NEIGHBORS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE : In Torrance’s Marble Estates, a park and a strong sense of camaraderie maintain their sturdy appeal to families


When Torrance residents Pamela and Carl Glass decided it was time to move up from their two-bedroom, 2 1/2-bath condo, they had their three kids in mind.

“We needed something bigger because we wanted a room for the girls [Jessica, 10; and Alexis, 6] and a room for our son [3-year-old Jason],” said Carl Glass, an environmental engineer for Los Angeles County. “We also needed a guest room, because our parents live out of town and we always have a lot of family visiting.”

But with their two girls already happily settled into nearby Hickory Elementary School, the family was reluctant to stray too far in their search for larger quarters. “Hickory is a fantastic school,” said Pamela Glass, a cash management product representative for Union Bank in Monterey Park. “And the kids didn’t want to leave.”

So finding the sprawling, 4,839-square-foot home in the Marble Estates neighborhood of Torrance--a block and a half from Hickory Elementary--was a dream come true for the Glass family, who sold their condo and packed their bags in December, 1994.


Although priced at the high end of the Marble Estates market, the $590,000 home, custom-built in 1984, has four bedrooms, three full and three half baths, a three-car garage, a sauna and Jacuzzi, a breakfast room, two dens and a yard brimming with fig, tangerine, nectarine and grapefruit trees.

“We certainly didn’t set out looking for this much house,” said Carl Glass. “But the size and the location have really worked out wonderfully.”

Although Marble Estates includes no apartments or condominiums, single-family home prices cover a wide range, from $290,000 for a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home to one of the newer models, built within the last six to eight years, that can top $700,000 for about 5,000 square feet of living space. The median price, according to Renee Turnberg, a Realtor with the Prudential California Realty in Torrance, is about $330,000 for a 2,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home.

Aside from the few lots that remained undeveloped until the mid-1980s, most of the homes in Marble Estates had similar beginnings. In the mid-'60s, Don Wilson Builders built several tracts in the newly planned community, which featured underground utilities--a rarity in the Torrance area.

“Most of the original homes had tile kitchens, galvanized plumbing and shake or shingle roofs,” said Turnberg, who hands out replicas of the builder’s original brochure to potential new residents.

Marble Estates’ 350 homes are bounded by 230th Place on the north, 234th Street on the south, Crenshaw Boulevard on the east, and Iris Avenue and Greenwood Avenue on the west. “The Marble Estates area was originally made up of mostly oil lots,” said Turnberg, noting that there are still a few oil pumps scattered across the neighborhood. In fact, the Glass family’s home was built in 1984 on what was originally one of the oil lots.

“In the ‘50s and early ‘60s, there were cows grazing here, right next to the oil pumps,” said Harry Busch, one of the original Marble Estates owners. Busch, a retired designer for Consolidated Paper, and his wife, Natalie, bought their 1,944-square-foot home for $38,500 in the summer of 1966. “We got a $500 discount for buying the last one on our street,” he added.

The community grew around two focal points that still draw new residents: Hickory Park and Hickory Elementary. And those two things were certainly important to Charlotte and Juan Rivera and their two sons, 11-year-old Michael and 7-year-old Drew, when they bought their four-bedroom, three-bath home for $395,000 in August, 1994. The house, one of the original Don Wilson models, is 2,500 square feet, with glass walls in the den overlooking a large back-yard pool.

“We love it here,” said Juan Rivera. “We’re really happy with the house and the neighborhood. In fact, the day we moved in, we accidentally left my youngest son alone in the upstairs bedroom for about half an hour. He got scared, and the neighbors came over to see how he was doing. We thought that said a lot about the neighborhood.”

Rivera, a technical manager for TRW in Redondo Beach, wasted no time in becoming part of the community, joining a parent-teacher committee that oversees the math and science program at Hickory Elementary.

“It really is a small-town atmosphere here,” said Turnberg, who lived in Marble Estates for 16 years. “We have a lot of walkers and bikers, and you can walk or ride for miles without running into a busy street.” For those who want the charm of small-town living along with big-city shopping and restaurants, Torrance’s Del Amo Mall (one of the largest shopping malls in the United States) and Hawthorne Boulevard’s restaurant row are minutes away.

Although the aerospace industry employs many area homeowners like Rivera, a substantial number of Marble Estates residents are entrepreneurs who have chosen to start small businesses (including a beauty supply store, an art and office supply store, an executive search firm and a computer store) in the Torrance area. “There’s a real entrepreneurial feeling here,” said Turnberg. “And most of the people who start their own businesses have kept them in the Torrance area.”

Law enforcement is a popular occupation in the area, too--especially with the neighbors. Several area police officers live in Marble Estates, said Turnberg, “So we get a lot of police officers just cruising the neighborhood, and people appreciate that. Everyone wants to have a police officer living in their neighborhood.” But an even greater reason that crime is low in the area, home owners said, is because of the Neighborhood Watch groups that became active several years ago after a rash of garage break-ins. “We feel safe taking our kids to the park here,” said Carl Glass.

Although many of the owners who first walked through a Don Wilson Builders model home in 1965 are now grandparents, the area also includes young families. “It goes through stages,” said Turnberg. “We won’t have any new babies for a while, then we’ll have a whole new crop. The neat thing is, we’re seeing some adult children coming back and buying their parents’ homes--the homes these kids grew up in--when their parents retire and move out of state.”

Some of the reasons those “kids” come back to Marble Estates to raise their own families are the neighborhood traditions, like the Fourth of July block party that’s held on the same cul-de-sac each year. The day starts at 8:30 a.m. with the Pledge of Allegiance. Then come races for the kids, a parade and a potluck. The celebration winds up with parents and kids sprawled on lawn chairs, watching the fireworks display in nearby Wilson Park. “Halloween is great, too,” said Rivera. “People decorate their houses, and the kids come to the park all dressed up. They have games in the park and a costume contest. It’s wonderful!”

Maybe that’s why many of the original owners have no intention of pulling up their 30-year-old Marble Estates roots and heading to Florida. “We’ve always felt safe here,” Busch summed up. “Our two boys went to the schools here, and they turned out well. The neighborhoods are friendly. We’ve always been so satisfied with the neighborhood, we just never wanted to leave.”

Kathy Sena is a Manhattan Beach free-lance writer.


Marble Estates At a Glance


1994 estimate: 1,176

1990-94 change: -2.5%

Annual income

Per capita: 28,853

Median household: 73,500

Household distribution

Less than $30,000: 7.0%

$30,000-$60,000: 23.4%

$60,000-$100,000: 36.8%

$100,000-$150,000: 21.3%

$150,000+: 10.2%


Marble Estates Home Sale Data

Sample Size (for 10-year period): 322

Ave. home size (square feet): 2,110

Ave. Year Built: 1965

Ave. No. Bedrms: 3.76

Ave. No. Baths: 2.41

Pool: 16%

Central air: 2%

Floodzone: 53%

Price Range (1993-94): $207,000-$590,000

Predominant Value: $326,000

Age Range: 9-51 years

Predominant Age: 31 years


Average Sales Data


Year Total $ per Median Sales sq. ft. price 1995* 8 $157.77 $319,000 1994 29 $142.59 $325,000 1993 23 $155.85 $320,000 1992 23 $168.12 $343,000 1991 36 $180.60 $360,000 1990 28 $180.65 $405,000 1989 27 $207.18 $389,000 1988 44 $170.37 $357,000 1987 58 $136.91 $287,500 1986 46 $112.71 $240,000


* 1995 data current through August.

Source: TRW Redi Property Data, Anaheim