Janss Investment Company

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Janss Investment Company
Industryreal estate development
FounderPeter Janss
HeadquartersLos Angeles, California
Key people
Edwin Janss Sr.
Harold Janss
Edwin Janss Jr.(Chairman, 1970s)
Bill Janss
William Janss Jr. (President, 1980)
Todd Janss

Janss Investment Company Building, Westwood

The Janss Investment Company was a family-run, Los Angeles–based real estate development company that operated from 1895 to 1995.[citation needed]

Janss Investment Company, 1929. Sidewalk on Hilgard Avenue in Westwood, Los Angeles, California.

First generation[edit]

The Janss Investment Company was founded by Peter Janss, an immigrant doctor from Denmark. Peter Janss graduated in the class of 1877 in Keokuk, Iowa, and by 1882 he was appointed Hall County physician.[1] He moved to Los Angeles in 1893, planning to practice medicine but discovered the real estate industry was much more lucrative.[citation needed]

By 1906 he and his two sons, Edwin Janss Sr. and Harold Janss established an investment company, creating subdivisions in Belvedere Gardens,[2] Boyle Heights, Monterey Park, and Yorba Linda.[3][4]

Janss developed Ramona Acres in Monterey Park.[5] Janss subdivided Highland Villa and Belvedere Gardens (now known as East Los Angeles) in Boyle Heights.[6]

In 1909, Janss subdivided a 3,500-acre (14 km2) part of the Bernardo Yorba Rancho Cañón de Santa Ana property and named the new town "Yorba Linda".[7]

Second generation[edit]

Janss Steps, UCLA

Sons Edwin Janss Sr. and Harold Janss developed Van Nuys and Owensmouth, now called Canoga Park.[citation needed]

In 1911 Harold Janss married Arthur Letts's daughter Gladys. In 1923 after Arthur Letts, Sr., died, they took control of the 3,300-acre (13 km2) William Wolfskill ranch on Rancho San Jose de Buenos Ayres. In a deal to get the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1925 Janss Investment Company sold 375 acres (1.5 km2) to the cities of Los Angeles, Santa Monica and Beverly Hills at the bargain price of $1.2 million — about a quarter of its value. The cities, whose voters had passed bond issues to pay for the site, turned around and donated it to the state.[8] The UCLA campus's "Janss Steps" are named for the two brothers. While the UCLA campus was being built, Janss Investment Company went to work developing the Westwood Village commercial area and surrounding residential neighborhoods.[9][10][11] Due to racial covenants included in the deeds of the buildings in Westwood Village, people of color were barred from patronizing businesses in the area.[12]

After Janss sold the land to help build the UCLA campus, many organizations affiliated with university began to form. Many of these groups were fraternities and sororities whose members were mostly white men and women. The land for the university had been sold, but the land surrounding it still belonged to Janss. They sold the land along Hilgard Ave. to twenty one European American groups for the prices between $7,500 and $9,500, whereas the usual asking price was between $8,000 and $12,000.

In 1938 an Asian American sorority, Chi Alpha Delta, wanted to purchase the UCLA Religious Conference building with the hopes of setting up a home for its members and students near campus. The university appeared to be wanting to sell the building for this purpose, but while some of Janss was willing to sell, one was unwilling to sell to "Orientals".[13][14]

The Janss Brothers' headquarters in Westwood Village, the Janss Investment Company Building or Janss Dome, was opened in 1929.[citation needed] The Dome stands today as one of the iconic buildings of Westwood Village. The firm's Janss Investment Co. "stamps" appear on sidewalks in many Westside residential neighborhoods.

Third generation[edit]

Edwin Janss Jr. was chairman of the Janss Investment Company and the third generation of a family of Los Angeles real-estate developers.[15][16] He and his brother Bill Janss helped expand or develop two ski resorts — Sun Valley in Idaho and Snowmass (ski area) in Colorado — both of which were sold in the late 1970s. Bill Janss was a member of the never-to-compete 1940 US Ski Team.[17] They developed the suburban community of Thousand Oaks on 10,000-acre (40 km2) of land in the Conejo Valley purchased in 1919.[11]

Fourth generation[edit]

William Janss Jr., M.D., took over the family business and became Janss Corp.'s president in 1980. During his term, the firm developed some $160 million worth of projects. The firm ceased operations in 1995.[18] Dr. Janss now[when?] resides in El Paso, Texas, where he practices.


  1. ^ 1890 Hall County History
  2. ^ Spitzzeri, Paul R. (May 15, 2020). "Over the Line: A Photograph of Belvedere Gardens (East Los Angeles), 13 May 1926". The Homestead Blog. Homestead Museum. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  3. ^ United States Commission on Industrial Relations, 1916, Industrial Relations: Final Report, Testimony of Edwin Janss - Janss Investment Company, Vol VI, p. 5826 - 5833
  4. ^ "Finding Aid for the Wilshire Family Papers, 1898-1985". oac.cdlib.org. Retrieved March 4, 2020.
  5. ^ Timothy P. Fong, 1994, The first suburban Chinatown, Temple University Press, ISBN 978-1-56639-262-4
  6. ^ Broad Acres To Be Platted Janss Investment Company Makes Big Purchase, Los Angeles Herald, April 02, 1905[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ Janss Investment Company advertisements for Yorba Linda land, Orange County Tribune 25 May 1910
  8. ^ University of California History - Los Angeles: Historical Overview
  9. ^ Tom Sitton, William Francis Deverell, 2001, Metropolis in the making: Los Angeles in the 1920s, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-22627-2
  10. ^ Richard W. Longstreth, 1998,City Center to Regional Mall:Architecture, the Automobile, and Retailing in Los Angeles, 1920-1950, MIT Press, ISBN 978-0-262-62125-0
  11. ^ a b Enriquez, Sam (January 4, 1987). "A Family's Fortune". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  12. ^ Janss Investment Co. v. Walden
  13. ^ Lim, Shirley Jennifer (2006). A feeling of belonging : Asian American women's public culture, 1930-1960. New York: New York University Press. pp. 20–21. ISBN 9781429414319. OCLC 85841620.
  14. ^ Torbenson, Craig L.; Parks, Gregory S. (April 2009). Brothers and sisters : diversity in college. Torbenson, Craig L. (Craig LaRon), 1956-, Parks, Gregory, 1974-. Madison. p. 87. ISBN 978-1611474022. OCLC 815429357.
  15. ^ Edwin Janss Jr., 74, a Developer of Suburbs and Two Ski Resorts, New York Times, March 18, 1989
  16. ^ Auctions, New York Times, April 14, 1989
  17. ^ John Fry, 2006,The story of modern skiing, UPNE , ISBN 978-1-58465-489-6
  18. ^ Janss Corp. real estate firm closing down, Los Angeles Business Journal, Oct 9, 1995