Brentwood is a district in the West Los Angeles region of Los Angeles, California.
Located at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains, bounded by the San Diego Freeway on the east, Wilshire Boulevard on the south, the Santa Monica city limits 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 southwest, West Los Angeles on the south, Sawtelle on the southeast, Westwood on the east, Bel-Air on the northeast and Encino on the north.
The area’s ZIP code is 90049, which includes Brentwood and part of Bel-Air Estates (the other section of Bel-Air Estates is located in the 90077 zip code).
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 to Anglos after Mexico’s defeat in the Mexican-American War. The area now popularly known as Brentwood was recorded in city ledgers as Westgate when it was annexed on June 14, 1916. Westgate was the city’s 17th annexation, and added another 49 square miles (127 square kilometers) to the city of Los Angeles, including large parts of what is now the Pacific Palisades and a small portion of today’s Bel-Air. (Note: There is a Westgate Ave. in West L.A./Brentwood that remembers the original name of the district.)
Originally an agricultural district (soybeans, avocados, et al.), Brentwood is now one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and one of the prominent districts of the Westside. It has prosperous commercial districts along each of its major east-west thoroughfares (Wilshire, San Vicente and Sunset). It is largely populated by professionals and executives.
Local traditions include the Maypole erected each year on the lawn of the Archer School for Girls, carrying on the tradition set by the Eastern Star Home that it replaced, and the annual decoration of the coral trees with holiday lights. Inspired by the adjacent Los Angeles National Cemetery and the community of veterans resident at the nearby Veterans Administration center, Brentwood once regularly hosted a Memorial Day parade, complete with a flotilla of classic cars and an elephant named Tiny; the tradition is now only sporadically practiced due to funding problems.
Brentwood, like nearby Santa Monica, is kept fairly cool by marine breezes off the Pacific Ocean and frequently wakes to the so-called “marine layer,” a cover of clouds brought in at night and burned off by mid-morning. The topography of the area is generally split into two, broadly divided by Sunset Boulevard. North of Sunset, the area is defined by the ridges and canyons created by the Santa Monica Mountains; south of Sunset (exceptions include Franklin Hill), the area is relatively flat. The southern district (and the neighboring Westgate-Sawtelle areas) features underground springs which bubble up into a small creek along “the Gully” in south Brentwood near the golf course, and in the “Indian Springs” (the springs were formerly the site of a Tongva campsite) portion of the University High School campus.
San Vicente Boulevard, considered the “Main Street” of Brentwood, is divided by a wide median on which stand many large coral trees. The median and the trees replaced the derelict Pacific Electric track, and the trees have become a Historic-Cultural Monument (#148) for the city of Los Angeles. (Brentwood boosters have adopted the silhouette of a coral tree as a de facto town logo.) Bundy Drive is lined with extremely tall date palms, likely planted by the district’s original developer.
There are a number of residential subdistricts; some defined by original developers, some defined by present-day local realtors. Some may be as small as a few blocks, others range over acres of hills:
- Brentwood Circle: Gated community east of Barrington and north of Sunset.
- Brentwood Country Estates
- Brentwood Flats
- 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 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: Modern designed condominiums. Located off Sunset Blvd.
- South Brentwood: Between San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards and the eastern boundary of Santa Monica.
- Westgate: Directly to the east of Brentwood Park
- Westridge Hills
- Westridge Heights: Western portions of Mandeville Canyon
Major thoroughfares include Sunset, San Vicente and Wilshire Boulevards; Barrington and Montana Avenues; and Bundy Drive. Brentwood is also situated close to the Wilshire, Montana and Sunset exits of the 405 freeway.
Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus serves Brentwood with its 2, 3, 4, 11, 13, and 14 bus lines. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) buses serve Brentwood include the 20 and 720 lines on Wilshire Blvd. (the latter of which is L.A.’s most successful bus rapid transit line), and several lines along Sunset Blvd.
