Palos Verdes Peninsula

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For the mountain range on this peninsula, see Palos Verdes Hills.
Palos Verdes Peninsula
Sub-region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Aerial view of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Palos Verdes Hills, with Los Angeles in the distance
Aerial view of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Palos Verdes Hills, with Los Angeles in the distance
Country  United States of America
State  California
County Los Angeles
Time zone PST
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC)
Area code(s) 310, 424

The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a landform and a geographic sub-region of the Los Angeles metropolitan area, within southwestern Los Angeles County in the U.S. state of California. It is located south of the cities of Torrance and Carson, and is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west and south, and the Port of Los Angeles on the east. The peninsula contains a group of affluent coastal cities in the Palos Verdes Hills, including Palos Verdes Estates, Rancho Palos Verdes, Rolling Hills and Rolling Hills Estates. The peninsula also physically includes the Los Angeles City neighborhood of San Pedro; however, San Pedro lies on flatlands to the east of the Palos Verdes Hills, and is sometimes not considered to be part of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, culturally speaking. The Palos Verdes Peninsula can be considered part of the South Bay region of the Los Angeles metro area.

The affluent hill cities on the peninsula are known for dramatic ocean and city views, distinguished schools,[1] extensive horse trails,[2] and high home prices.[3]


American Indians[edit]

The Point Vicente Lighthouse on the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the National Register of Historic Places.

The peninsula was the homeland of the Tongva-Gabrieliño Native Americans people for thousands of years. In other areas of the Los Angeles Basin archeological sites date back 8,000 years.[4][5] Their first contact with Europeans in 1542 with João Cabrilho (Juan Cabrillo), the Portuguese explorer who also was the first to write of them. Chowigna and Suangna were two Tongva settlements of many in the peninsula area, which was also a departure point for their rancherías on the Channel Islands.

Spanish and Mexican era[edit]

In 1846 José Dolores Sepúlveda and José Loreto received a Mexican land grant from Alta California Governor Pío Pico for a parcel from the huge original 1784 Spanish land grant of Rancho San Pedro to Manuel Dominguez.[6] It was named Rancho de los Palos Verdes, or "ranch of the green sticks", which was used primarily as a cattle ranch.[7] It was also a whaling station in the mid 19th century, albeit only for a brief period.

American era[edit]

By 1882 ownership of the land had passed from the Sepulveda family through various mortgage holders to Jotham Bixby of Rancho Los Cerritos, who leased the land to Japanese farmers.[8]

Frank Vanderlip, representing a group of wealthy east coast investors, purchased 25 square miles of land on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1913 for $1.5 million.[9] In 1914, Vanderlip vacationed at Palos Verdes in order to recover from an illness, and he was astounded by scenery he compared to "the Sorrentine Peninsula and the Amalfi Drive." He quickly initiated development of Palos Verdes. He hired the Olmsted Brothers, the landscaping firm of John Charles Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to plan and landscape a new subdivision. The Olmsted Brothers contracted Koebig & Koebig to perform engineering work, including surveying and road planning. [10] However, the project stalled as World War I started, and Vanderlip accepted a chairmanship to the War Savings Committee in Washington, D.C. in 1916.

By 1921, Vanderlip had lost interest in overseeing development of Palos Verdes and enticed Edward Gardner Lewis to takeover the project with an option to buy the property for $5 million. Lewis was an experienced developer, but lacked the capital to purchase and develop Palos Verdes. Instead, he established a real estate trust, capitalizing the project through the sale of notes which were convertible to Palos Verdes property. Under the terms of the trust, Lewis sought raise $30 million in infrastructure improvements, effectively borrowing from investors for both the land and the improvements. He succeeded in attracting $15 million in capital, but far short of the $35 million needed. The trust dissolved and ownership of Palos Verdes reverted to Vanderlip. [11]

Vanderlip established a new real estate trust to purchase 3200 acres from his land syndicate and establish the subdivision of Palos Verdes Estates. The new trust assumed not just the land, but also the improvements made by Lewis. They were not complete, but they were substantial: many sewers, water mains, and roads; landscaping, parks, and a golf course. They opened Palos Verdes for public inspection in June 1923.[12]

Palos Verdes Estates was organized and landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers and in their planning, they dedicated a quarter of the land area to permanent open undeveloped space, giving the subdivision its unique rural characteristic and culture of scenic beauty.[13]


The historic Mediterranean Revival style Malaga Cove Plaza, in Palos Verdes Estates

Areas of commerce include historic Mediterranean Revival style Malaga Cove Plaza, the Promenade on the Peninsula, and Lunada Bay Plaza. Smaller shopping centers include the Peninsula Center, Golden Cove, Dominos, and The Village.

The largest peninsula commercial district is in Rolling Hills Estates, with many shopping centers including The Promenade on the Peninsula with a megaplex movie theater and an ice rink.

One of the main reasons people come to live here in the Palos Verdes area is the beautiful ocean views, coastline views and city light views enjoyed by many of the homes.


