The Palms / Mar Vista community of West Los Angeles, California, is the oldest neighborhood annexed to the city of Los Angeles, founded in 1886 and annexed to the city in 1915.
The community was settled midway between Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean as an agricultural and vacation community. Today it is a primarily residential area, with a large number of apartment buildings and ribbons of commercial zoning. Westside Village, an upscale residential area, comprises Palms’s northwest section.
It is served by two freeways and five bus lines. Locally, the main employer is Sony Pictures in adjacent Culver City.
History – Before 1886 – Rancho La Ballona
In Spanish and Mexican days, the area that later became Palms was a part of the Rancho La Ballona, where in 1819 Agustín and Ygnacio Machado, along with Felipe Talamantes and his son, Tomás, acquired grazing rights to 14,000 acres (57 km2) of land. It was thenceforth used as grazing land for cattle and sheep.
According to Culver City History, a 2001 work by Julie Lugo Cerra, published for the Culver City Unified School District:
- The family lore relates that Agustín was chosen, by virtue of his skill as a horseman to ride his fastest steed, from dawn until dusk, beginning at the foot of the Playa del Rey hills to claim Rancho La Ballona, or Paso de las Carretas. It stretched to Pico Boulevard (abutting Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica) and to what we know as Ince Boulevard, where Rancho Rincón de los Bueyes began.
Agustin Machado died in 1865, the same year La Ballona School was constructed to serve all elementary-age children within the Ballona School District. In 1871, Ygnacio Saenz established a general store at the crossing which later became Washington Boulevard and Overland Avenue. (Three corners of that intersection are in Culver City and one is in Palms.) The store, which was also a way stop on the county road between Los Angeles and the ocean, also housed the area’s first post office.
By 1882, the county’s electoral district serving Palms was known as Ballona, with voting at La Ballona School.
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Land rush and land division
Deke Keasbey, real estate investment specialist for Tierra Properties, has noted that:
- “The Southern Pacific completed its Los Angeles route in 1883, and only three years later the Santa Fe finished its Los Angeles spur. With a huge investment in their new coast-to-coast rail lines and large Los Angeles land holdings, the railroads set forth a long-term plan for growth. Southern California citrus farming was born. Tourism and the building of towns were promoted to attract investors, to raise land values, and to increase the value of railroad shipments.”
La Ballona Valley was part of that land rush. In 1882, several Midwestern families chartered a reconditioned freight car and left their homes in Le Mars, Iowa, to settle in the valley. They held their first Sunday school in the old La Ballona School on Washington Boulevard, and in fall 1883 they organized a United Brethren Church with 11 members.
About that time the valley drew the attention of three speculators — Joseph Curtis, Edward H. Sweetser, and C.J. Harrison. They paid $40,000 for 500 acres (2.0 km2). They surveyed their land and cut it up, and then they sold it to the new arrivals. They planted 5,000 trees along eight miles (13 km) of graded streets. They named it Palms, even though they had to bring in palm trees and plant them near the train station. Their first tract map was dated December 26, 1886, which is now considered the birth date of Palms.
The location for the new subdivision was partially based on the fact that the site was midway between Los Angeles and Santa Monica on the Los Angeles & Independence Railroad (which later became part of the Pacific Electric “Red Car” system). Before the massive urban growth engendered by the Los Angeles Aqueduct, Palms was the center of a farming and ranching area.
The subdividers gave the United Brethren Church two lots and $200 in cash to get started. In 1887 the church building was completed, and in 1889 the parsonage was built. In 1908 the old chapel was moved to the rear of the lot and new sanctuary built. In 1916 the old parsonage sold and a new one built. Later a bungalow was added next door to be a Sunday school.
The residential development of a vast area west of the Los Angeles city limits brought a pressure for annexation to the city. Particularly noted was, first, the construction by L.A. of a new outfall sewer that could serve the area and, second, plans by the city engineer for a flood control project for the La Cienega region. Agitation for annexation was begun by Palms residents, but the reach was extended all the way west to the then-separate city of Sawtelle limits so that municipality could be annexed later.