Once linked to Los Angeles by a Pacific Electric Railway track on San Vicente, Brentwood is now part of a dispute over the future of public transportation in Los Angeles. In a controversial move protested by business owners, but which substantially increased bus speed through the Westside, the Metro has reserved the outermost lane of Wilshire Boulevard through Brentwood in each direction as a bus-only lane during rush hour, in a possible precursor to the adoption of bus rapid transit service with a dedicated lane along the entire length of Wilshire.
However, the difficulty of getting into and out of Brentwood by any means but private automobile (aggravated by the Metro’s cancellation of several “nanny bus” lines connecting the district to poorer areas of Los Angeles) has led to widespread calls for an extension of the Wilshire Boulevard leg of Metro’s Red Line subway, which currently ends at Western Avenue in Koreatown, through Brentwood to Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica; a Brentwood stop would presumably be sited in the business district near Barrington Avenue. There has been little forward progress by local authorities on making this concept a reality.
According to the Los Angeles Almanac, the 2000 census-year population was just under 42,000, with a population density of about 2,700 people per square mile. The population is about 80 percent white, nine percent Asian-American and six percent Hispanic or Latino. Brentwood has a significant Iranian community that is classified as white by the U.S. Census.
After English, the primary secondary household languages are Spanish and Farsi, with Chinese, Japanese, Korean, German, French and Hebrew also spoken at home in statistically significant numbers.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Brentwood’s (ZCTA 90049) median household income was $84,342; its median family income was $137,945; and its median per capita income was $75,965 in 1999.
As of the 2000 census, among people over age 25, approximately five percent of the population had no high school degree, eight percent had only a high school diploma, 15 percent of the population had some college education but no degree, 37 percent of the population had a bachelor’s degree, 15 percent had a master’s degree, and 16 percent had either a doctorate or a professional degree.
As of 2000, there were just over 22,000 housing units in Brentwood. Most Brentwood residents reside in single-family homes, many of which—while seemingly modest in style, square footage and lot size—would rarely sell for less than $750,000 due to the area’s high housing costs. There are many spectacular mansions and multi-million-dollar estates located in the hilly areas north of Sunset. There are also large, modern apartment complexes and condominiums located on most of district’s primary and secondary thoroughfares, many of which are home to young professionals and students attending nearby UCLA. According to the Los Angeles Almanac, the median value of a single-family home in Brentwood as of 2004 was $1.4 million.
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 Elementary and the Brentwood Country Club. The 2.7-mile-long (4.3 km) 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 of which features 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.
Economy and businesses
Dutton’s Brentwood Books is a longtime local landmark, and an institution that Sunset magazine calls the “last of the truly independent bookstores.”
In addition, Brent-Air Pharmacy, which is still run by the founding Lassoff family, has served Brentwood for more than 50 years. The drug store has been the scene of many famous scandals and, like its defunct downtown L.A. cousin Schwab’s, is known as the pharmacy to the stars, where many now-notable actors and actresses worked as delivery boys or “candy counter” girls.
Vicente Foods is an independently owned and operated grocery market (a rarity in Los Angeles) that has served Brentwood for decades.
There is a disproportionately large number of restaurants along San Vicente that serve Italian food, leading some to call Brentwood a new Little Italy.
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, while some go to Emerson Middle School; the local public high schools are University High School (named for nearby UCLA, formerly Warren G. Harding High and planned as Sawtelle High School, see Sawtelle), just outside the neighborhood’s boundaries in West Los Angeles and often thought to be located in Brentwood, and Palisades Charter High School, in the nearby neighborhood of Pacific Palisades.
Brentwood is also home to several private schools, including Brentwood School (see image below), St. Martin of Tours Catholic School, and the Archer School for Girls, located in what was once the historic Eastern Star Home. The old Eastern Star Home can be seen as the setting of the “Mar Vista Rest Home” in the movie Chinatown (1974).
One of the two campuses of Mount St. Mary’s College, a Roman Catholic liberal arts college for women, is located in the hills above Brentwood (the other is located in downtown Los Angeles, near USC).
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