Besides the obvious allure of the ocean, its salted breeze, the sound of the waves, the broad sandy beach, and a year-round moderate climate, Santa Monica offers a culturally rich community with pretty much something for everyone. Whether your thing is surfing or the symphony, arts or architecture, a quiet community or a humming nightlife, Santa Monica has it. And although the commute anywhere east of the 405 may be measured in time rather than miles, there are more than enough reasons to make choose this place for your home. So, who lives here? Yes, there are more than a few wealthy business professionals and film industry folks. But also among the locals are struggling bohemian types, entrepreneurs, retirees, and just about everyone in between. And for young families, the schools are top-notch.
- Average listing price for home: $1,656,240 (Wk ending Aug 29 2012)
- Median sale price for home: $813,750 (May 12 to July 12 2012)
- % Change from 1 year ago: -6.3%
- % Change past 5 years: -16.1%
- Avg price per square foot: $590
- Greater L.A. Avg price per square foot: $286
Santa Monica is an affluent beachfront city situated on Santa Monica Bay, and is surrounded on its other three sides by various districts of Los Angeles. Specifically, the northwestern border is Pacific Palisades, the eastern border is Brentwood north of Wilshire Boulevard and West Los Angeles south of Wilshire, the northeastern border is San Vicente Boulevard up to the Riviera Country Club, the southwestern border is Venice Beach and the southern border is with West Los Angeles and Mar Vista. The city has experienced a bit of a growth spurt since the late 80’s and the population is 89,736 (as of 2010 Census).
Starting in the 1850’s, Santa Monica became a winter destination for upper class Easterners, which contributed to a commercial boom that was happening, especially in real estate. Some milestone events from that point onward:
- 1872: Col. Robert S. Baker of Rhode Island purchases 38,409-acre Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica for $54,000; wife Dona Arcadia Bandini de Baker buys what is now Pacific Palisades for $40,000.
- 1874: Nevada Senator John Percival Jones, regarded as the founder of Santa Monica, purchases control of Rancho Santa Monica for $162,000.
- 1875: Colonel Baker and Senator Jones plot the city’s physical layout including parks and promontories.
- 1875: The 26-acre Palisades Park is donated to the city by Senator Jones.
- 1887: The city of Santa Monica is incorporated.
- 1893: A mile-long wharf is built transforming the city into a major port of call for Los Angeles until 1903.
- 1909: Santa Monica’s pier opens. Drawing crowds from all over the world ever since, it’s the oldest recreational pier on the West Coast.
- 1920: Santa Monica begins drawing Hollywood’s “A” list as residents and population rapidly grows to 37,000.
- 1920: Aviation pioneer Donald W. Douglas, Sr. founds Douglas Aircraft Co. Douglas later merges with McDonnell Aircraft Corporation in 1967 to form McDonnell-Douglas.
- 1934: Muscle Beach sets off an international fitness craze on Santa Monica State Beach.
- 1984: A $45 million pier restoration begins, starting with a refurbishment of the historic 1922 Looff Hippodrome carousel.
- 1989: Third Street Promenade opens, welcoming up to 7,000 visitors daily.
- 1999: A major beachfront redesign marks the millennium, including the rebirth of Muscle Beach, renovation of Palisades Park and the debut of two new beachfront hotels, the last properties to be built along Santa Monica’s shoreline
Hundreds of movies have been shot or set within the city of Santa Monica. One of the oldest exterior shots in Santa Monica is Buster Keaton’s Spite Marriage (1929), which shows much of 2nd Street. When walking through Palisades Park, it’s impossible to not recall “The Big W” from the comedy classic It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). More contemporary films include Heathers (1989), The Truth About Cats and Dogs (1996), Get Shorty (1995), and Oceans Eleven (2001) Iron Man (2008).
Many TV series have also been set in, or features exterior shots of, Santa Monica including Baywatch, Three’s Company, Pacific Blue, Private Practice, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
KCRW, a public radio station broadcasts from the campus of Santa Monica College. One of the more popular radio stations in greater L.A., it carries a mix of NPR news, talk radio, and a free-form music format.
For north-south bound traveling, there are two options: The 5 Freeway is a short distance to the east, but depending on the time of day, getting to it may require patience. The other north-south option is the Pacific Coast highway, which is much more picturesque. Unless your drive is a very long one, these two options are typically mutually exclusive.For east-west travels, Santa Monica is the terminus for the 10 Freeway.
