The Westside of Los Angeles is an area comprised of several Southern California neighborhoods that offer proximity to the Pacific Ocean – and are generally understood to provide cleaner air and a higher quality of daily life.
Strictly speaking, the communities that fall within the Westside of LA – going east to west – include:
- West Hollywood
- Beverly Hills
- Culver City
- West Los Angeles
- Playa Del Rey
- Marina Del Rey
- Santa Monica
- Pacific Palisades
Each of the above communities has its unique attributes and drawbacks.
Colloquially, when locals refer to the “Westside,” they are often speaking to the communities of Brentwood, Santa Monica, and Pacific Palisades – especially when the topic of conversation is luxury residential estates.
What follows is a detailed description of what it’s like to live in each of those three communities.
- For information about the remaining communities (outside those three), please see my article on the other sought-after residential areas in Los Angeles.
- Malibu comprises an enormous area and has its own unusual culture and qualities, so I’ve given it its own article, “What’s It Like to Live in Malibu?”
LA’s Westside: What’s It Like to Live in the Brentwood?
Brentwood is a discreet, luxury residential neighborhood within the Westside of Los Angeles, considered by many to be among Southern California’s most desirable neighborhoods.
Some might imagine that Hollywood’s A-list celebrities live in Beverly Hills, California. While that was true three decades ago, the truth today – that locals know but many tourists do not – is that high-ranking film stars, entrepreneurs, investors, television producers, and music-industry executives often live in Brentwood neighborhoods.
Brentwood benefits from the fresh ocean air by being west of the 405 – but not so far west that it’s too distant from the rest of Los Angeles or the arterial freeways.
Though Venice and West Hollywood are particularly popular with the successful-under-40 crowd, the large lot sizes, peaceful atmosphere, and excellent private schools within Brentwood seem to draw more established residents.
An added aspect of life in this neighborhood is that residents are close enough to Santa Monica to enjoy the beaches and its shops and restaurants, without having to live in the thick of the traffic, noise, and density. This makes Brentwood strategically located and easily commutable.
Another upside to this neighborhood is the easy access to outdoor running and hiking areas.
Additionally, Brentwood Village and Brentwood Country Mart are two of the most-liked shopping and dining destinations on the Westside of Los Angeles.
Brentwood real estate is as varied and interesting as the people who live here. You’ll find that, while most residents live in single-family homes, there are also plenty of breathtaking luxury estates.
Luxury homes in Brentwood come with widespread gardens and spacious living areas that are good for active children (though not all the residential areas offer sidewalks).
In the second quarter of 2021 home sales in the zipcode of 90049 were up 148%, and the average price went up 8% compared to the same quarter the previous year.
This area is technically in the city of Los Angeles and so it’s served by the Los Angeles Unified School District (one of the schools – Brentwood School – even has some of its campus within what once was the historic Eastern Star Home, seen in the movie Chinatown).
In Brentwood, you can wake up to views of the Santa Monica Mountains, and within minutes be driving down star-studded Wilshire Boulevard or Mulholland Drive.
Brentwood real estate has served as home for the likes of Nat King Cole, Clark Cable, Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland. Today you will find many big names such as Steven Spielberg and Naomi Watts living in homes within this neighborhood.
But you don’t need to be the least bit interested in rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous to be curious about Brentwood real estate or be a film buff to appreciate its homes or facilities. This neighborhood comes full of benefits, for people from all walks of life. Compared to other L.A. neighborhoods, Brentwood is discreet and peaceful.
BRENTWOOD DRIVE TIMES:
- Downtown Los Angeles: 35 minutes
- LAX: 30 minutes
- Sherman Oaks: 20 minutes
- Glendale: 40 minutes
LA’s Westside: What’s It Like to Live in Santa Monica?
Another popular neighborhood in the Westside is the city of Santa Monica, where home prices have been climbing.
A decade ago, homes for sale in Santa Monica were lingering on the market almost twice as long as they are today.
