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Elevated but still within buyers’ reach

Special to The Times

There’s Mar Vista -- the Westside community of pleasant postwar housing -- and then there’s Mar Vista Hill, actually a gathering of hills that oversee their more modest mother community. Few locations in Los Angeles -- at any price -- can match the views.

What it’s about

Where else, depending on how your home is positioned, can you gaze across all of Venice to the blue Pacific, or toward Century City’s office towers, or the Loyola Marymount University campus high on a hill, or the skyline of downtown Los Angeles? An additional bonus: On Mar Vista hilltops, refreshing ocean breezes sweep out smog and keep temperatures comfortable in warm weather.

As prices in other parts of the tony Westside have grown out of reach for many house hunters, Mar Vista remains one of the few areas that have stayed relatively affordable.

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Mar Vista Hill is not widely known, but for decades it has attracted buyers looking for individually designed homes on large lots. Mar Vista Hill is usually defined by Inglewood Boulevard on the east, Walgrove Avenue on the west and National Boulevard on the north. Its southern boundary is Venice Boulevard on the eastern portion and Palms Avenue on the western portion. (Some residents -- particularly those whose homes fall outside that perimeter -- argue that the boundaries are slightly different.)

Beginnings

Mar Vista, once a haven for Mormons seeking healthful sea air, was annexed into L.A. in 1927. After World War II, developers built hundreds of homes in the area for returning veterans, most of them in the “flats” surrounding Mar Vista Hill.

According to the Mar Vista Historical Society, one of Mar Vista Hill’s streets, the extra-wide Grand View Boulevard, was the entrance to one of the first gated communities in the county. Atop the mammoth wrought-iron gate that spanned Grand View at Venice Boulevard was a sign proclaiming “Ocean Park Heights.” Behind the gate, the width of the street allowed teams of horses to turn around easily at the top of the hill.

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Good news, bad news

Mar Vista Hill -- actually, Mar Vista in general -- is a family-oriented community where joggers, dog-walkers and baby strollers are part of the daily scene. Although there are few swanky restaurants or stores nearby, residents have easy access to trendy Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice and are not far from lively scenes in Santa Monica, Century City and Culver City. There’s a small but convivial farmers market on Sunday mornings at Venice and Grand View boulevards. One major plus for frequent travelers: Mar Vista Hill is so close to Los Angeles International Airport that it costs about as much to take a taxi as an airport shuttle.

On the downside, the proximity to Santa Monica Airport can be an annoyance, depending on where one lives. “June gloom” blankets the area in the mornings before summer takes hold.

Housing stock

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Coldwell Banker Realtor Ron Wynn, who started out in Mar Vista in the early 1970s, said there are about 50 “architecturally fabulous” homes in Mar Vista Hill, many of them between Charnock Road and National Boulevard on the prized north-south streets of Mountain View Avenue, Grand View Boulevard and Ocean View Avenue.

Two newly refurbished, architecturally significant homes in this area recently listed for more than $3 million: a 5,000-square-foot Modern renovation that is listed for $3,495,000, and a 4,000-square-foot Tudor-style mansion with extensive grounds for $3,295,000. Those houses are far less expensive than equivalent housing in Santa Monica’s “north of Montana” area, which lacks the views.

At the low end, one of Wynn’s listings -- a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home at the crest of Mar Vista Hill near National Boulevard -- is listed at $829,000.

Report card

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Children attend Los Angeles Unified School District. Venice High School scored 675 of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Mark Twain Middle School scored 612, and Webster Middle School scored 628. The scores for the elementary schools serving the area were: Mar Vista (913); Beethoven Street (859), Grand View Boulevard (686) and Walgrove Avenue (736).

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Sources: www.ronwynn.com; cde.ca.gov; www.marvistahistoricalsociety.net.


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