Majestic Mar Vista

A great place to visit and a wonderful place to live

Mar Vista is a unique part of Los Angeles for many reasons, but there is one reason that stands out for residents and visitors alike. Unlike most parts of Los Angeles, which can feel a bit sterile, Mar Vista is an actual neighborhood. The main reason for this, of course, is the people. And while Mar Vista residents are not necessarily more community oriented than residents of other parts of the L.A. area, it tends to be a little easier to be that way here. If you’re reading this, you may be considering making a move to Mar Vista, so I thought I would share a few – but not all, of the things that make it so special to me and so many of my neighbors.

First, let’s try to answer two questions that have vexed the great philosophers over the years, “What, and where, is Mar Vista?” Technically, Mar Vista is a community within the City of Los Angeles. Many people use Zip Code 90066 as a shorthand for our boundaries, and it is pretty much accurate. However, according to the City of Los Angeles itself, Mar Vista also includes portions of Zip Code 90034, extending our borders east of the 405 Freeway out to Overland Avenue, between Charnock and National Boulevards. But Mar Vista represents more than just coordinates on a map. There are many reasons for this – let’s take a closer look at some of them.

Mar Vista is separated into 6 districts

Mar Vista Is Made In The Shade

Gregory Ain and Garrett Eckbo teamed up to create an amazing neighborhood

For those of you have visited us, you have probably noticed two things that you wish could take home with you – the climate and our shady tree lined streets. There is no denying that we hit the topographical lottery when it comes to weather in Mar Vista. A combination of changes in the elevation and proximity to the ocean draws the wind over us in a southwest orientation. So if you want to cool off on a hot day, you just need to open your windows a bit. In fact, our friends at the nearby Santa Monica Airport positioned their runways in order to take advantage of this relaxing breeze.

The trees, however, did not appear here by luck alone. They were introduced to the area as part of one of Mar Vista’s most influential real estate developments that built dozens of homes after World War II. The number of homes built is not what had such an impact – it was the thoughtfulness that went into designing the homes as well as the community landscape. The initial batch of homes were built in a design that adopted many of the elements of Modern architecture, but with greater use of color. The landscaping was also an important element of how to make these homes as relaxing and comfortable as possible. Instead of using landscaping to create barriers between properties (private as well as public), the lawns, trees and sidewalks were designed to inspire the same sense of lightness as the open areas within the homes they complemented. These homes were added to the Historic Protection Overlay Zone, which is designed to preserve the appearance and characters of significant architectural design, and they continue to inspire local architects to this day. The artists responsible for the architecture and landscaping, Gregory Ain and Garrett Eckbo, respectively, plied their crafts on just 52 homes in Mar Vista but they set the standard for so many more in our little village, not to mention other parts of L.A.

Conveniently Located In The Middle Of Everything You Want To Do

Speaking of other parts of L.A. – it is true that we have to go there sometimes. Which is okay – the Los Angeles area has a tremendous amount to offer. But too often it can feel like taking advantage of L.A. is more trouble than it’s worth. Don’t feel like spending more time looking for parking in Santa Monica or at the beach than strolling the 3rd Street Promenade or building sandcastles? If you’re coming from Mar Vista, you won’t have to deal with that – just take a two-mile bike ride to the beach or a three-mile ride to Santa Monica. Need to go east of the 405? Take the world famous (ok, not quite) Palms Blvd. shortcut over the freeway and you are minutes from Westwood, Century City and Beverly Hills. And, if you really need to get out of town, LAX is less than 7 miles away via freeway or side streets.

But even if it is easy to get to other parts of the city (or country!) from Mar Vista, we have so many attractions here you probably won’t need to. This is probably most obvious on Sunday mornings when the Mar Vista Farmers Market is open, featuring fresh organic produce from around the state, baked goods and other treats, and tons of fun activities for the kids. But there are great things to do here every day of the week.

Fun is always near Mar Vista

Daily Recreation

From sports, to classes, and art, Mar Vista has it all

The Mar Vista Rec Center is open every day, and offers classes and leagues in sports and activities ranging from soccer to basketball to line dancing to (roller) hockey and even offers four large picnic areas! Another great outlet for active adults are the ZogSports social leagues, which offer opportunities for adults of all abilities to play games such as kick ball, flag football, bowling, in addition to more traditional sports. There are few better ways to make friends than to work up a sweat during some lighthearted competition!

As the home to so many creative people, you don’t have to go far to experience the arts. Timewarp Records is a great place to not just discover and purchase new music, but see it performed live. And several times a year, the Mar Vista Art Walk turns Mar Vista into a giant, outdoor museum and festival. Their contribution cannot be overstated – thanks to the artists affiliated with the art walk, even the ‘big belly’ garbage cans are made beautiful in Mar Vista!

For The Foodie, Mar Vista’s Dining Is A Public Secret

If you’re like me and you enjoy a tasty meal made with quality ingredients, you will find many terrific diners, cafes and restaurants to satisfy your appetite. In recent years, it’s become less and less of a secret how many exciting places to eat there are here. This local culinary renaissance has been led, along many fronts, by a perfectly named restaurant: The Mar Vista. The food and the mood at The Mar Vista is both refined and relaxed, lively and intimate. Perfect for a gathering of friends. If you’re looking for a special dinner just for two, you may want to visit N/Naka. This gem offers its own manifestation of Japanese kaiseke cuisine. If you feel like you’re having deja vu when you go there, don’t worry – it’s probably because you’ve seen N/Naka featured on Netflix’s series Chef’s Table.