If you prefer public transportation, the Big Blue Bus serves Santa Monica, the west side of Los Angeles, LAX and 10 neighboring communities with more than 1,000 bus stops. An express line connects downtown Santa Monica to downtown Los Angeles.
The last option is to just get above it all. The city owns and operates the Santa Monica Airport, which is a general aviation airport. Commercial flights are available at Los Angeles Int’l (LAX) a few miles to the south of Santa Monica.
The City of Santa Monica is comprised of several neighborhoods, some of which have a very distinct character to them. Each are reviewed briefly below, staring at the north end of the city.
North of San Vicente
San Vicente Boulevard is the northernmost major street in Santa Monica. Homes north of San Vicente Blvd are among the most expensive in Los Angeles County and often contain views of the Pacific Ocean or the picturesque Santa Monica Canyon. Lot sizes vary between 15,000 sq feet up to 60,000 sq feet. Home prices range from $5 million to $30 million, many of which are gated estates. La Mesa Drive is one of the most expensive and least known in the city. Planted with a dense canopy of rare Moreton Bay fig trees, it’s one of the more botanically picturesque streets in the city. The Santa Monica Stairs are a popular set of 189 very steep steps that lead down into the canyon and utilized by many for intense workouts.
North of Montana
The area south of San Vicente and north of Montana Avenue consists of larger family homes, commonly on 7,500 square foot lots (50' X 150'). The Gillette's Regent Square tract, developed by King Gillette - the razor blade manufacturer, are 9,000 square feet on 150' x 60' wide lots. In this area you’ll find an abundance of beautiful Spanish and Mediterranean Revival estates. Though not quite as expense as the homes north of San Vicente, this neighborhood isn’t filled with starter homes. The prices range from roughly $2.5 million up to $10 million. During Halloween the streets near 16th Street and Georgina Avenue are famous for their prevalence of trick or treaters, parties, with huge numbers of people in attendance every year.
North of Wilshire
The area north of Wilshire and south of Montana is a primarily residential neighborhood. Laid out on a consistent grid of numbered streets, there are many mid-sized homes and condominiums. On its westernmost end you’ll find some well-preserved Victorian duplex houses and the east-west avenues are lined with smaller Craftsman era bungalows. Although still not inexpensive, the Real estate in this neighborhood is a bit more affordable than the two than north of Montana and north of San Vicente. Here, the home prices range from roughly $1.5 million to 4.5 million..
Downtown Santa Monica
Downtown Santa Monica is bounded by Wilshire Boulevard to north, Colorado Avenue to the south, 2nd Street to the west and 14th Street to the east. The residences in the downtown area are predominantly condos and apartments, especially in the western portion of this area. Two of the most vibrant commercial and shopping draws of Santa Monica, the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place, are located in the heart of downtown.
Midtown Santa Monica
Situated primarily to the east of the downtown area, Midtown Santa Monica stretches from 14th street to Centinela on its west and east borders, and from Wilshire Boulevard to Olympic Boulevard at its north and south borders. Alternating between wide commercial thoroughfares and quieter residential streets, Midtown is less congested than many other parts of the city. Very few of the Craftsman and Victorian homes that were common in the early years of the city can be found today. In the 1940’s these were replaced by California Bungalows, many of which were then also replaced by four and five unit condominium complexes. Homes in this area commonly sell in the range of $750K to $1.5M.
Ocean Avenue a major thoroughfare in Santa Monica that runs along Palisades Park, with a view overlooking the Santa Monica Beach State Park and the Pacific Ocean. The real estate along Ocean Avenue is highly sought after, as all residences have a full view of the beach and ocean, some extending from Palos Verdes all the way to Malibu. Home prices are typically found in the range of $2 million to $12 million. South of California Ave are several luxury hotels such as Shutters, Casa del Mar, The Huntley, The Fairmont Miramar, The Shore Hotel, Hotel Oceana, The Viceroy, The Georgian, and Loews, restaurants, businesses, and homes. The Santa Monica Pier is located at Ocean Ave and Colorado Ave.
The Pico district is a corridor that straddles the 10 freeway, Lincoln Boulevard on the west, Centinela Avenue on the east, Olympic Ave to the north and Pico Boulevard to the south. Santa Monica High School and Santa Monica College are both in the Pico district. Pico, which has historically been the most ethnically diverse area of Santa Monica, is known for its farmers’ market, record stores, restaurants and clothing boutiques.
