More family-friendly than Westside-trendy

Roots run deep
Three miles from the ocean, the Los Angeles community of Mar Vista is dotted with modest postwar homes. Property values have soared in recent years, and many homeowners have preferred to remodel and expand rather than relocate.
(Ken Hively / LAT)
Special to The Times

Once known as the “Lima Bean Belt of the Nation,” Mar Vista maintains a modest view of itself. Yes, it’s the Westside — but without the attitude. Many homeowners remodel rather than move out, and it’s not uncommon to see small original homes mushrooming into two-story architectural marvels.


Neighborly Advice —The Oct. 30 Neighborly Advice column stated that resident Paul Harrison had recently returned to the home his parents purchased in 1946 on Westholme Avenue. The house is on Westminster Avenue.


That lima bean moniker comes from the 1930s, when the temperamental crop thrived in the moist, fertile fields of Mar Vista. The farmland was bought in 1947 by developer Paul W. Trousdale. In 1949, the Beethoven Market was built on the corner of Palms Boulevard and Beethoven Street, where it still stands today, supplying neighborhood needs.

Evolving into housing tracts by the 1950s, this area of Los Angeles catered to returning soldiers and young families. No fancy crown moldings here, just one-car garages and no-frills construction.

North of Palms Boulevard, upscale homes were built along the tree-lined streets. Today these homes, with views of the twinkling ocean three miles away, are among the priciest in the area.


Drawing card

“With ocean breezes and a convenient Westside location, who wouldn’t want to live here?” asked real estate agent and local resident James Brunner. “It’s an area that particularly appeals to families, both for the neighborly feel and for being in the right price range” by Westside standards.


Insider’s view

Paul Harrison recently returned to the home his parents purchased in 1946 for $4,000 on Westminster Avenue, just south of Centinela Avenue. “Every kid on the block knew each other,” Harrison recalled. “We were always outside playing in each other’s yards and just having fun.

“My folks have passed away but were determined to leave the house for us to pass along to future generations.” Harrison and his wife, Vikki, are busily restoring the home and hope their daughter will someday enjoy it with her family.


Housing stock

About 17 single-family homes are listed for sale in the area. Architectural expression is evident, such as the owner-expanded home advertised as a “quintessential beach bungalow” and featuring a flowing indoor-outdoor design and ocean view for $1,999,000. The house has 2,537 square feet of living space, three bedrooms and 2 1/2 baths. On the other end of the price spectrum, an older two-bedroom, one-bath starter home is available for $699,000. With 760 square feet of space on a 5,405-square-foot lot, the home could be expanded.


Good news, bad news

As neighboring large streets become more congested, pass-through traffic and vandalism are a concern. Stop signs and speed bumps are under consideration, but such measures take time to wend through the system.

On the plus side, the Mar Vista Community Council, along with the Urban Planning Committee, is looking to clean up the area with merchant cooperation. Uniform trash cans, regular cleanup and signs welcoming Mar Vista visitors are in the works.


Report card

Neighborhood schools include Beethoven Elementary, which scored 823 out of 1,000 on the 2004 Academic Performance Index. Walgrove Elementary scored 715 and Grandview Elementary, 674. Mark Twain Middle School reached 582, with Venice High School scoring 644.


Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price






*Year to date


Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Mar Vista Neighborhood Assn.; California Department of Education; Mar Vista Historical Society