants, the Tongva (who the Spanish named the Gabrielino) tribe, considered it a holy site and named it "The Gathering of the Waters," which in the Spanish language is "El Rodeo de las Aguas." The Spanish arrived in the area on August 3, 1769 as the land expedition of Gaspar de Portolà, the first governor of the province of California, some Franciscan priests and a cavalcade of leather-jacket soldiers and horses, traveled over the Indian trail, which would one day be Wilshire Boulevard, across the plain toward the foothills gouged with deep canyons, and made camp in the cool of the sycamore trees at the present site of La Cienega Park, near the large swamp. On September 27, 1821, New Spain became Mexico and the province of California quietly changed flags.
Also in the 1820s, a retired Spanish soldier, who was by nowan invalid on a pension, Vicente Ferrer Valdez, and his wife, Maria Rita Villa de Valdez, went to live on the 4,500 acre (18 km²) Rancho El Rodeo de las Aguas. Rita did not care for the name, however, and chose to call it San Antonio. The Valdez adobe home was built near what is the present day intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Alpine Drive. Numerous vaqueros (or cowboys) were employed to tend the cattle and horses. Valdez died in 1828, leaving Rita a widow with eleven children.
In 1831, the alcalde (mayor) of the pueblo (town) of Los Angeles, Vicente Sanchez, granted to Rita, jointly with Luciano Valdez (her kinsman), a tract of land styled San Antonio. She began having trouble with Luciano Valdez, however, and decided the rancho was not big enough for the both of them. In 1834, she testified before the Los Angeles City Council that Luciano built his house within 70 feet (21 m) of hers, obstructing the view; ran her cattle off the only watering hole on the rancho, which sent them wandering over the neighbor's property, kept her from planting and dared her to complain. When she did complain, Rita found the man of bad temper, a user of indecent language and generally intolerable. The council agreed and ordered him to vacate the premises. In 1840, the land grant was confirmed by the governor of California, Juan Bautista Alvarado. By 1844, Rita had built a second home, this one on Main Street in Los Angeles, which is where she kept her title papers and grant. Before the Americans commanded by Commodore Stockton entered the city in 1846, she, her children, and other Californios, fled. When she returned, she found her papers had been stolen.
The Territory of California was admitted as a state on September 9, 1850. The United States Board of Land Commissioners later confirmed her title. But before that happened, Rita tired of Indian raids on her livestock and sold the rancho in 1854 to Benjamin D. Wilson and Henry Hancock. Hancock sold out to William Workman, who planned to grow wheat. But after one successful season, the drought of 1863–1864 put a temporary end to farming in the area. The legendary waters dried up, crops withered and cattle died.
A brief oil boom brought a flourish of interest in the land in 1865 when the Pioneer Oil Company bought the rights to drill wells. But the wildcatting ended when the land proved as dry underneath as on top. Then newcomers arrived and herds of sheep appeared on the land, with portions being sold. James Whitworth bought a 125 acre (0.5 km²) parcel between what became Robertson and La Cienega Boulevards, north of what became Pico Boulevard, and Edison A. Benedict built a home in 1868 at the mouth of the canyon that bears his name. Benedict and his son, Pierce, bought adjoining land, planted walnut trees, beans and other vegetables and raised bees.
Also in 1868, Dr. Edward A. Preuss purchased the ranch, less the 125 acres (0.5 km²) to Whitworth, from Wilson and Workman. He later sold half interest to Francis P.F. Temple to form a corporation for a subdivision. Pruess and Temple deeded their land to the corporation and the De Las Aguas Land Association was formed with headquarters in San Francisco. Nearly the whole ranch was divided into 75 acre (303,000 m²) farming lots with the center reserved for the "Town of Santa Maria," which was to be split into five acre (20,000 m²) lots to be sold at $10 each. The proposed main street of the town was Los Angeles Avenue, which is today Wilshire Boulevard. But another drought came, and the dream of Dr. Preuss blew away with the dust as the land reverted to sheep ranching.
Henry Hammel and Charles Denker, owners of the United States Hotel in Los Angeles, then purchased the land. Lima beans were the only crop to flourish, along with the sheep, but their ultimate dream was to establish a subdivision called Morocco. During their ownership in the 1880s, there was a land boom and a steam train brought buyers from Los Angeles to Santa Monica, passing through the Hammel and Denker Ranch. A station named Morocco, with a town of the same name was shown on the map of 1888, but the station and the town existed only on paper. The land boom collapsed, taking their plans along with it.
By the 1950s, few vacant lots remained and developers cropped whole mountains to ease the housing shortage. The Trousdale Estates area was eventually annexed and an expensive housing development began to take shape in the hills above the city. Beverly Hills marketed itself as one of the most glamorous places in the world to shop. The Golden Triangle, with Rodeo Drive at its center, was built and marketed to the rest of the world as the shopping destination of a lifetime, despite a decidedly unexciting ambiance. In fact, many stores cater to the over-60 crowd.
The city's image has been enhanced by being featured in television shows and movies set in Beverly Hills, among the The Jack Benny Program (1950 to 1954), The Beverly Hillbillies (1962 to 1971), the Beverly Hills Cop movies, The Beverly Hillbillies (1993) and Beverly Hills 90210 (1990 to 2000).
90210 is an actual ZIP Code in Beverly Hills, and the show made it arguably the most famous ZIP Code in the world. Ironically, most of 90210 actually lies within the city limits of Los Angeles; however, the U.S. Postal Service considers all addresses in that ZIP Code to be Beverly Hills addresses. Real estate agents designate these adjoining areas "Beverly Hills Post Office".
The Via Rodeo, the first new street in Beverly Hills in seventy-six years, was completed in 1990. The Spanish cobblestone street leads to 2 Rodeo, a "mini-mall". In 1992, the Beverly Hills Civic Center was opened. Designed by architect Charles Moore, it links the new public library, fire and police departments with the historic City Hall.
While the city derives its unique personality from being favored by show business people; and it is true that many actors, writers, directors and producers live in the city and take part in civic life; many professionals, doctors and lawyers, have homes and offices in the city also. The dominant politics is overwhelmingly liberal Democratic, and the city has a strong Jewish and Persian community. The Beverly Hills Unified School District, with its four K-8 schools and the Beverly Hills High School, boasts particularly high academic achievement.