Westchester, Los Angeles, California

From Academic Kids

Westchester is a neighborhood in far southwestern Los Angeles, California. It is home to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Loyola Marymount University (LMU).



Westchester is separated from the Pacific Ocean by Playa del Rey on the west. Culver City is located northeast of the steep bluffs and Ballona Creek wetlands; Playa Vista is located in the northern part of Westchester, at the foot of the bluffs. Inglewood is to the east, and El Segundo is south of Los Angeles International Airport (a.k.a. LAX). The San Diego Freeway runs through the northeastern portion of the area.


Like most of what is now southern Los Angeles County, Westchester began the 20th century as an agricultural area, growing a wide variety of crops in the dry farming-friendly climate. The rapid development of the aerospace industry near Mines Field (as the airport was then known), and population growth in Los Angeles as a whole, created a demand for housing in the area. In the late 1930s, real estate magnate Fritz Burns developed a tract of inexpensive prefabricated single-family homes on the site of a former hog farm at the intersection of Manchester and Sepulveda Boulevards. This community, dubbed "Westchester," grew by leaps and bounds as the aerospace industry boomed in World War II and afterward.

Howard Hughes, the famous aviator, movie director and tool company owner, operated a large manufacturing plant in lower Westchester in the area now known as Playa Vista. Curiously, the Hughes facilities were commonly - and incorrectly - called "Hughes's Culver City" facilities, even though this area has never been part of the City of Culver. This wrong appellation continues today in any number of publications that discuss Howard Hughes himself, or his companies. The Westchester facilities were owned by Hughes Tool Co., operated by Hughes Aircraft (a company that specialized in building aviation navigation and communication systems), and the profits went to the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Hughes's nearly spruce-free "Spruce Goose" wood bodied transport airplane was built in Westchester. The plane was disassembled into major components, transported to Long Beach and reassembled. Howard Hughes himself flew the H4 for little over one mile, thus proving that the H4 transport flying boat project was not a war profiteering folly.

Missing image
At the center of Westchester, what was once the Loyola movie theater is now a medical office building.

The 1960s saw the introduction of airliners that could make trans-Pacific flights without refueling, causing a massive increase in air traffic at LAX. While Westchester residents successfully blocked a northward expansion of the airport, the increase in noise from jet takeoffs greatly decreased the desirability of the residential areas adjoining LAX. In response, the city of Los Angeles began a longstanding program of purchasing houses from noise-weary homeowners; as a result, a number of streets just north of the airport have been decommissioned, and the homes along those streets have been demolished. The 18-hole Westchester golf course became a 15-hole course. Also, a local elementary school was closed in 2004, in part due to airport noise. With this experience fresh in mind, local opposition to an expansion of LAX first proposed in the late 1990s rose to fever pitch. As of this writing (autumn 2004), no alterations to LAX have yet taken place, and expansion of the City of Los Angeles-owned airports in the distant cities of Ontario and Palmdale appears more likely.

In the late 1990s, Otis College of Art and Design, with approximately 1000 full-time and 3000 part-time students, moved to Westchester from its previous location near downtown Los Angeles. With LMU (http://www.lmu.edu) and Otis only blocks from one another, Westchester has undergone a subtle shift away from defense/aviation related industries (which have declined significantly since the end of the Cold War) and has become something of a college town. In addition, the Intercontinental University (http://www.aiula.com/American), with approximately 1800 full time students, is located on Jefferson Blvd. at the northern edge of Westchester. In 2004, the Graduate School of Pepperdine University (http://bschool.pepperdine.edu/) relocated to the north-east quadrant of Westchester. The private college/university students, paying tuition typically well in excess of $20,000.00 per year, are a boon to local merchants. Adding living expenses to tuition, merchants gladly count the $35,000.00-50,000.00 per student, per year, dropped into the local economy.

In keeping with this greater eclecticism, Westchester's diversity has also increased: what was once an all-white area, with segregation enforced by neighborhood covenants, has become one of the more diverse neighborhoods in western Los Angeles. In particular, the black population has increased as middle-class African-American families continue to leave the troubled areas of South Central Los Angeles that lie east of the Harbor Freeway.

Demographics and Neighborhood Composition

Approximately 50% of the local housing stock consists of single-family detached homes, most of which are modestly-sized ranches and bungalows on small lots. As of this writing, construction is well underway on the controversial but critically acclaimed Playa Vista (http://www.playavista.com) high-density mixed-use development, on the site of the former Hughes Aerospace factory and a part of the Del Rey/Ballona wetlands. The project has already attracted large numbers of tenants and buyers for residential and office space, but has been dramatically scaled back in the face of community and environmentalist opposition.

See also


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