A coup that stuck

Junko Hill works at F.K. Nursery, which opened in 1936 and is run by third-generation Hiro and Aki Kagegama.
(Anne Cusack / LAT)
Times Staff Writer

On the Westside of Los Angeles sits a plain-Jane neighborhood known as Sawtelle. And though it lacks Westwood’s classic architecture and Venice’s hipness, it can boast something that those other places can’t: an honest-to-goodness political coup in 1918.


While most Americans were focused on World War I winding down in Europe, voters in Sawtelle — named after a prominent local family — decided by a margin of three votes (519 to 516) to merge their separate city with that of Los Angeles. But the town’s Board of Trustees tossed aside the public’s will, gave the plan the thumbs down and “ordered a challenge in the courts,” according to a Times retrospective published in 1963.

The city of L.A., unwilling to await a court decision, “rounded up a squad of policemen and swooped down upon the Sawtelle City Hall,” described one account. Sawtelle’s city officials were locked out of City Hall, and L.A. officials took over the municipal and school functions.

Neighborly Advice: A caption that accompanied the Dec. 17 column about Los Angeles’ Sawtelle area implied that a home in the photograph was from the 1930s or ‘40s. The single-story house pictured was built in the late 1980s. —

On Sept. 15, 1921, the California Supreme Court invalidated the Sawtelle election, claiming voters were not informed on the ballot that they would be required to pay a “proportionate share of Los Angeles’ debts.”

A month later, Los Angeles officials vacated Sawtelle’s City Hall. Nine police officers packed up the records, eight firefighters left to work elsewhere, and Sawtelle was back in business. Until the election of 1922, that is, when voters again approved joining L.A. This time it stuck.

Drawing card

The Sawtelle area is surrounded by high-end Brentwood, Westwood and Santa Monica and is part of more moderately priced West L.A. The 1.8-square-mile neighborhood is home to the massive Veteran Affairs facilities and the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Those seeking good weather year-round — the fog doesn’t reach quite this far east — easy access to the nearby 405 and 10 freeways and prices that won’t break your heart, are happy to call this quaint slice of old L.A. home, said Prudential John Aaroe agent Eileen Kenyon. Sawtelle Boulevard’s ethnic eateries draw diners young and old, and shopping on Pico, Olympic and Barrington attracts throngs.

Insider’s viewpoint

Because Sawtelle used to be unincorporated, many Japanese — for decades prohibited from buying in other areas by restrictive covenants from the 1920s — flocked there. Many established orchards and nurseries, some of which still are in business today. They also bought homes.

Residents strolling along Sawtelle Boulevard can lose themselves in the fanciful gardens of the Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery or Hashimoto Nursery, then grab sushi at one of the many Japanese eateries.

Housing stock

The Sawtelle neighborhood consists of a mix of small single-family homes — many built in the 1930s and ‘40s — and apartments, condos and town homes. There are 1,886 single-family homes, 3,300 condos and 13,959 apartment units. The area is close to commercial activity on Olympic and Wilshire boulevards and Barrington Avenue.

As elderly residents move out of homes they bought for $5,000 pre-World War II, said Gilleran Griffin agent Randy Spalding, those properties today fetch about $650,000. Turnover is low, said Gail Lowenstein, a Coldwell Banker Westwood agent. There were eight homes and 44 condos on the market recently. Homes were priced from $649,000 to $1.65 million. Condos ranged from $469,000 to $1.1 million.

Report card

The Los Angeles Unified School District serves children from the Sawtelle area. They attend Brockton Avenue Elementary School, which scored 734 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report, and Nora Sterry and Westwood elementaries, with scores of 798 and 911, respectively. University High School scored 891.

Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price






2006 YTD... $651,000

Neighborly Advice: A caption in the column, about Sawtelle, in the Dec. 17 Real Estate implied that a home in the photo was from the 1930s or ‘40s. The single-story house pictured was built in the late 1980s. —

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems;