Are Hillside Dwellers Hermits?
By Joann Deutch
Feb 19, 2012 - 11:36:46 AM
LAUREL CANYON—When I first moved to Los Angeles and was looking to buy a home, everyone told me that living in the hills overlooking Los Angeles was a mistake. “The people are all hermits, and keep to themselves” they exclaimed with a certain harrumph of disdain. I heard it over and over again. So I looked in the flatlands, but could not resist the beauty of living in the hills. If I choose living in the hills, was it going to be like moving to a monastery? There are actual trees up here. There are pine trees and huge old sycamores and giant eucalyptus trees that exert a tug on the hearts of people who flock to Los Angeles, but want a reminder of the beauty of the habitat they were raised in. Might this be locked into the reptilian part of our brains?
I’ve concluded the monastic life in the hills is limited to those poor, unfortunate souls who have monster houses sitting at the end of long driveways, hidden behind iron grill-worked gates which always seem to exceed the 6-foot municipal code height restrictions. Most hillside dwellers have houses on the front of their lots, with steep slopes in the back, so there are lots of exchanges of greetings, and socializing that goes on in the streets. When you meet someone who lives on Stanley Hills, they can tell you all about their neighbors. An introduction to their neighbors is not hard to wrangle once you’ve befriended someone in the neighborhood.
The closeness of the community also hinges on the neighborhood associations. One of these is the Laurel Hills Homeowners Association. It’s been around for over 30 years; the president will always remind you of its longevity. While it went dormant for a few years, one intrepid soul decided that he didn’t like the fact that the carriage lights and monument markers had fallen into disrepair. He launched a campaign to spruce them up, and it was the Laurel Hills Homeowners Association that stepped up to the plate. It was only a short step to summer block parties that were dubbed “ice cream socials” where kids got their first ever root beer floats, ran through sprinklers set out on the street and did chalk drawings everywhere. Double-dutch was a little harder to get rolling. The association was sponsoring wine, cheese and chocolate socials. Everyone wisely walked to that event. Now I hear that moms have gotten together and have organized an informal preschool child care/co-op; and there is a mother-daughter book club that meets once a month.
The local associations also focus on other quality of life issues. They have been the backbone of the effort to control the growth of unreasonably large homes being built on small lots, much like the McMansionization movement in other parts of the city. What’s good for one, may not be good for all. They’ve banded together over the years to buy and set aside land for a Wildlife Corridor, rather than for development of more homes.
Hillside residents come together all the time. They work and play shoulder to shoulder and make friends for life. The hermit reputation is undeserved.
I even have a neighbor who makes and delivers jell-o molds for special occasions.
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