Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of the Westside
Mar Vista is a westside neighborhood surrounded by Santa Monica, Sawtelle, Rancho Park, Palms, Culver City, Westside Village and Venice. To vote for other Los Angeles neighborhoods to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Orange County communities, vote here.
CHARACTER AND DISTRICTS
Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Mar Vista
Within Mar Vista are several smaller neighborhoods, including Westdale (between National Blvd, Palms Blvd, Inglewood Blvd and Sawtelle Blvd), Mar Vista Hill (south of National, east of Centinela), the Gregory Ain Mar Vista Tract (along Moore and Meier between Marco and Palms), McLaughlin (between the 405, Centinela, Venice Blvd and Culver) and Culver West (between Washington, Centinela, Gilmore and Beethoven). The neighborhoods may’ve at one time reflected a varied character, but nowadays McLaughlin and Culver West are pretty indistinguishable from the rest of the southern part of Mar Vista, which boasts a higher number of lowriders and trampolines than the northern portions. The fact that Westdale is the only neighborhood within Mar Vista to have official designation is odd. It does boast a Mickey D’s and KFC. The residents of Mar Vista are approximately 51% White (mostly Germanic), 29% Latino (mostly Mexican with a large number of Oaxaqueños in particular) and 13% Asian (mostly Korean).
After thousands of years as part of the Tongva homeland, the Spaniards arrived and claimed the area for themselves. In 1819, the king of Spain granted Jose Augustin Antonio Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes permission to graze their cattle on Rancho La Ballona (also sometimes spelled Baiona and Bayona). In 1822, Mexico declared independence and California became a part of that country. In 1848, after a war with the United States, California became part of the latter.
EARLY AMERICAN HISTORY
In 1857, Benjamin D. Wilson, the first mayor of Los Angeles, received title to one fourth of Rancho La Ballona on foreclosure of a $1500 loan he'd made to Tomas Talamantes. Two years later he sold his land to George A. Sanford and John D. Young. Things were pretty quiet, although in 1863, Yankee soldiers camped on Mar Vista Hill, in anticipation of a possible rebel attack of Los Angeles from Catalina Island. After Santa Monica was founded in 1875, the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad connected the beach town to LA. One Moye Wicks took over took over the lands of La Ballona and courted the rival Santa Fe Railroad to build a line to his proposed Port Ballona Harbor. The Palms (now simply Palms) was the first town to spring up along the line, in 1886. The following year, Louis Mesmer and Wicks joined forces to develop Port Ballona Harbor and a land boom ensued. Two years later, the land boom ended and development stopped. Then, in 1889, a severe storm destroyed the harbor.
OCEAN PARK HEIGHTS
In 1904, after the establishment of the town of Ocean Park, the first homes were built along the Venice Short Line and the community was named Ocean Park Heights. In 1907, Ocean Park was annexed by Santa Monica and the rest of the neighborhood changed its name to Venice. By 1912, there were four tracts in Ocean Park Heights: East Ocean Park, Oval, Del Mar and Grand View, the first gated community in the county. By 1924, there were a number of tracts along Venice Blvd and, with there no longer being an Ocean Park, some of their names were suggested to replace Ocean Park Heights, including Walnut Glen, Del Mar, Roseboro and Hillcrest. However, none of them were ultimately chosen and that year the town became known as Mar Vista, after the nearest Red Car station.
“Mar Vista” is Spanish for "Ocean View" and one can view the Pacific from Mar Vista Hill’s handily named Ocean View Avenue.
On the other side of the hillock, standing on Mountain View Avenue, one can indeed see the Hollywood Hills behind downtown Beverly Hills and Century City.
In 1926, rather than incorporate as a city, Mar Vistans voted to become a neighborhood of Los Angeles. At the time, the town was still a small farming community devoted primarily to the cultivation of lima beans. In the following decade, lima bean production increased and many Japanese farmers moved to Mar Vista to work. During World War II, however, Japanese-Americans were removed and placed in concentration camps and anti-aircraft artillery was installed. The guns were fired in February 1942's Battle of Los Angeles, which has been alternately viewed as an attack by Japan, a case of mass hysteria, or an invasion from an alien planet.