Located in the southwest corner of Santa Monica is the Ocean Park neighborhood. Of all the neighborhoods of Santa Monica, Ocean Park is the one for which the adjective “charming” is most appropriate. It has a broad mix of older, smaller homes, apartment buildings, large homes near the beach and condos. The area has a beachy, homegrown, and artsy aesthetic – much more akin to its neighbor Venice Beach, than to the neighborhoods in the north section of the Santa Monica. Residents from all parts of the city come to stroll along Main Street with its many boutiques, restaurants, galleries and cafes. Main Street also hosts a weekly farmer's market on Sunday. Home prices range between $750K to $5 million.
Sunset Park is a residential neighborhood located between Pico Boulevard and the southern city limits and Lincoln Boulevard and eastern city limits. It is composed primarily of single-family residences, most of which are small one-story homes from the 1940s built for workers at the Douglas Aircraft Factory. Although the Douglas Aircraft factory is long gone, its legacy is the Santa Monica Airport, one of the busiest single-runway airports in the nation. Renovated, updated, or rebuilt homes in this areas range in price between $850K to $1.7 million.
There is so much to do and see in Santa Monica, only a small fraction of which are mentioned here. Suffice to say, this list could go and on. For shopping, Santa Monica has three main districts, Montana Avenue (north), Downtown, and Main Street on the south end of the city and each has its own unique character. Beyond shopping, there are places all over Santa Monica that offer something special and attract locals and out-of-towners alike.
Third Street Promenade & Downtown
Located in the downtown district, this outdoor, pedestrian-only segment of Third Street is considered a premier Westside destination for its shopping, dining, street performers, bookstores, theatres, and cafes. It stretches for three blocks between Wilshire and Broadway. Along this strip many are many nationally popular businesses including Apple, Anthropologie, West Elm and Hennessy and Ingalls bookstore and there are no less than three movie theaters.
At the south end of the Promenade is Santa Monica Place, an outdoor mall designed by architect Frank Gehry, which opened in the fall of 2010 as a modern shopping-entertainment complex. Tenants include Nordstrom, Bloomindale’s, Tiffany & Co., and Barney’s New York.
Farmers' Markets - The outdoor farmers' markets in Santa Monica are the place to find fresh, beautiful produce and cut flowers from local, organic California farmers, as well as live music, chef exhibitions, artisanal cheeses and gourmet items. In fact, many top Southern California chefs and restaurateurs are regulars at these markets. And you have four different opportunities, so you never have to miss out.
- Wednesday Downtown - Arizona Ave (between 4th & Ocean) 8:30am - 1:30pm
- Saturday Downtown - Arizona Ave (between 4th and 2nd) 8:30am - 1:00pm
- Saturday Pico - 2200 Virginia Avenue (Pico & Cloverfield.) 8:00am - 1:00pm
- Sunday Main St. - 2640 Main Street (in Heritage Square) 9:30am-1:00pm
The Broad Stage - Westside residents tired of fighting traffic to reach theaters downtown and in other parts of L.A. must have cheered in unison when the Broad Stage opened in October 2008. Part of the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, the Broad Stage, desgined by Enzo Zecchetto architects, accommodates a range from performances – drama, dance, opera, symphony and chamber orchestras, film - with world class performers on the bill. The contemporary design of the 499-seat theatre with its proscenium stage allows for performances that that are uniquely intimate, delighting audience members in every seat of the house. And the fun will continue to grow. This year, plans for a new 165-seat sister theater was unveiled. The $12.3 million dollar multi-use addition is scheduled for completion in 2014.
Montana Avenue is tree-lined boulevard with that features casual, yet upscale, shopping options including boutique stores, restaurants, and theatres.
The Aero Theater - Built by the Donald Douglas Company in 1939, the Aero Theatre was originally opened as a continuous 24-hour movie theatre for aircraft workers who worked in shifts around the clock. It later became a beloved neighborhood theatre anchoring the Montana Avenue strip. Its’s currently operated by The American Cinematheque, which also operates the Egyptian in Hollywood.
Semi-Precious - The perfect place to get your bead on. This cool little bead “salon” sells more kinds of beads than you probably knew existed. And the great thing about the shop is that they not only offer finished products, but they also offer private and group classes teaching you how to make your own stuff. And they showcases local artist. If you have know what you want, but don’t have the courage to make it, the staff will make it for you!