In 2021, the Westside of Los Angeles continued to grow in popularity – and since there is only so much land available within the first three miles from the beach, It has become a high-demand/low-inventory situation. For example, in the second quarter of 2021 home sales in the zipcode of 90402 were up 195%, and the average price went up 18% compared to the same quarter the previous year.
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The city of Santa Monica is, in many ways, the essence of a Southern California beach community.
When the spouse and I were younger, we had a small studio apartment on Ocean Avenue with stellar views. Those were good times, and we actually enjoyed having to pare down our material possessions into just the essentials – in order to fit into our small abode.
Our apartment had one tiny closet, which meant we did have to wake up a bit earlier each morning in order to give ourselves time to iron our clothes for work that day.
Even with rent control, our rent was still more than what a house payment would be in a typical midwestern town, but this is Southern California and we were willing to pay extra to enjoy all the benefits of warm-weather living.
It was a blast to live within walking distance to the Third Street Promenade with its superior restaurants, gyms, shopping, and movie theaters.
We could see the Pacific Ocean from the picture windows of our studio apartment, and we could bike along the beach paths and jog the bluff trails.
No city is completely perfect, and Santa Monica has its downside, too:
- Santa Monica has a rather large population of homeless for a city its size. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s important to mention that while strolling to and from yoga class or the market you are likely to see a homeless person on their way to a shelter, social services agency or sometimes panhandling.
- Also, Santa Monica is not centrally located. If you have a business meeting or lunch date in, say, West Hollywood, it’s going to take you, on average, 20 to 40 minutes to arrive there – and that’s if you take the most strategic route.
When many people across the globe think of the L.A. Lifestyle, what they’re really imagining in their minds is Santa Monica, whether they realize it or not. It’s the vibrant, upscale beach community that is closest to Los Angeles-proper.
Venice is right next to Santa Monica and is a bit more bohemian. When Google opened in this area, it started reaching a new level of gentrification. However, since the pandemic, Venice has perhaps regressed a little.
One of the most important attributes that Santa Monica offers is air quality. While other parts of Southern California have some of the worst air in the country, Santa Monica actually has ocean-fresh air much of the time.
Santa Monica has its own school system which is known for the quality public education it offers students. It also has some of the most famous private schools in the state, such as the K-through-12 college preparatory Crossroads.
Santa Monica administers its own public transportation and governmental infrastructure. All of this gives the small city a real feeling of community.
On the south side of the Santa Monica Pier, the world-famous Muscle Beach provides a training area to practice gymnastics and body-building outdoors.
Santa Monica has a robust market and is considered a highly desirable place to live, with homes often being snatched up in under 60 days and at over the listing price.
Santa Monica is bordered on the north by Pacific Palisades, on the east by West Los Angeles, on the south by Venice, and (of course) on the west by Santa Monica Bay and sandy beaches – from atop the bluffs of Palisades Park, you can enjoy panoramic views that stretch the length of coastal Los Angeles.
Up until World War II, Santa Monica was a small beach community connected to the City of Los Angeles by the Red Car, a trolley line that was used to bring beachgoers to the seaside community for day trips.
When Douglas Aircraft built their Clover Field manufacturing plant on the site which is now the Santa Monica Airport, the city went through a building boom to accommodate the influx of people who came to build airplanes during the war.
The town continued to develop through the ’50s and ’60s into a city known for its innovative and active population. It’s a great city for fitness buffs, with lots of state-of-the-art gyms, private training facilities, running trails, and the famous climbing-stairs.
Santa Monica is a city of neighborhoods. Residents in every part of the city identify strongly with the neighborhood they live in (with sidewalks!), adding to the sense of community found throughout the city.
North of Wilshire exists the more exclusive neighborhoods, while the southern part of the city is characterized by a mix of homes and apartments.
Shopping areas include exclusive ritzy Montana Avenue, the Third Street Promenade (an outside walking mall that attracts people from all over Los Angeles,) the Santa Monica Place Mall, and Main Street.
Additionally, Santa Monica boasts three different Farmer’s Markets, two large health food stores, plus a fantastic Community Co-Op, critically acclaimed restaurants, and a pleasure pier (pictured above).
