In many ways, the small middle- and working-class neighborhood of Driftwood in West Hollywood is just as Dennis Brown describes it: an undiscovered gem.
“People usually just drive right past here,” said Brown, a real-estate agent with Keller Williams’ Weston office. “A lot of people tend to neglect West Hollywood.”
The neighborhood, only 3 miles wide, stretches down Sheridan Street and parts of Taft Street to the south, with the Davie Road Extension to the west, the turnpike to the east and Sterling Road to the north.
The neglect, Brown said, is undeserved. Decades-old oak trees block the sun as Brown points to a home with a well-manicured lawn and a boat in the driveway. “I often see kids riding their bike down these streets. It’s a great place for a family,” he said.
Housing development in Driftwood began in the late 1950s, but the area didn’t see real growth until the 1960s and 1970s. From a pastel color scheme to detailed landscaping, the neighborhood’s one-story, single-family homes tell the story of an older and simpler time in South Florida.
Today, the average house in Driftwood has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Some homeowners over the years have added a second story — and in some homes, a den or a wider kitchen space — but most homes are one-story. A third of the homes for sale have pools. Most sit on lots measuring 1,381 square feet.
At $217,000, the median price of a home in Driftwood is well below the county. Broward County’s median single-family home price is around $312,000.
“People can move in here and get a 30-year mortgage, which will cost them under $1,000 a month,” Brown said. “It still is a very good buy here
“We’re still seeing an increase month-to-month, but this is a price range where people can still afford.”
On Sept. 13, Driftwood had more than two dozen homes listed for sale — all in walking or biking distance to a wide selection of family-owned restaurants, a community pool, park and an A-rated middle school with a 19-year-old health and wellness magnet program. (A physical education teacher at Driftwood Middle School was honored in February at the White House for reducing energy use and encouraging environmental practices at her school.) It’s the kind of place where you find that rarest of South Florida rarities: South Florida natives.
“There’s a lot of people who are second-generation Driftwood residents, and that’s something that makes the Driftwood neighborhood a neighborhood,” said Kevin Biederman, District 5 commissioner for the city of Hollywood and the acting vice mayor. “They went to school here in Driftwood, and when they bought their first home, they bought it in Driftwood or they took over their parent’s home.”
In his term as commissioner and vice mayor, Biederman, who has lived in the area for 21 years, said the residents have a strong sense of civic engagement. Driftwood residents worked together and won a $25,000 grant from the city in 2011 and again in 2014 through the Great Neighborhoods Challenge.
The citywide “property improvement contest” awarded prizes, ranging from $500 to $2,500, to individual home owners with the most visibly improved homes over a 120-day period. In a separate community challenge, Driftwood was one of three Hollywood neighborhoods to earn a $25,000 grant for a public improvement project of the neighborhood’s choice. The 2011 money was spent on a certified wildlife habitat; the 2014 prize will be spent to improve the John Williams Dog Park.
Residents don’t just pressure city officials to maintain community appearance. When Biederman was first elected commissioner in 2012, he said residents urged him to improve safety and put more police on the streets.
“We had almost 100 vacant positions at one time around when I got elected,” Biederman said. Today, there are six open positions for police in Hollywood. Driftwood, like other areas throughout Hollywood, has an officer assigned as a “neighborhood team leader” who regularly attends Driftwood homeowner’s association meetings.
“When I listened to the police chief’s report the other day, crime was down 15 percent from last year,” Biederman said.
But Driftwood has one major drawback. At 7.44 percent, the millage rate in Hollywood is among the highest in the county. But residents get a lot of bang for their buck, Biederman said, including a diverse community.
“You have everyone here,” he said, from Caribbean and South American migrants to snow birds from the Northeast. “The diversity in Driftwood represents the diversity of the United States.” And that clearly has appeal; more than 160 homes have been bought in Driftwood in the past 12 months.
Diego Saldana-Rojas contributed to this report.
Background: Driftwood is a small, middle- and working-class neighborhood in West Hollywood, but low prices, solid schools and residents with a strong sense of civic engagement make the diverse community a good place to buy a home and start a family. High property taxes can be a burden, but public parks are well maintained. Crime and school ratings from the Florida Department of Education are both average.
Median single-family home values: $185,200 in June, up 12 percent since June 2014.
Median condo/townhome values: No data.