By David J. Barboza
SurveyLA’s findings keep rolling in! This post takes a look at the report for the Palms – Mar Vista – Del Rey Community Plan Area. Here’s a map to get oriented. Since I last wrote a post for this blog we’ve also released four new reports for what we call Group 4, a set of areas in the south San Fernando Valley from North Hollywood to West Hills. This is pretty exciting for us since these are our first findings from the San Fernando Valley, and I’ll be taking a look at them in upcoming posts. All of this is up on our Survey Findings webpage. Please remember, we want to hear from you to get historic place suggestions and feedback on the reports. We’ve still only released 13 of 35 reports that SurveyLA will eventually produce, so there’s much more to come.
Getting back to Palms – Mar Vista – Del Rey, our report is posted online in four parts: the Historic Resources Survey Report, a detailed section on Individual Resources, a section on Non-Parcel Resources (i.e. notable stuff that isn’t located inside of a parcel) and a section on Historic Districts, Planning Districts and Multi-Property Resources.
Palms, Mar Vista and Del Rey were mainly agricultural during the eras of Spanish and Mexican sovereignty. The catalyst for urbanization was, as in so many other parts of Los Angeles, the arrival of transportation infrastructure. In this case, the 1875 arrival of the Los Angeles and Independence Railroad (later part of the Southern Pacific system). Palms took off by selling itself as a “half-way” point between Downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica. Pacific Electric streetcars came too in the early years of the 20th Century. By 1915, Palms was annexed into the City of Los Angeles.
Farther west, Mar Vista saw its first residential subdivisions in 1904. There were four main tracts, which were collectively known as Ocean Park Heights. Large areas stayed agricultural well into the mid 20th century. A huge boom of residential subdivisons happened in the early 1920s and by 1927 local voters seeking improved municipal services decided to support annexation into the City of Los Angeles.
South of Palms and Mar Vista, Del Rey took off after Al Barnes’ Wild Animal Circus and Zoo relocated there from Venice around 1920. Barnes’ clout in the area irked some local residents, who managed to reduce it by incorporating the area as a city in 1926. Mere months after incorporating, newborn Barnes City attempted to consolidate into the City of Los Angeles. However, the attempt was thwarted for years by litigation. By 1928, Barnes had decided to move his operation to the San Gabriel Valley. Barnes City was consolidated into the City of Los Angeles in 1930. Few traces of the circus and zoo remain today.
Other factors driving the area’s development were the industries that took root nearby. After 1924, oil drilling was a major presence. Hughes and Douglas opened aircraft manufacturing plans nearby in the 1930s. By World War II, workers were pouring in for defense jobs, and after the war, returning GIs provided the demand for a new wave of residential and commercial development. The Federal Housing Administration played a role too, as developments such as Westside Village (a planning district identified in SurveyLA’s findings) built modest, affordable houses to conform to FHA lending standards. Other post-WWII developments included an expansion in the aircraft industry, the completion of the nearby sections of the 405 freeway (by the early 1960s) and the growth of employment opportunities at MGM studios.
I’ve picked out some of my favorite finds from the report below. You can click on a photo to start a slideshow. Special thanks to MyHistoricLA.org user “Christopher M1” for the great information on Palm Place (The Oval). Our survey teams had that with them in the field and described the area as a planning district. You can also read more about the Pico Boulevard Chili Bowl on MyHistoricLA.org.