As you drive past the curve at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and San Vicente Blvd., you can tell by the row of coral trees lining the parkway that you are in the heart of Brentwood. Brentwood is located at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, bounded by the San Diego Freeway on the east, Wilshire Boulevard on the south, Santa Monica on the southwest, the border of Topanga State Park on the west and Mulholland Drive along the ridgeline of the mountains on the north.
Nearby neighborhoods and cities include Pacific Palisades on the west, Santa Monica on the south, West Los Angeles and Sawtelle on the southeast, Westwood on the east, Bel-Air on the northeast and Encino on the north.
Brentwood, like nearby Santa Monica, has a temperate climate influenced by marine breezes off the Pacific Ocean. Residents frequently wake to a “marine layer,” a cover of clouds brought in at night which burns off by mid-morning. The topography is generally split into two characters, broadly divided by Sunset Boulevard: the area north of Sunset is defined by ridges and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains; south of Sunset the area is relatively flat. The southern district features underground springs which bubble up into a small creek along “the Gully” near the Brentwood Country Club, and in the ”Indian Springs” portion of the University High School campus, formerly the site of a Native American Tongva village.
San Vicente Boulevard is considered the “Main Street” of Brentwood and is divided by a wide median on which stand many large and attractively sculpted coral trees. This green belt replaced a derelict Pacific Electric trolley track, its trees evolving into a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. Brentwood boosters have adopted a coral tree silhouette as a de facto community logo. Intersecting Bundy Drive is lined with extremely tall date palms.
The area that is now Brentwood was part of the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica, a Spanish land-grant ranch sold off in pieces by the Sepulveda family after the Mexican-American War. Development began following the establishment of the large 600-acre Pacific Branch of the National Home for Disabled Soldiers and Sailors in the 1880s. A small community sprung up outside that facility’s west gate, taking on the name ‘Westgate’. Annexed by the City of Los Angelese on June 14, 1916, Westgate’s 49 miles included large parts of what is now the Pacific Palisades and a small portion of today’s Bel-Air. Westgate Avenue is one of the last reminders of the area’s former namesake.
Originally planted with soybeans and avocados, Brentwood is now one of the prominent districts of the Westside and among the wealthiest neighborhoods in all of Los Angeles. It has prosperous commercial districts along each of its major east-west thoroughfares, Wilshire Boulevard, San Vicente Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard, and is largely populated by professionals and executives.
Though there is no direct connection, the name Brentwood harks to Brentwood of Essex, England, a town on the outskirts of London dating back to Saxon times. Many local streets reflect this British heritage, including Barrington, Gorham, and Bristol.
In the early 1920s the Ratteree Brothers bought the area of property now know as Brentwood Glen. There were four Ratteree brothers: Judge Earnest Ratteree, Dr. Ira Ratteree, James Ratteree and Allan Ratteree. They came from the south, spending most of their time in Arkansas and South Carolina before arriving in Los Angeles.
The Ratterees divided their land into five different parcels which at the time was a walnut grove. The land was referred to as the Ratteree Tract. The Ratterees filed for subdivision of the land in the mid 1920s. They named all the streets (and the names are original to this day) but they did not market the property until after the onset of the depression.
The streets and sidewalks were poured in 1927. One of the original Pepper Trees is still in front of 11346 Montana St. In 1932 the first house was built at 11344 Albata Street. It is still the original structure. The majority of the houses were constructed between 1935-42.
In 1954 the city of Los Angeles began construction of three overpasses of the 405 freeway on Ohio Avenue, Sunset Boulevard, and Casiano, now Getty Center Drive.
In 1960 the freeway was completed all the way through the Sepulveda Pass. 1969 was the year the Homeowners’ Association was formed. At that time residents decided to change the name of the neighborhood from the Ratteree Tract to Brentwood Glen. The southbound on-ramp and sound wall were created in 1975-76. After a bus accident in 1994 the Waterford off-ramp was closed. Today Brentwood Glen is home to 560 dwellings consisting mostly of single family homes, with some duplexes, triplexes and multiple-unit apartments.
Local Brentwood traditions include the annual decoration of San Vicente Boulevard’s historic coral trees with holiday lights and a Maypole erected each year on the lawn of the Archer School for Girls, carrying on the tradition set by the Eastern Star Home that was previously housed there. Originally conceived of as a surprise for the women residents at the home, the pole was erected in the dark of night for anonymous neighbors. (Classic film lovers are familiar with this building as the exterior establishing shot for the “Mar Vista Rest Home” that provides a key scene in the 1974 film Chinatown.) Inspired by the community of veterans resident at the former Soldiers and Sailors Home, now a United States Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Brentwood once regularly hosted a Memorial Day parade, complete with a string of classic cars and an elephant named Tiny.
Brentwood – Bel Air Fire
In 1961, a construction crew working in Sherman Oaks noticed the smoke and flames in a nearby pile of rubbish. Within minutes, Santa Ana winds gusting up to 60 mph sent burning brush aloft and ultimately seared Nov. 6, 1961, into Los Angeles’ civic memory.
Life magazine called it “A Tragedy Trimmed in Mink,” and glittering stars of stage and screen scrambled to do battle with the blaze that swept through Bel Air and Brentwood that day. Flaming embers danced from roof to wood-shingled roof, spreading the fire across the Santa Monica Mountains to the south and into the affluent Westside enclaves.