After the war, things calmed down and famed mid-century modernist architect Gregory Ain designed the homes of a Mar Vista Housing Tract from 1947-'48. Ain was a Lincoln Heights-raised Modernist architect whose Rudolph-Schindler-and-Richard-Neutra-inspired architecture was designed for more affordable homes. The neighborhood is easily the most appealing in Mar Vista, an oasis of quiet and, as a local resident pointed out, no street lights. This helpful Parisienne also mentioned that her husband loves Amoeba.
SPORTING MAR VISTA
The Venice Reservoir Moors
From what I can tell, the last sixty years or so have been pretty uneventful; maybe that’s why there are so many events, pastimes and clubs in the neighborhood. The Venice Reservoir was built atop Mar Vista Hill in the 1940s. However, after the city began getting diverting water from the Colorado River, the reservoir was decommissioned and three baseball diamonds were added to the Venice Reservoir Site. In 1966, they became home to the North Venice Little League.
Mar Vista Recreation Center has an auditorium, barbecue pits, a baseball diamond, basketball courts, basketball courts, a gym, a tennis court, volleyball courts and a roller hockey rink. Everyone knows that the hip, ironic crowd love children’s games (the dodgeball craze, anyone?) and Mar Vista Park is where KXLU Kickball meet. Mar Vista is home to KXLU’s DJ Ned Learner, who’s also rumored to be a member of Las Abejas de la Colmena. Other “sports” fans can bowl at AMF Mar Vista Lanes. As with most of the west side, football/soccer gets no love.
CLUBS AND SUCH
For bookworms, pervs and bums, there’s the Mar Vista Branch Library. The French Club meets the first Wednesday of each month. Mar Vista boasts two rival Mah Jongg clubs: Geri Polin’s (contact 310-398-0225 or firstname.lastname@example.org) and Valerie Schwartz’s (contact email@example.com). There’s also a the monthly Mar Vista Poker Night. The Mar Vista Sewing Circle meets the second Friday of every month to knit, sew, crochet and needlepoint. The Mar Vista Walking Group meets every morning. In June, the Mar Vista Neighborhood Association hosts an annual block party.
Soon, the Sepulveda Channel Bikeway is scheduled to open. Sepulveda Channel is a mostly covered tributary to Ballona Creek that is mostly pretty unsightly currently. Even though it’s not much to look at right now, loitering near the channel can get you a $5,000 fine.
Mar Vista is one of the greenest neighborhoods I’ve visited, boasting a higher than average number of green homes, with solar panels and rain barrel-harvesting. In April, the Annual Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase shows off the neighborhoods many xeriscaped properties. The Mar Vista Farmers' Market began in 2006 and, in addition to just being a farmer’s market, also celebrates Cinco de Mayo, Birthdaypalooza, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and has a Winter Festival. At the Ocean View Farms Community Garden, locals grow various crops, including of course, Lima Beans. There’s also The Mar Vista Gardening Club.
It’s a bit surprising how few places there are to grab a bite or drink in Mar Vista; pretty much just Campo's Tacos, Canton Kitchen, Coffee Connection, Don Chuy's, El Agave Oaxacquena, Gallegos Mexican Grill, House of Taitahai, Hurry Curry, Lost & Found, Numero Uno Pizza Pasta, Piece O' Pizza, Röckenwagner Bakery, Sunny Grill, The Curious Palate and Yum Yum Donuts. Although my stomach growled as I passed Hurry Curry, I didn’t eat during my visit because, it being a short autumn day, I was racing against time to finish whilst there was still daylight. Despite the relatively small number of options, Mar Vista also has an Ethnic Food Club… which begs the question, with all the world’s cuisines having corresponding ethnicities, which are excluded?
Mar Vista has been a shooting location for few films. It was the primary and in some cases sole shooting location for movies including Blindness, Co-ed Call Girl, Mother, Jugs & Speed and Uh Oh!. TV series who’ve shot in the neighborhood include CSI and Naturally Delicious.
As for music, the only group my research turned up from the neighborhood was The Mar Vista Philharmonic... and I don't know if they're really from there. However, Bikos rep both Mar Vista and Culver City.
Margaret Garcia's Two Blue Whales (1978) - thankfully not Wyland