There were two annexation elections. Both were hard fought. The first, on April 28, 1914, was voted down, according to the Los Angeles Times, “because the people in the suburban territory are afraid of the municipal bond craze, of which the power scheme is the last straw, and the threatened burden of extra high taxation.” The vote was 387 in favor and 264 against; a two-thirds vote was needed, so the “yes” vote was shy by 47.
A new petition was almost immediately submitted, leaving out all the areas that had voted against annexation. Nevertheless, Harry Culver, the founder of Culver City, denounced the new plan as a gerrymander and opposed it. But The Times wrote:
- “This district comprises some of the richest country between the city and the sea and is directly in the path of the residence expansion westward. Because its growth is inevitable and its population certain to be greatly increased soon, advocates of annexation believe the necessity for securing adequate and permanent water rights is urgent and are working diligently to secure the required two-thirds vote.”
On June 1, 1914, the annexation succeeded, by a 342–136 vote , and on May 4, 1915, Los Angeles voters approved the annexation of the Palms district, as well as that of the extensive San Fernando Valley. Both Palms and the Valley entered Los Angeles on May 22, 1915.
Rezoning and Urban Growth
In the latter part of the 20th Century, much of Palms (except principally for the upscale Westside Village) was rezoned for multiple housing, and now some 92 percent of Palms residents outside of Westside Village live in rented apartments or condominiums. Even in Westside Village the number of renters is about 70 percent because of UCLA family housing and other multiple uses on the main streets.
Since the mid 1990s, Palms has seen an upturn in its fortunes, with the revival of Culver City’s adjacent downtown adding new life to the area. The district’s diversity, affordability, and central location have made it an appealing center for young professionals seeking alternatives to traffic-choked Westwood and Santa Monica, but still wanting to live in a diverse urban setting in a neighborhood relatively close to the beach. Palms’ growth will probably continue well into the 21st century with the arrival of the Metro Expo Line, a light-rail corridor stretching along Exposition Boulevard from Downtown Los Angeles to eastern Culver City, southeast of Palms. This line will eventually extend to Santa Monica, mostly along the original Pacific Electric Santa Monica Air Line right-of-way.
Palms has no official boundaries, but it lies generally northwest of Culver City, south of Cheviot Hills, southeast of Rancho Park and northeast of Mar Vista. The 1886 subdivision map filed with Los Angeles County showed Palms as bounded on the northeast by what would today be Manning Avenue.
(It should be noted that this area includes the 10400 block of Irene Street, which has been placed by the city within the bounds of the Westside Neighborhood Council to the north.)
When Palms was annexed to the city of Los Angeles in 1915, the bounds extended westward from Arlington Avenue on the southeast and about Rimpau Boulevard and Wilshire Boulevard on the northeast to Pico and Exposition Boulevards on the northwest. West of Overland Avenue wasn’t annexed until 1927.
The portion of Palms girded by Overland, Sepulveda, National, and Charnock Road was developed just before World War II as Westside Village and is considered by its property owners’ group (the Westside Village Civic Association) to be a distinct neighborhood.
The Palms Neighborhood Council boundaries were defined by the city to omit Westside Village (which had already been claimed by the Mar Vista Community Council) and the area north and east of National Boulevard, which went to the Westside Neighborhood Council. Petitions were passed in both districts for boundary adjustments.
As of the 2000 census the population of Palms was 42,545. With a population density of 21,983 people per square mile it is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Residents were 38.3% white, 20.2% Asian, 12.2% African-American, 23.4% Latino, and 5.9% from other races. The median household income was $50,684.
Until the early 1960s, most of Palms was single-family homes  and small duplexes and triplexes, most of which were built in the Craftsman and Spanish Colonial styles that dominated Southern California in the first quarter of the 20th century. Under pressure to provide affordable housing, the city of Los Angeles rezoned most of the district for large multifamily dwellings. (Homeowners’ associations in Westside Village, Mar Vista, Rancho Park, and Beverlywood successfully banded together to fight against any such rezoning in their neighborhoods.) This had the result of most of Palms’ historic housing stock being razed and replaced with two-story (or larger) apartment buildings. Very few original houses remain, and many of those are on lots where additional housing units have been built on what were once backyards. Palms is now one of Los Angeles’ most densely populated neighborhoods.