In Bel Air, some film stars stood their ground against the encroaching flames. Maureen O’Hara risked her life to remain at her home and hose down her wooden roof. Fred MacMurray battled the flames and contained damage to just a portion of his home. But comedian Joe E. Brown saw his home burn to the ground. Burt Lancaster and Zsa Zsa Gabor also lost their homes.
Former Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his chief researcher, Al Moscow, were working on a draft of Nixon’s “Six Crises” when the flames threatened his rented house on North Bundy Drive. Nixon and Moscow took to the roof to water down the wood shingles, saving the home.
More than 300 police officers helped evacuate 3,500 residents during the 12-hour fire, and more than 2,500 firefighters battled the blaze, pumping water from neighborhood swimming pools to douse flames in some areas. Pockets of the fire smoldered for several days. Even as firefighters battled what was to become the Bel Air disaster, a separate fire had erupted simultaneously in Santa Ynez Canyon to the west, further straining local firefighting resources. That blaze was contained the next day after consuming nearly 10,000 acres and nine structures and burning to within a mile of the inferno raging in Bel Air and Brentwood.
At least 200 firefighters were injured, many by the tar from the roofs of the homes, but no one was killed and 78% of the homes were saved. Still, the fires were the fifth worst conflagration in the nation’s history at the time, burning 16,090 acres, destroying more than 484 homes and 190 other structures and causing an estimated $30 million in damage.
Brentwood features a number of residential subdistricts, some as small as a few blocks, others ranging over acres of hills:
- Brentwood Circle: Gated community east of Barrington and north of Sunset.
- Brentwood Country Estates: Gated community in Mandeville Canyon.
- Brentwood Flats: The residential portion south of Sunset
- Brentwood Glen: Part of Brentwood that is bounded by Sunset, the 405 Freeway and the Veterans Administration
- Brentwood Heights
- Brentwood Highlands
- Brentwood Hills: Home to Mount St. Mary’s College and the Getty Center.
- Brentwood Park: Notable for its layout, having been designed around several large traffic circles, a handful of which remain; the area between Sunset and San Vicente west of Kenter/Bundy.
- Brentwood Sunset: Gated community north of San Vicente Blvd.
- Brentwood Terrace: Southwest edge of Brentwood, bounded by San Vicente Blvd, Montana Ave, the Brentwood Country Club, and Santa Monica’s 26th Street. Walking distance to the Brentwood Country Mart.
- Bundy Canyon
- Crestwood Hills: Includes a cluster of architecturally significant mid-century modern residences; located in the northern part of Kenter Canyon.
- Kenter Canyon
- Mandeville Canyon: Westernmost part of Brentwood.
- Museum Heights: Contemporary condominiums, located off Sunset Blvd.
- South Brentwood: Between San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards and the eastern boundary of Santa Monica.
- Sullivan Canyon: A small equestrian community north of Sunset, west of Mandeville Canyon Rd. and east of Pacific Palisades. Most properties are one-story ranch houses, and most houses have horse stables.
- Westgate: Directly to the east of Brentwood Park
- Westridge Hills
- Westridge Heights: Western portions of Mandeville Canyon
Popular recreational spots include the Brentwood Country Mart, an early farmer’s market complex built in 1947 (and recently remodeled and expanded); the Brentwood Village, a small shopping district near the intersection of Sunset and Barrington; and more recently, Brentwood Green, a “village commons” created from the playground at Brentwood Science Magnet Elementary School. There is also a tented farmer’s market held each Sunday on a strip of Gretna Green Way between Brentwood Science Magnet and the Brentwood Country Club. The 2.7-mile long boundary of the private Brentwood Country Club is a popular local jogging route. The internationally renowned Getty Museum is located in the hills high above Brentwood, near the 405 freeway and the Sepulveda Pass.
Public open space is limited in the area, but green space with occasional or partial free public use can be found at the VA and on Brentwood Common. Local public parks are Crestwood Hills Park and Barrington Recreation Center, the latter featuring a community center, tennis courts, soccer fields, baseball diamonds and a dog park. Fire roads in the Santa Monica Mountains, good for mountain biking and hiking, can be accessed at the top of Sullivan Canyon and Westridge.
In addition to Brentwood Science Magnet Elementary School (which only zones some residents for kindergarten), the area is served by Kenter Canyon Elementary School, Brockton Avenue Elementary School, and Pacific Palisades Elementary School (some areas are zoned jointly to Kenter Canyon and Pacific Palisades), all of which are part of Los Angeles Unified School District.
Locals attending public school usually go to Paul Revere Charter Middle School, Brentwood’s zoned middle school. The local public high schools are University High School (named for nearby UCLA, formerly Warren G. Harding High School), just outside the neighborhood’s boundaries in West Los Angeles, and Palisades Charter High School, in the nearby neighborhood of Pacific Palisades.
Brentwood is also home to several private schools, including Brentwood School, St. Martin of Tours Catholic School, and the Archer School for Girls.
Name: Brentwood Farmer’s Market
Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Location: Gretna Green & San Vicente
County: Los Angeles
Manager: Jennifer McColm
Office Address: 19301 Caladero St., Tarzana, CA 91356
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