Father's Office - Founded in 1955, this joint is an institution in Santa Monica and one of Southern California's early adopters of the craft beer movement. One of the main attractions on the menu is the Office Burger, a patty of fine dry-aged beef topped with caramelized onions, Gruyère and Maytag cheeses, applewood-smoked bacon compote and arugula served on a soft roll. Don’t ask for ketchup, though. No substitutions are allowed.
Ocean Park - Main Street
The Main Street district offers an eclectic mix of clothing, restaurants, and other specialty retail.
O'Brien's Irish Pub - It’s a Irish pub, so you can certainly count on a range of great brews, whiskey and spirits as well as fine Irish and American cuisine. But it’s a also a great place to hang out for live music and comedy. There’s a different live act every night. But the best way to enjoy O’brien’s may be during the jam sessions on the front patio that happen on Sunday afternoons in the summer.
Stella Rossa Pizza Bar - Seasonally inspired, artisan style pizzas is what you’ll find at Stella Rossa. And if you’re a ‘buy local’ kinda person, Stella Rossa utilizes fresh, sustainable and locally-grown ingredients. Supposedly the culinary team spent months perfecting their signature pizzas. And, there’s a bar. A pizza and beer joint together. Whodathunkit.
Mindfulnest - Once again, the theme “local” holds true. Mindfulnest carries a selection of handmade gifts and home decor items, including ceramics, jewelry, accessories, pottery, sculptures and more. All of the artwork sold is made in North America with 70% made by local artists and artisans. And the staff is very friendly and helpful. It’s a good store to linger in.
Chez Jay - To many, the archetypical California menu includes an abundance of items made with avocados and sprouts. Likewise, people often imagine celebrity hangouts as fancy, expensive places with private tables. Chez Jay offers neither and yet, for 52 years, its been a favorite for Angelenos of all stripes. This worldly little hideaway has even sent a peanut into orbit. You can ask about the details on this while enjoying a classic surf-n-turf dinner.
McCabe's Guitar Shop - McCabe's, which opened shop in 1958, specializes in acoustic and folk instruments, including guitars, banjos, mandolins, dulcimers, fiddles, bouzoukis, psaltries, sitars, ouds, and ethnic percussion. Besides being an awesome guitar shop, McCabe’s has become a fabled music performance venue. Use of the store as for concerts began in 1969 and ever since then the shows there have become legend. A poll by LA Observed rated McCabe’s as one of the 32 greatest things about Los Angeles. The max seating capacity is only 150, so if one of your favorite performers is on the calendar, get tickets early. 3101 Pico Blvd.
Bergamot Station - This city-owned industrial facilty cum gallery complex located just off of the 10 Freeway is a testament to the city of Santa Monica’s support for the arts. Originally built for rail purposes, the site was later converted for other industrial uses including celery packing, ice making, and water heater manufacturing. In 1987 the city bought the complex and the Bergamot Station arts complex opened in 1994. It’s monthly art walk is extremely popular and the center draws over 600,000 people a year. Olympic & Cloverfield.
Palisades Park 26 acres of beautifully treed and manicured walkways at the edge of a high sandstone bluff overlooking the Santa Monica Beach and the ocean. The panorama, which stretches from Malibu to the Palos Verdes Peninsula, is wondrous, especially at the day’s end when daylight transitions through the magic hour and into sunset. It’s the perfect destination whether you are a walker, biker, jogger, yogi, photographer, rose sniffer, or just an everyday people watcher.
The Park was given to the city in 1892 for use as a park "forever" by Santa Monica's founders, Col. Robert Baker and his partner, Senator John P. Jones. In addition to the expected features such as public art, gardens, and benches to relax on, one of the more unusual attractions is the Camera Obscura – a life-size, walk-through pinhole camera. And for any traveler’s who’ve crossed the country driving the famed Route 66, their journey ends right at this park.
SANTA MONICA BEACH STATE PARK
Without question the crown jewel of Santa Monica, and the primary reason that its residents choose to live there, is its magnificent beach. Nothing is more relaxing than reclining on the beach with your toes in the sand, the sound of waves crashing, gulls hooting, and children laughing. Stretched out along 3.5 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway, the beach offers so much: parks, picnic areas, playgrounds, restrooms, bike rentals and a bike path, volleyball, wooden pathways for warm days and beachgoers with disabilities. And of course, the water itself offers the joys of swimming, wading, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, or whatever your pleasure is, all under the watchful eye of manned lifeguard stations. One of the reasons the Santa Monica beach is so enjoyable is that it’s kept in pristine condition with its sand raked daily. There is even a “trash valet” service on Fridays, weekends, and holidays.