The housing stock in historic Palms is now almost completely composed of apartment buildings, and 92% of the population there are renters. The upscale Westside Village district contains the only significant remaining concentration of owner-occupied single-family homes, largely constructed by developer Fritz Burns in assembly-line style just before World War II; most of these houses have been expanded during their lifetime, and some have been replaced in recent years by bigger, two-story dwellings. Apartment buildings, including two UCLA family- and graduate-student housing complexes, line even Westside Village’s major thoroughfares.
Palms is served by the 405 San Diego and 10 Rosa Parks freeways. Its No. 12 Santa Monica Big Blue Bus (and the express Super 12) provide a direct line to UCLA on the north, Culver City on the south and the South Robertson area on the east. Venice Blvd. is served by the Local 33 and Rapid 733 bus lines of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The No. 6 line of Culver CityBus on Sepulveda Blvd. links UCLA with the Los Angeles Airport and the Green Line of the light-rail system, while Culver City’s No. 3 line runs from Century City on the north to link with other bus lines at the southern terminus. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation offers a commuter freeway express to downtown in the morning and return in the afternoon.
The Metro Expo Line, currently under construction, will serve the Palms area. Plans call Phase I to become operational in 2011, with its western terminus located near the intersection of Venice and Robertson Boulevards.
Landmarks and attractions
Palms’ diversity is reflected in its landmarks. Religious sites include the complexes of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness on Watseka Avenue and the Iranian-American Muslim Association of North America (IMAN) on Motor Avenue.
Palms has a large number of Indian and Pakistani restaurants and businesses.In addition, it is also one of the centers of the Brazilian community in Los Angeles, with a number of Brazilian-oriented restaurants and shops, and one nightclub. In 1979 the original Chippendales erotic male dancing club at 3739 Overland Avenue at McCune Avenue was started by Bengali immigrant Steve Banerjee when he turned his nightclub-disco, Destiny II, into a venue for male strippers.
The area is host to an unusual museum, the Museum of Jurassic Technology, and a research institute, the Center for Land Use Interpretation. It has a legitimate theater, the Ivy Substation, which is now home to the Actors Gang, led by Tim Robbins. The Ivy Substation is within Media Park, which has been leased to Culver City on a long-term basis.
Government and infrastructure
Palms is served by a Los Angeles city-certified neighborhood council, whose governing body, the Palms Neighborhood Council (PNC), meets on the first Wednesday of each month.
The council was certified as part of the city government on December 14, 2004. Its founding president was Len Nguyen, who resigned shortly after his taking office to work for newly elected City Council Member Bill Rosendahl. Todd Robinson succeeded as the second president, but he resigned a few months later. In March 2006 Vice President Pauline Stout moved up to become president.
All of the stakeholders in Palms are members of the neighborhood council. Stakeholders include not only those who live, work or own property in the district, but also a broader category of people who can claim affiliation through some other kind of activity on behalf of Palms oganizations. Three from that category were elected in spring 2005 to the Representative Assembly, a 13-member governing body composed of officers chosen on a districtwide basis and representatives elected from local areas.
The Los Angeles Fire Department operates Station 43, which also serves portions of Rancho Park and Cheviot Hills.
Los Angeles Police Department operates the Pacific Community Police Station at 12312 Culver Boulevard, 90066, serving the neighborhood.
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services SPA 5 West Area Health Office serves Palms.
The United States Postal Service Palms Post Office is located at 3751 Motor Avenue.
Residents of Palms are served by schools in the Los Angeles USD.
Elementary schools which serve portions of Palms include:
- Palms Elementary School
- Charnock Road Elementary School
- Clover Avenue Elementary School
- Pacifica Community Charter School
All residents are served by Palms Middle School, Alexander Hamilton High School and Venice High School.