The Palos Verdes Peninsula Transit Authority provides bus service within and to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The Palos Verdes Peninsula is within 30 minutes of both Los Angeles International Airport and Long Beach Airport, which together provide access to most of the United States aboard all major carriers.


The edge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula extending down to the Pacific Ocean.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has one of the highest rated API scores in California[14] and has one of the highest average SAT scores[15] and one of the highest percentage of students successfully completing the Advanced Placement exams[16] in the county. There are three high schools, Palos Verdes Peninsula High School (formerly called Rolling Hills High School), Palos Verdes High School, and Rancho Del Mar High School (located in Rolling Hills). Marymount College, a co-ed Roman Catholic four-year college is located in Rancho Palos Verdes. A private K-12 school, Chadwick School, is also located there. Rolling Hills Country Day School, adjacent to the Botanic Garden, offers a private K-8 education. In summary, there are 11 elementary schools, 3 intermediate schools, and 3 high schools located on the peninsula.


The Peninsula is served by the Palos Verdes Library District which operates the:

  • Peninsula Center Library
  • Miraleste Library
  • Malaga Cove Library- on the National Historical Register

Parks and recreation[edit]

Aerial view of Marineland of the Pacific, in 1965, on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
The Trump National Golf Course.

The area is frequented by runners, hikers, horseback riders, bird watchers, surfers, scuba divers, fishermen, and bicyclists. The area is home to several golf courses and country clubs. In addition, nude sunbathers formerly frequented Sacreds Cove (or "Smugglers Cove") until the city of Rancho Palos Verdes enacted a 1994 ordinance that ended such use of that beach.

The infamous Palos Verdes surf spots have been in the spotlight many times over issues of "localism". The most notorious surf spot for localism in Palos Verdes is Lunada Bay, which can hold any winter swell and has been known to rival Sunset Beach, Hawaii on a big day. Localism in Palos Verdes reached a turning point in 2001 when a civil rights lawsuit was filed after a particularly violent confrontation with Hermosa Beach surfers.[18] Surveillance cameras were placed in the surfing area but were later removed.[19]

The Trump National Golf Club is a Donald Trump venture with a golf course on the Ocean Trails cliffs. The 18th hole of the prior golf course fell victim to a landslide caused by a leak in the sanitary pipes underneath it. Trump has been heavily criticized for poorly managing the property, including dismissing employees en masse, failing to keep it in business, and upsetting locals with unnecessary and/or unapproved construction. In the summer of 2006, the Trump Organization illegally erected a 70 foot flagpole but was allowed to retain it after a City Council vote.[20]

The Marineland of the Pacific site near Portuguese Bend is currently home of Terranea, a luxury oceanfront resort.[21]

There are numerous nature reserves in Palos Verdes, which attribute to the area's unique natural property. Palos Verdes Estates Shoreline Preserve, Agua Amarga Reserve, and Portuguese Bend Reserve. The reserves contain coastal sage scrubs habitats, a community of fragrant and drought resistant shrubs and flowering plants. In August 2009, wildfire burned approximately 165-acres of the Portuguese Bend Reserve. As a result, in recent years, restoration has been done to reinstall native plants and animals to the area.[22]

Native plants[edit]

Native animals[edit]

Notable places[edit]

Interior of the Wayfarers Chapel.
Remains of the wrecked Greek freighter Dominator along the Palos Verdes Peninsula coastline, 1965.
  • The Wayfarers Chapel, a transparent glass chapel in a Redwood forest, was designed in 1951 by the renowned architect and landscape architect Lloyd Wright. It is under the stewardship of the Swedenborgian Church, a well-known landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, and overlooking the ocean at the western entrance of Portuguese Bend.
  • Portuguese Bend is one of the most geologically unstable areas in the world. Constant shifting of the soil (approximately 1/3 of an inch a day) and rock slides mean that Palos Verdes Drive South, the main road through the bend, is under constant repair.
  • Point Vicente Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • Point Fermin lighthouse in San Pedro.
  • Lunada Bay on the north western edge of the peninsula is a famed surf spot, noted for its large swells, at times comparable to Hawaii's Sunset Beach.
  • Korean Bell of Friendship is located near Point Fermin in San Pedro.
  • Marineland of the Pacific is the location of the former aquatic theme park on the coast.
    The area where Marineland once stood subsequently served as an outdoor set for commercials, film productions, and, in 1996, the MTV Beach House. Fox filmed some scenes of its teen drama, The OC, at locations in and around Palos Verdes.[24]
  • Palos Verdes Golf Club Opened in 1924, the Palos Verdes Golf Club was designed by the team of William P. (Billy) Bell and George C. Thomas. Located in the middle of an 800 acre parkland reserve it is the jewel of Palos Verdes Estates.
  • La Venta Inn is located along Via Del Monte and is a famed wedding and reception setting, but most notably, it had one of the most beautiful panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Pacific Ocean beach line.


