Neighborhood Spotlight: UCLA, bustling retail village give Westwood its staying power
The first recorded name of the area that would become Westwood was “ranch of the beautiful breezes.”
After a short-lived incarnation as the town of Sunset, the land was sold in 1922 to the Janss brothers, the two men who would shape Westwood as we know it today.
They built the neighborhood from south to north, beginning with the construction of tracts in 1924.
But the game changer came a year later, on the north end of their holdings, when the Southern Branch of the University of California announced it was fleeing its crowded Vermont Avenue campus for a roomy, wooded lot owned by the Jansses.
The brothers happily sold to the UC regents for far below market cost; sales of subdivided lots shot up overnight, and Westwood was on its way.
While the campus of UCLA rose to the north, the Jansses made another far-sighted decision that would cement Westwood’s status as a destination neighborhood: They created a Mediterranean-themed master-planned commercial development dubbed Westwood Village.
Major chain stores of the era flocked to this gleaming new shopping center. Hollywood stars began to move into nearby Holmby Hills. Westwood was ascendant.
Things changed after the war. The neighborhood strained to accommodate an explosion in the student population. A quirk in L.A.'s zoning regulations would lead to the Wilshire Boulevard corridor becoming a dense, heavily urbanized barrier between north and south Westwood, while high rents forced out many of the department stores, changing the character of the neighborhood.
A highly publicized gang shooting that kept shoppers away in the 1980s seemed to sound the death knell for the neighborhood.
But being the home of one of the world’s best public universities helped keep the neighborhood going. The stars never left Holmby Hills, the shoppers eventually came back (although the department stores didn’t) and the meteoric rise in Westside home and land values has continued to make Westwood a sought-after address.
Arts and entertainment: The Geffen Playhouse, the Hammer Museum, Royce Hall, the Westwood Village movie houses — there’s always something to see, with a concentration of top-tier art, music, live theater and movie venues all within walking distance of each other.
UCLA: There’s something about the energy of a college town, where students from all over the world gather to receive an education, play drinking games and eat ice cream sandwiches from Diddy Riese.
Recreation: There are plenty of opportunities for sports enthusiasts in Westwood. With 115 NCAA championships under their belts, the Bruins are a huge draw (though for football games you have to drive to Pasadena). For those who would rather do than see, the Westwood Recreation Center, Holmby Park and the L.A. Country Club are nearby.
Parking: There are parts of Westwood — and the Village in particular — where parking is perennially terrible, oft-complained about and never resolved.
Dana Cataldi is the estates director of Partners Trust and raised four children in Westwood. She has been working in the market for 10 years and said she loves the neighborhood’s family-friendly nature, good elementary schools and diversity.
For those wanting to buy in Westwood, Cataldi notes that inventory is so low that “the key to getting in is working with agents who have great relationships with other agents.”
“Forty percent of my sales are off-market sales, which comes from relationship-building,” she said. “You also need to understand the nuances of each area, the different price points, which tend to go up as you go north.”
In the 90024 ZIP Code, based on six sales, the median sale price for single-family homes in February was $2.4 million, up 13.3% from February 2015, according to CoreLogic. The median price for condos, based on 16 sales, was $725,000.
Warner Avenue and Fairburn Avenue elementary schools were among the bright spots, with scores of 960 and 940, respectively, out of a possible 1,000 in the 2013 API ranking system.
Nearby Beverly Hills High scored 865, and Ralph Waldo Emerson Middle had a score of 728.
The mansions, the prices, the market.
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