These are just two of the dozens of great places to eat in Mar Vista. While these dining experiences vary in terms of ambiance and cuisine, what they share is placing a priority on quality over quantity, sustainable and local ingredients, and the individual expression of the chef and cooking staff. That being said, no matter how great our restaurants, sometimes you just have to do it yourself.

Mar Vista is full of exquisite dining

In Mar Vista, Community Isn’t Just a Word, It’s A Way Of Life

Whether it’s Gardening or Biking, Mar Vista Works Together

For over 40 years, Ocean View Farms has served as a model of community farming. Perched on an incline that provides a terrific view of Santa Monica Bay, it is comprised of almost 500 garden plots as well as a small orchard that grow just about everything that can be grown in California. Tending to the land and the environment is intertwined at OVF – the methods and practices used here have made it recognized over and over again (including 12 years in a row) as a Waste Reduction Awards Program winner by the California Recycling Board. Even if you haven’t farmed your own garden plot at OVF, there’s a good chance you’ve tasted its bounty as part of a meal prepared by a friend.

If you feel like getting your hands dirty in another way, you will find a very special place right next to The Mar Vista restaurant: Bikerowave, a bicycle repair cooperative. We’ve all heard how it’s better to teach someone to fish than to give them one. And that’s exactly what happens at Bikerowave – but with bikes. Anyone can go there to fix, maintain or enhance their bike. For a small fee, riders can use the workspace, the tools and basic supplies and get advice from the all volunteer staff. Their mission is to empower cyclists and to serve as a community center in order to make cycling safer, more fun and more accessible for everyone. Even if you don’t ride your bike regularly (and you really, really should), cycling reduces traffic and the accompanying noise and pollution and makes people healthier, better coordinated and more relaxed. So by creating a place to assist and teach just a few people, the volunteers at Bikerowave are actually assisting and serving all people. To me, this is what community is all about and we are so lucky to have businesses and coops like Bikerowave in Mar Vista.

Like A Person, Mar Vista Is Always Improving

Another example of Mar Vista at its best is the Great Streets Project. As one of the main arteries of Mar Vista, making improvements on Venice Blvd. can have a positive ripple effect throughout the neighborhood. Working with the city, LADOT and Councilmember Mike Bonin, Mar Vista rearranged the traffic lanes to improve safety, reduce traffic and make it easier to walk, bike and shop on Venice Blvd. Once the initial study is complete and the approach is fine-tuned, more lanes will be reconfigured to increase safety and convenience and bring a ‘town square’ feel to several more blocks of our wonderful neighborhood.

For infrastructure projects to work, they must be instituted with the input of residents and local businesses. And this brings us to one of our secret weapons – organized community involvement. Many neighborhoods claim to make this a priority, but Mar Vista benefits from some of the most effective community organization in all of Los Angeles, if not Southern California. Leading the charge, with the support of eight neighborhood associations, is the Mar Vista Community Council, or MVCC. The MVCC came to be in 2002, just a few years after community councils were created as part of a new Los Angeles City Charter that was ratified in 1999. The councils represent the lowest rung of city government and if you want to get something done – in any part of L.A., it’s the perfect place to start.

The community in Mar Vista works together to make it better for everyone

Mar Vista Is A Safe Environment For People, Not Factories

Biking and skating lanes are just some of the ways the MVCC makes the community safer

In addition to their help turning stretches of Venice Blvd into a somewhat skinny town square, the MVCC has advocated for the installation and improvement of bike and walking paths, street signs, the Palms Blvd Divider and more – all to make life here safer and easier for its residents. There are those who feel that the MVCC can be overly protective. But in my mind that is what community councils are all about: making sure that the voices of those who live here are heard when issues need to be resolved with public utilities, politicians and real estate developers.

The impact of the MVCC can be felt not just in what they’ve brought to Mar Vista over the past two decades, but what they’ve kept away. Yet another reason why locals and visitors find it so easy to be here is that, while there is plenty of commerce, there is no heavy industry in Mar Vista. There are no factories, refineries, oil wells or distribution centers here. Despite the crush of over half a million people moving to Los Angeles in the last decade, Mar Vista hasn’t seen a significant population bump because there are no high rise apartment buildings or condominiums. And while we are proud of what our shops and restaurants have to offer, we are not overwhelmed with traffic on weekends like other areas such as West Hollywood or Santa Monica, because we have no giant malls.

And Of Course, George’s Friendly Face

As someone who sells homes in Mar Vista, a big part of my daily routine is walking the neighborhood. I’ve done this for almost forty years and seeing our neighborhood up close as it has continued to evolve has been really fascinating to me. There seems to be a common thread about all of the great aspects of living in Mar Vista. The driving force behind so many of the active choices made by the residents, artists, business owners and community organizations is a shared desire to truly live here. To design our little part of the world to focus on what truly matters: putting quality over quantity, substance over style, and being true to yourself while lending a hand to others. Ultimately, we all understand that it is the people that make Mar Vista great.

I am truly grateful that I have made my home and my living here for almost four decades, as I’m sure you would be too if you’d been lucky enough to see this community flourish as it has. I’m also fortunate that I get to help people move here, and introduce families to what makes Mar Vista more than just the sum of its parts. And if you’re not planning on making a move to our little-village-tucked-away-in-the-big-city in the near future, that’s just fine. You can always visit and we hope that you do.

George pays a visit to one of the newer homeowners in Mar Vista

Did you like this? Share it here