The Lycée Français de Los Angeles, a French-language school that boasts actress Jodie Foster among its alumni, occupies several buildings in various parts of the neighborhood. It is in the process of building a new high school campus on Exposition Boulevard at the top of Vinton Avenue.
St. Augustine School provides Catholic education for boys and girls through the eighth grade. The Notre Dame Academy Girls High School, located at 2851 Overland Avenue is a private Catholic high school.
Palms Middle School is the largest public school within Palms. Its bifurcated campus lies between Woodbine Avenue and Charnock Road. A major highway, Palms Boulevard, runs through it, with a pedestrian tunnel underneath the road to get from one side of the campus to another. Other public schools are Charnock Road, Clover Avenue and Palms elementary schools, as well as Pacifica Community Charter School.
The Palms-Rancho Park Branch of the Los Angeles Public Library serves Palms.
Parks and recreation
Palms Park and Palms Recreation Center are in Palms. The recreation center has an auditorium, barbecue pits, lighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play room, a community room, and picnic tables. The Palms Park Child Care Center is adjacent to the park. The facility takes up to 50 children in grades Kindergarten through 6. The center has an enclosed play area.
Mar Vista, Los Angeles
Mar Vista is a district on the West Side of Los Angeles, California.
Geography and transportation
Mar Vista is near the center of LA’s West Side. The city of Santa Monica lies to the northwest, West Los Angeles to the north, Palms to the northeast, Culver City to the east, Del Rey to the southwest, and Venice to the west. Its approximate boundaries are the city limits of Culver City and the San Diego Freeway (I-405) on the northeast and southeast, Walgrove Avenue on the southwest, and the Santa Monica Municipal Airport and National Boulevard on the northwest. Major thoroughfares through the district include Washington Place; Palms, Venice, Sawtelle, Inglewood, and Grand View Boulevards; McLaughlin, Barrington, Short, and Centinela Avenues; and Beethoven Street. The district uses the 90066 ZIP code, which also serves an adjacent part of Culver City.
The Westdale area of northern Mar Vista — the area bounded by Sawtelle Boulevard, National Boulevard, Bundy Drive, and Palms Boulevard — is a neighborhood within the bounds of the Mar Vista Community Council.
By the early 1920s the community (then called Ocean Park Heights) was growing rapidly and saw the potential for becoming an incorporated city. In 1924, the name of the community was changed from Ocean Park Heights to Mar Vista. In 1926, Mar Vistans decided not to incorporate, but rather to be annexed to Los Angeles. Mar Vista was influenced by the fact that two neighboring cities had voted for annexation to Los Angeles, based on concern about water, and growing populations. Venice was annexed to Los Angeles in 1925, and Barnes City joined the metropolis in 1927.
The name Ocean Park Heights came from the first tract of homes built along the Venice Short Line. The tract, and the train station that served it shared the Ocean Park Heights name. This was 1904. Until 1907, the City of Venice was the City of Ocean Park. The City Hall of Ocean Park – subsequently the City Hall of Venice – was on Venice Blvd., now the Beyond Baroque Theater. Until 1907, the back country of Ocean Park with its 200-foot hill, was appropriately called Ocean Park Heights. It wasn’t until 1924, that the then inappropriate name, was changed to Mar Vista.
By 1924, there were a number of tracts along Venice Blvd., and the names of several of them were proposed to replace Ocean Park Heights. These included Walnut Glen, Del Mar, Roseboro, and Hillcrest. There was a new tract north of Venice Blvd. and west of Centinela Avenue called New Mar Vista. The nearest Red Car station was named Mar Vista. After much debate, Mar Vista was selected as the name to replace Ocean Park Heights.
In 1924 Ocean Park Heights became Mar Vista, and in 1927 Mar Vista became part of the City of Los Angeles. The area annexed to Los Angeles extended north from Washington Blvd. to Pico Blvd. and from Walgrove east to Overland. Most of this area was farmland. The major crop was lima beans, which could be dry farmed. Mar Vista became known as being in the Lima Bean Belt of the Nation.
