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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Experiencing Pico Blvd: from the Beach to the Westside Pavillion

During our five years living in Los Angeles, I began exploring some of the major streets and boulevards: Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica Blvd, Sunset Blvd. In May 2010, I decided it was time to give Pico Blvd a try.

Triple zeros? Interesting. I thought most streets start at 100.

Maybe it's because Pico Blvd actually begins right on the beach. In fact, it's one of only two major streets in Los Angeles that do that - Venice Blvd being the other.

Above is Shutters at the Beach - a high-end beach hotel, located at Pico Blvd right on the beach. Rooms start at $525 a night; over $700 a night if you want an ocean view (yikes). Shutters opened in 1993.

Across the street, also on Pico at the beach is the much older Casa del Mar building.

Originally built in 1926 as a private beach club, Casa del Mar has an interesting history - including it's years as a drug rehab facility and headquarters of the Synanon religious cult in the late 1960's and 1970's. Casa del Mar re-opened as a luxury hotel in 1998.

Looking south a few feet from where Pico begins (or is it ends?) at the beach. The Santa Monica Pier, normally visible, is hidden from view by thick coastal fog. "June Gloom" - or, in this case, "May Gray." The sidewalk in the distance is actually a 19 mile bikeway - as featured in the opening of the old "Three's Company" TV show.

A block up from the beach at Pico & Ocean is the Viceroy Hotel.

My car was parked along the street here. Free parking but I had to be back by 9am to get to work - and avoid a ticket.

Another block up at Pico & Main is the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. The Academy Awards were held here from 1961-1968, part of the on-going connection Santa Monica and the rest of Los Angeles westside have with the entertainment industry. 

Up the street is Bay Shore Lanes, the "googie" architecture inspired bowling alley. I have great memories of learning to bowl here as a kid.

Another block up is the Sheraton Delfina. Nice looking hotel, but sort of a weird location. Not on the beach and surrounded by 2-3 story apartment buildings. With rates starting at $250 a night, it has mixed reviews from people who've stayed here. Maybe OK if you want to walk to the Civic Auditorium. It's also across the street from . . .

Santa Monica High School. Founded in 1884 and at it's current location since 1906,

Santa Monica High School (SAMO) has ties with the entertainment industry including serving as a location for Rebel Without A Cause (with James Dean) and the more recent 17 Again (with Matthew Perry and Zac Efron). A friend from my church, now a Hollywood producer, was a student at SAMO back in the 1950's and got his start in the motion picture industry as an extra for Rebel Without A Cause.

Other SAMO High alumni include Glen Ford, Robert Wagner, Emilio Estevez, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Lowe, and Sean Penn - you find all sorts of cool information on the internet.

Up the street about a block is Pico Youth and Family Center. While I would agree that the listed issues peace, unity, and social justice are vitally important - I probably have a very different view on both what they mean and how to achieve them.

Ah, Pico & Lincoln Blvd, with the sun starting to break through the coastal fog.

Looking south down Lincoln Blvd. Wide streets, older low-rise commercial business right up against the street. In an hour or so, the street will be busy with traffic, but right now it's very quiet.

A few more blocks up - a neighborhood grocery store that offers home delivery. Nice concept - and I've seen their trucks around.

Worlds away from ShuttersCasa del Mar, the Viceroy, or the Delfina is the Palm Motel at Pico & 14th. Every summer the Palm is used to house 60+ college students as part of a summer leadership development program with the college campus ministry I work with. 

Santa Monica College (also known as Santa Monica City College) at Pico & 17th.

It has the distinction of having the largest population of international students of any community college in the United States, with 3,000 international students (out of a total enrollment of 30,000 students) from more than 100 countries.

SMC alumni include: Dustin Hoffman, Arnold Schwarenegger, David Geffen, Monica Lewinsky, James Dean, and Sean Penn.

Pico & 23rd Street: the mural at Virginia Ave Park. I'm familiar with this park because they have a nice playground and play structures. My kids have spent many an afternoon here with friends and there's a small neighborhood "farmer's market" here on Saturdays.

Rae's at Pico & 29th, a classic American diner. Not one of those silly themed "50's cafes" - this is the real deal. What one blogger calls a "Time Machine".