Santa Monica’s “Heal the Bay” program – an initiative to educate, inspire and empower its visitors to be stewards of the environment – has made a positive impact on the water quality at the beach, which recently received all "A" ratings. Weekly reports on the water quality at the beach of your choice are available through HealTheBay.org.
Some of the attractions of Santa Monica Beach State Park....
Santa Monica Pier and Aquarium
Monica The landmark Santa Monica Pier has been drawing crowds for a century. It originally opened on September 9, 1909, but had no amenties. In 1916 the shorter adjoining pier to the south, Pleasure Pier, was added. Attractions were added over the years and today Pleasure Park twelve rides and many other attractions including a roller coaster, the world’s first and only solar-powered ferris wheel, a carousel built in 1922 (national historic landmark), a trapeze school, a miniature golf course, and an aquarium. The end of the pier is a popular location for anglers to cast their hook.
Annenberg Community Beach House
This Marion Davies Guest House is a restored landmark that serves as a visitor's center with cultural and interpretive programming year-round. The structure has a storied history, beginning with its construction in the 1920’s by William Randolph Hearst for Marion Davies, through its conversion to a hotel, then being severely damaged in the 1994 earthquake. In 2009, after years of restoration, it was re-opened for the public benefit and features an upgraded beach cafe, new concession stands, and beach chair and umbrella rentals. The public pool facility is entirely restored and includes deck for lounging and an enclosed picnic area with a water playground for kids and a two-story pool house with lockers.
Permitted year-round depending on the level of beach activity. During the summer, surfing is allowed only between lifeguard towers 18 and 20 (Pico Blvd. and Bay St.), and between 28 and 29 (Ashland Ave. and Pier Street).
Santa Monica Beach accounts for just a segment the South Bay Bicycle Trail that runs from Torrance to Malibu. At 22 miles, it’s the longest beach path of its kind in the worlds.
Beach volleyball courts south of the Pier are available to the public and free of charge. Join pickup games or grab a place on the bleachers to watch. Olympic competitors have trained here. Additional courts run along Ocean Front Walk and the bicycle path in both directions from the Pier.
Known as "The Birthplace of the Physical Fitness Boom of the Twentieth Century", Muscle Beach is a longtime landmark in the world of bodybuilding and dates back to the 1930's. The network of outdoor workout equipment is where celebrities such as Kirk Douglas and Mae West and the godfather of fitness Jack LaLanne and other internationally known bodybuilders trained. Fully restored and refurbished, Muscle Beach serves gymnasts, acrobats and youth with an extensive gymnastics training area. Other features include chinning bars at various heights, parallel bars, rings, a small jungle gym for children and a padded gymnastics area.
For those looking for a mental workout instead, Chess Park is just the place. The level of play is high, and overall tone is fairly serious, but challengers are always welcome.
SANTA MONICA CIVIC CENTER PARKS
Development is currently underway for the two new centrally located parks, Palisades Garden Walk and Town Square, that will transform Santa Monica's Civic Center, providing a gateway with a strong connection to Palisades Park and the Santa Monica Pier. Construction began in the spring of 2012 and is planned for completed in the spring of 2013. the two parks are the. The combined project sites encompass roughly 7 acres from City Hall to Ocean Avenue and from the 10 Freeway to the future Olympic Drive.
SANTA MONICA STEPS
A work-out hotspot for folks from a walks of life, the Santa Monica Steps or “the stairs” are actually two sets of stairs, one concrete and one wooden, which combine to connect Adelaide Drive to the ocean level street below. The stairs are comprised of 189 steps in total and on any given day scores of people can be seen, with earbuds in place, working up a sweat as they ascend and descend the stairs.
Santa Monica residents are zoned to the following schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District:
· Canyon Elementary
· Roosevelt Elementary
· Franklin Elementary
· John Muir Elementary
· Will Rogers Elementary
· Grant Elementary
· Edison Elementary
· Mckinley Elementary
· Lincoln Middle School
· John Adams Middle School
· Santa Monica High School