  • The wreck of the Dominator, a freighter that ran aground in 1961, was for years a rather bizarre attraction for those willing to hike down the cliffs to the shoreline. Very little is left of the ship today.
  • In 2006, the 45 foot cabin cruiser Lady Hawk sank 2 miles from the Palos Verdes coast due to an engine fire.[25]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The novels The Tribes of Palos Verdes by author Joy Nicholson, and The Mark of Conte by Sonia Levitin, describe life from a teenager's perspective in Palos Verdes.
  • The aerial shots for the opening and closing credits for the TV series Knots Landing between 1981-87 were filmed at Palos Verdes.
  • Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean films were partly photographed on and off the coast of Palos Verdes Peninsula. A tent city for production was constructed in the Redondo Beach Marina. The Black Pearl and several production vessels were seen on the waters daily as were helicopters filming for overhead shots.
  • Overhead shots were used for the fictional town of Costa Verde in Heroes, in the episode "I Am Become Death".
  • In a 2010 episode of South Park, the character of Towelie went to a Rehab center in Rancho Palos Verdes.
  • In 1962, the "Big W" scenes from the ensemble comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World starring Sid Caesar, Spencer Tracy, Ethel Merman, Phil Silvers and others were filmed on the grounds of a private estate locally known as "Portuguese Point" near Abalone Cove shoreline park.
  • MTV's sitcom Awkward. is set in Palos Verdes.
  • The 1993 film, Hot Shots! Part Deux filmed several scenes on the cliffs of Palos Verdes.
  • Catcher Billy Brubaker, the character played by Matthew Lillard in baseball movie Summer Catch, is listed as being a native of Palos Verdes.
  • In the 1994 film The Stoned Age, the main characters reluctantly attend a party in Palos Verdes hosted by Muldoon (Jake Busey).
  • In the 2008 film Step Brothers, a scene depicting a Catalina Island wine mixer was actually filmed on land at the Trump National Golf Club in Rancho Palos Verdes.
  • In the 1992 film Reservoir Dogs, the character "Nice Guy" refers to the Los Angeles neighborhood of Ladera Heights as "the black Palos Verdes".
  • The popular television series "Sea Hunt" shot many of its exterior shots around the waterfront of Palos Verdes. The show credits Marineland of the Pacific for technical advice given to the show.
  • Point Vicente Light is the finish line for the 25th season of The Amazing Race broadcast on December 19, 2014. Amy DeJong and Maya Warren won the race.

Notable residents[edit]


See also[edit]


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Palos Verdes has a semi-arid climate, abbreviated "BSk" on climate maps.[27]


  1. ^ "Palos Verdes Peninsula High School Profile" (PDF). Palos Verdes Peninsula School District. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  2. ^ "Rancho Palos Verdes Equestrian Maps". City of Rancho Palos Verdes. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  3. ^ "The Most Expensive Zip Codes". Forbes. Archived from the original on 2007-02-24. Retrieved 2006-10-03. [dead link]
  4. ^ laokay: History of Rancho Los Encinos. accessed 8/20/2010
  5. ^ USA Today article access date: 5/22/2010.
  6. ^ Diseño del Rancho de los Palos Verdes
  7. ^ Ogden Hoffman, 1862, Reports of Land Cases Determined in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Numa Hubert, San Francisco
  8. ^ Gnerre, Sam (March 2, 2010). "Bixby Ranch". South Bay History. South Bay Daily Breeze. Retrieved 12 June 2015. 
  9. ^ Robert M. Fogelson (2005). Bourgeois Nightmares: suburbia, 1870-1930 New Haven: Yale University Press, p.5-6.
  10. ^ Robert M. Fogelson (2005). Bourgeois Nightmares: suburbia, 1870-1930 New Haven: Yale University Press, p.6-8.
  11. ^ Robert M. Fogelson (2005). Bourgeois Nightmares: suburbia, 1870-1930 New Haven: Yale University Press, p.8-10.
  12. ^ Robert M. Fogelson (2005). Bourgeois Nightmares: suburbia, 1870-1930 New Haven: Yale University Press, p.10
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Palos Verdes Local Educational Agency Report". California Department of Education. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  15. ^ "School Wise Press School Snapshot: Palos Verdes Peninsula High School". School Wise Press. Archived from the original on 2006-10-24. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  16. ^ "SAT, ACT and AP Test Results in California". California Department of Education. Retrieved 2006-10-03. 
  17. ^ South Coast Botanic Garden
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c d e
  24. ^ The O.C. Filming Locations
  25. ^
  26. ^ Beale, Lauren (2011-07-01). "Anderson da Silva buys Palos Verdes Estate home". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 20 July 2011. 
  27. ^ Climate Summary for Palos Verdes

Further reading[edit]

  • Patryla, Jim (2005). A Photographic Journey Back To Marineland of the Pacific. Lulu Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4116-7130-0.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 33°45′31″N 118°20′45″W / 33.7586472222°N 118.345844444°W / 33.7586472222; -118.345844444