Santa Monica is a politically active community with a fiercely independent city council and – though its laws are always changing – it has a reputation for having some of the strictest rent control laws in the country.
LA’s Westside: Living the Luxury Lifestyle in Pacific Palisades
Northwest of Los Angeles – where the mountains meet the sea – rests an affluent, residential Westside district known as Pacific Palisades. It is believed by many to be among the best neighborhoods in the entire L.A. area.
Real estate values have been on the rise in the Palisades for the last three decades as the community has steadily grown in popularity.
With its cool ocean breezes, friendly vibe, and charming village atmosphere, the luxury estate properties located in this area have become highly coveted.
Compounding enthusiasm about Pacific Palisades is the new development by Rick Caruso of an open-air lifestyle shopping center. The three-acre retail center is located in the “Palisades Village” in the heart of downtown Pacific Palisades and delivers many small boutiques and restaurants that aren’t yet available in other parts of Los Angeles. There’s also an Erewhon health-grocery market – and a theatre with reclining seats and the ability to order food and drinks with the push of a button on the seat consoles.
There has been a spiked interest in the community and property values have risen as a result of this new shopping center becoming the community hub of Pacific Palisades.
The real estate for this area resides within an area of natural beauty and typically fair weather with sunny skies. The Palisades’ prime location provides panoramic ocean and city views from its perch on the hills – with the Santa Monica Mountains to the north, Brentwood to the east, Malibu to the west, Santa Monica to the southeast, and the Bay to the southwest.
Compared to other Southern California communities, Pacific Palisades has a distinctly romantic atmosphere. Early morning walks in the fresh air and sun are a positive way to begin the day.
Also popular is the after-dinner walk with a loved one or spouse, strolling the Village or the bluffs – or even simply the picturesque sidewalks of one’s immediate neighborhood.
The evening views of Santa Monica Bay are stellar and enjoyed from many of the homes and areas in and around Pacific Palisades.
Stretching from the bay to the top of the canyons, this area maintains the feel of a small village community, while offering a wide range of properties from sprawling estate homes to elegant ocean-view homes:
- in the second quarter of 2021 home sales in the zipcode of 90272 were up 155%, and the average price went up 14% compared to the same quarter the previous year.
There is no shortage of activities for residents (the hiking trails are fantastic), and the walkable village is a charming and convenient source of restaurants and shopping.
Drive Times from Pacific Palisades
Many of the homes in Pacific Palisades are in walkable neighborhoods with sidewalks, and yet they also offer the feeling of living in nature.
Pacific Palisades is not considered to be centrally located and that means there is a bit of commute time on those days when you want to get to other cities or neighborhoods. At best, you’re looking at:
- Downtown Los Angeles: 45 minutes
- LAX: 30 minutes
- Sherman Oaks: 40 minutes
- Glendale: 55 minutes
The Vibe in Pacific Palisades
The homes in the Palisades are generally spectacular, but perhaps the area’s biggest attribute is its pace.
Not only do many residents report that the Palisades has a wonderfully local, neighborhood-friendly feel compared to other LA areas, but also many Angelenos will tell you that their impression of the Palisades is that it’s a bit less frenetic than your average LA neighborhood.
Real estate in this area continues to grow, with new properties being built higher and higher up the canyons.
Older homes at a lower elevation still offer priceless views of the mountains and ocean, and it’s possible to find recently renovated homes and condominium conversions. Among the most coveted residential areas within Pacific Palisades is the Huntington.
Pacific Palisades is also a favorite area of celebrities and you’ll be among world-famous actors and directors who have chosen to invest in the area for its beauty, location, and privacy – there are far fewer tourists and paparazzi than in Beverly Hills.
The primary purpose of this article is for entertainment purposes only – to provide inspiration about experiences and locales that offer a higher quality of life, including information about luxury estate homes. Please do your own due diligence when making significant decisions about real estate, relocation, or investing. This article is not intended to provide financial advice; you are encouraged to consult with your own professional advisors.
- Do you think you would enjoy living within the Westside of Los Angeles?
- What you believe you would enjoy most about it?