Both the interior and exterior of Rae's has been used in numerous movies, TV shows, and commercials including Starsky and Hutch, Bowfinger (with Steve Martin), True Romance (with Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater), The Next Best Thing (with Madonna), The Lords of Dogtown, and Not Another Teen Movie.

A few yards up from Rae's is Artesanias Oaxaquenas, specializing in Mexican folk art. While I'm generally trying to get rid of stuff rather than buying stuff (including artwork, Mexican or otherwise) I liked the choice of color of the sign and building - UCLA's colors. No relationship.

Across the street was the Shampoo Lounge. It's not a "lounge" - it's a hair salon. According to their website (worth visiting just to listen to the really cool music) haircuts start at $50. Guess that's the going rate. I pay $12 over on Lincoln Blvd.

A couple of blocks up is Trader Joe's. We go here all the time. Great store but (like much of the westside) terrible parking. I've often parked on the street and walked a block to avoid their lot. Nice Santa Monica themed murals out front along the street, though.

The Triathlon Lab is pretty self explanatory: everything you need for swimming, running and biking. Looks a bit pricey. If you want to save some cash, try Big Five on Wilshire.

Pico Blvd dips under the Santa Monica Freeway at Pico & 34th. The City of Santa Monica ends a block later at Pico & Centinela and West Los Angeles - part of the City of Los Angeles - begins.

Crossing over Centinela, and into Los Angeles City limits, the addresses suddenly jump from "3400" (meaning 3.4 miles from downtown Santa Monica) to "12300" (meaning 12.3 miles from downtown Los Angeles).

Los Angeles obviously has different zoning restrictions than Santa Monica. I liked the artwork above the door to "Grace" - and the reflection of the street is pretty cool, too. I found out later "Grace" is a medical marijuana dispensary. Uh, not what I would have guessed.

Another block east is "Mr Ceil's California Ribs". What caught my eye was the interesting architecture. Mr. Ceil looks like Colonel Sanders from KCF fame.

Bright (and I mean bright) green building at Pico & Amherst is home to the Westside Pregnancy Clinic. If you miss the building, there's also a billboard on the roof. Many thanks to friends and others who volunteer here on a regular basis. 

Pico & Bundy, looking north. Santa Monica Mountains in the distance. Very typical Southern California streetscape.

The Arsenal. Interesting name. Is it a bar? A restaurant? I guess both. Never even noticed until I was on foot. The advantage to walking . . .

Another typical Southern California streetscape. Mini mall with obligatory palm tree. While it could be anywhere, this is at Pico & Westgate.

What I like, really love, about this stretch of Pico is the street trees. Really nice. These are sycamore trees, one of two trees indigenous to Los Angeles (the other being the California Live Oak).

Don't they look great? Really beautiful trees. What a contrast to, say, Lincoln Blvd.

Continuing on, I liked this small office complex on the corner of Pico & Granville - West Los Angeles. The architecture reminds me of the old "Super City" building set I had as a kid. Palm trees up against it = great.

I wonder what the cost of a haircut at this barbershop is compared to "The Shampoo Lounge" down the street. I also like how they made use of the "lighthouse" architecture.

Pico & Exposition - West L.A.

Exposition Blvd starts in Santa Monica - and continues east all the way to USC and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum south of downtown L.A.

image: Los Angeles Times

The Expo Line from Downtown Los Angeles to Culver City is now open. It's currently being extended to Santa Monica along either Pico or Olympic all the way to the beach - which will be FANTASTIC. 

At about 3 miles up from the beach, at Pico & Exposition, I came across "Rolls-Royce of Beverly Hills." They apparently also service Bentleys. Wait a minute . . . Beverly Hills is several miles away.

There also weren't any Rolls-Royces or Bentleys. In fact, their lot was pretty empty.

If I was really looking for a "Beverly Hills" dealership (I'm not) I'd want it to be in Beverly Hills. And I'd want it to have at least a couple of cars they sell or service on the lot. Call me crazy ...

Across the street from Rolls-Royce of Beverly Hills was this less than stellar parkway. Actually, I took a picture of this because this was the only trashy looking area of my entire walk.

And this being Los Angeles, a palm tree in the photo can even make a dumpy parkway look good - or least better.

