Rancho Palos Verdes is the youngest city on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, that bump of prime real estate that juts into the ocean up the coast from San Pedro with lofty views of the Pacific. It's less showy than its trio of neighboring cities on the Hill — the peninsula's South Bay moniker — but shares the same good schools and ocean-scrubbed air.
In the early 1900s, New York banker Frank Vanderlip saw the area's potential as a residential mecca. He bought 16,000 acres in 1913 that included some of what is now Rancho Palos Verdes.
"He envisioned it to be an area like the Italian Riviera," said Marjeanne Blinn, librarian for the Palos Verdes Library District. "He had big, big plans."
But not all his plans came to fruition. The bicoastal Vanderlip was distracted by World War I. He returned to New York to raise funds for the war, and his California holdings languished. In the '20s, Vanderlip assembled investors and the peninsula began to take shape as a seaside bedroom community.
Good news, bad news
Vanderlip also played a role in the introduction of peacocks to the peninsula cities, said Laila Viking of the Rancho Palos Verdes Chamber of Commerce. "They were a gift to him," she said. Since then, the birds have proliferated Some residents are ardent fans, but detractors cite the birds' grating shrieks and waste as a nuisance.
The city has 7 1/2 miles of eye-catching coastline, a particular plus at this time of year. Visiting with the regularity of Midwestern relatives, but not asking to go to Disneyland, are the Pacific gray whales that migrate annually along this stretch of coast.
Another distinctive feature of Rancho Palos Verdes is its moving landmass. There are three active landslides within the city, according to the city's Chamber of Commerce. The largest and oldest is the Portuguese Bend landslide, which started sliding in 1956 and moves about 12 inches a year — varied by rainfall that accelerates the process, said Barbara Dye of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy.
The good news is that few homes are in the active slide areas. The two other locations are the Abalone Cove landslide and the Klondike Canyon landslide. There is a moratorium on construction and development in these zones, and measures such as dealing with excess water are taken to promote land stability.
The golf course now known as Trump National Golf Club, at the tip of the peninsula, famously lost its 18th hole in a June 1999 landslide. The slide also took out trails, a bike path and a portion of a sewer line. Extensive reconstruction at the course, and a change of ownership, followed.
Rancho Palos Verdes, like the peninsula cities of Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and Palos Verdes Estates, is not exactly freeway close.
"Some people think Palos Verdes is just a little bit too far away, a little bit too remote for people who have to go downtown or to Century City," said Linda Phillips, a Realtor with Keller Williams Palos Verdes Realty. Not living near a freeway, however, is a selling point for others.
Although Phillips noted that Rancho Palos Verdes has some of the lowest-priced homes on the Hill, "lowest-priced" is a relative term. In the more affordable pockets, not even a handful of houses are listed under $1 million, she said.
Condos on the market in Rancho Palos Verdes run from $409,000 for a remodeled, 778-square-foot unit with a view of the pool to $899,999 for a unit with 1,373 square feet of space and views of the ocean and the Trump course fairways.
Single-family homes for sale range from a three-bedroom home with 1,317 square feet of space and no view for $895,000 to a 7,240-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion with ocean view, infinity pool and wine cellar for $6.25 million.
Rancho Palos Verdes is in the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. The elementary schools are Cornerstone, which in the state's Academic Performance Index 2005 Growth Report scored 946 out of a possible 1,000; Mira Catalina, 904; Montemalaga, 940; Point Vicente, 947; Rancho Vista, 915; Silver Spur, 948; Soleado, 909; and Vista Grande, 947. The intermediate schools are Miraleste, 888; Palos Verdes, 931; and Ridgecrest, 918. High schools are Palos Verdes, 836, and Palos Verdes Peninsula, 843.