By 1912, there were four large tracts that made up Ocean Park Heights. The original Ocean Park Heights tract included Ocean View, Grand View and Mountain View streets. The East Ocean Park Tract was south of Venice Blvd. between Centinela Avenue and Inglewood Blvd. The tract east of Inglewood Avenue, which includes the new fire station and extends east to McLaughlin was Tract 928. It is the Oval tract. West of Centinela on the south side of Venice Blvd. was the Del Mar Tract. Grand View was the widest street in Los Angeles County, and the first gated community. The wide street allowed horse drawn carriages to make a u-turn, as the street dead ended at Charnock Road. The top of the hill was a dump – a dump site with the grandest views in Los Angeles County.
Mar Vista is an economically diverse neighborhood of apartment buildings and single-family homes. The hilly areas near its border with Santa Monica, whose spectacular ocean views give Mar Vista its name, hold some of the most expensive land in the community.
Mar Vista is considerably less densely populated than neighboring Palms, as its homeowners’ associations successfully fended off the 1950s up-zoning that changed much of Palms and West Los Angeles from suburban areas to renter-dominated urban neighborhoods. It should be noted, though, that some 60 percent of the district’s residents live in rental housing, owing to the density of apartment buildings on thoroughfares like Venice Boulevard and Barrington Avenue.
In recent years, the escalating cost of real estate (even a 1,500 square foot (140 m2) 1940s tract house may go for upwards of $800,000) has led to a rise in the number of newly constructed Mediterranean Revival-inspired houses on Mar Vista Hill. Nearby UCLA maintains a large graduate student housing complex along Sawtelle Boulevard near National Boulevard, as well as a smaller housing block along the north side of Venice Boulevard between Inglewood and McLaughlin Avenues.
Current Los Angeles City Council member Bill Rosendahl resides in Mar Vista. He was elected in 2005 on a slow growth platform, motivated in large part by the concerns of Mar Vista residents over traffic congestion and lost views resulting from the Playa Vista project.
The Pacific Electric Railway “Red Car” streetcars ran along Venice and Culver Boulevards during the neighborhood’s early years, but were shut down after World War II.
Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract
A portion of north-central Mar Vista, the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract, is designated as a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone by the city of Los Angeles. This area, built immediately after World War II, contains an abundance of excellently preserved mid-century modern architecture.
Including the small portion of Culver City within its boundaries, ZIP 90066 had a population of 55,194 as of the U.S. Census of 2000. Racial composition was 60.8% white, 4.1% black, 1% Native American, 13.5% Asian or Pacific Islander, 15.2% some other race, and 5.5% two or more races; 33.2% of respondents of all races claimed Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. Per capita income was $26,532 and median family income was $51,822; 9.7% of families and 13.9% of individuals were below the federal poverty line.
In 2009, the Los Angeles Times’s “Mapping L.A.” project supplied these Mar Vista statistics: population: 35,492; median household income: $62,611.
- North Venice Little League
- Mar Vista Park and Recreation Center
- Mar Vista Farmers’ Market
- Mar Vista Branch Library
Government and infrastructure
County, state and federal representation
The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services SPA 5 West Area Health Office serves Mar Vista.
Parks and recreation
The Mar Vista Recreation Center has an auditorium, barbecue pits, an unlighted baseball diamond, lighted indoor basketball courts, lighted outdoor basketball courts, a children’s play area, an indoor gymnasium without weights, an outdoor roller hockey rink, picnic tables, a lighted tennis court, and a lighted volleyball court.
- The Mar Vista Philharmonic – the band of Arthur Barrow, Frank Zappa alumni.
The Los Angeles Fire Department operates Station 62, which serves a portion of Venice as well.
Los Angeles Police Department operates the Pacific Division Police Station at 12312 Culver Boulevard, 90066, serving the neighborhood.
Residents are zoned to schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. The area is within Board District 4.
Elementary schools in the area include:
- Beethoven Elementary School
- Grand View Boulevard Elementary School
- Mar Vista Elementary School
- Walgrove Elementary School
All residents are zoned to:
- Mark Twain Middle School
- Daniel Webster Middle School
- Venice High School
Los Angeles Public Library operates the Mar Vista Branch.