One of the many small office towers along Olympic Blvd, about four blocks away. Olympic parallels Pico through much of Los Angeles. The city has toyed with the idea of turning each of them into one way streets between downtown and Santa Monica - to help with traffic flow. This being Los Angeles, the local residents are absolutely against it. 

What in the world? On a relatively large parking lot at Pico & Corinth is "The Jean Repair Shop" - a tiny shack that buys and sells used jeans.

A block away at the corner of Pico & Sawtelle is "Big Tomy's" - yet another knock-off of the successful "Tommy's" hamburger chain. I love the original "Tommy's - to me these knock-offs just clutter the landscape.

Corner of Pico & Sawtelle Blvd, looking north up Sawtelle. In the distance is the Getty Center complex. 

Pico Blvd passes underneath the massive San Diego Freeway - often referred to by it's number: The 405.

While freeways are not unique to Los Angeles, the San Diego Freeway has the unfortunate distinction of being the busiest and most congested freeway in the United States. 

The chaos of West L.A. is really apparent here - these few blocks around the 405 were the least pleasant of an otherwise very enjoyable four mile walk.

A block south of Sepulveda is Adventure 16. They've been around forever - actually, according to their site since 1962.

Apparently, they originally had ties with the Explorer Scouts (a branch of the Boy Scouts), so I guessing their name came from gear designed for 16 year old Scouts? Just a guess. Nice store - I've bought maps and guides for local hiking here.

The intersection of Pico & Sepulveda. Thanks to the 1947 song by bandleader Freddy Martin, the song "Pico & Sepulveda" made this otherwise non-descript intersection famous.

Here's a link to a previous blog post with more information.

A couple blocks up Pico is Norms Restaurant. I like the mid-century "googie" architecture, but what really caught my eye was . . .

. . . the Rolls-Royce coming out of the parking lot. Where else but L.A. would you see a Rolls Royce coming out of Norms?

Maybe stopping off for the "$7.99 sirloin steak & eggs special" before heading over to our friends at Rolls-Royce of Beverly Hills - in West L.A.?

Walking towards Westwood Blvd, I was impressed by the beautiful tree-lined residential neighborhoods right off Pico Blvd. This area is considered the southern most edge of Westwood.

Despite the downturn in the economy, homes in these neighborhoods are not cheap. The proximity to the rest of the westside put these single family homes between $750,000 - 1.5 million dollars. The above photo is of Midvale Avenue, looking north from Pico Blvd.

Turning around 180° and looking south across Pico . . .

is the Landmark Theaters complex, part of the massive Westside Pavilion shopping center.

The contrast between a tree-lined neighborhood in the previous photo and this huge mall at the end of their street was, well, a bit jarring.

Continuing on a block to the corner Pico & Westwood Blvd.

The Westside Pavilion shopping center runs along Pico for five and a half city blocks. It's got the usual assortment of retail chains you've find in your average mall (aka "maul"). What is unique is how the building comes right up against the street. There is a large parking garage (after all, this is Los Angeles) around back.

Looked at my watch, er phone. 8:20am. Had to get back to Santa Monica - and my car - by 9am to avoid a ticket.

Hopped on this bus here, the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus Number 7 Express.

Great choice. Express = limited stops. It really moved.

Made it all the way back down to where I started in about 25 minutes. That's my car, the white Honda Accord, across the street on the left of the photo (which I sold on Craigslist just before we moved).

Santa Monica still shrouded in cool coastal fog. Really enjoyable morning walk.

I ended up doing a similar walk up Pico (and going about twice as far) a week later. I'll try and re-post that again sometime soon. 

© 2013 - originally posted 9/18/2010



Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for posting. It brought back so many memories. I lived in Ocean Park, Santa Monica and Venice before moving to Northern California (I get homesick up here in this wasteland after LA.

Anyway, I digress.

Thanks again.

Unknown said...

If you have the time and the resources, it would be great to post "then and now" photos. I remember Pico and Sepulveda. I grew up on the Corner of Corinth and Stanwood. But I have been gone for a long time and when you show these photos I may as well be looking at a summer's day in any city in the U.S.!

Anonymous said...

Regarding "Mr Ceil's California Ribs. What caught my eye was the interesting architecture." This began as a Chili place and was originally shaped like a chili bowl. Even after they toned-down the bowl theme, the place still served great chili in the early 1960s.