Los Angeles’ Ghost Town

Jun 22, 2010 by Lisa Newton

Located just west of LAX is place not too many Angelenos know about.

Some might have hear about it, a few of the bikers who ride Vista del Mar between Marina del Rey and El Segundo have seen its high fence lined with barbed wire at the top.

On the other hand, maybe some visitors to Dockweiler Beach might have seen all the empty roads and high weeds that occupy the area, while getting out of their cars to head down toward the beach.

But there is a story behind that chain-link fence and those abandoned roads.

Its name is Palisades del Rey also known as Surfridge. What was once a community of 822 homes today stands as a reminder of progress, a remnant of the advent of jet planes.

Opened in 1928, Palisades del Rey soon became a popular spot for home builders. What’s not to love about the area–it’s close to the beach, has the cool ocean fresh breezes blowing through, and rolling hills abound.

However, around the same time, Mines Field, a small local airport, broke ground. By 1937, the City of Los Angeles purchased Mines Field and thus our Los Angeles International Airport aka “LAX” was born.

At that time, the airport was totally located east of Sepulveda Boulevard, so nobody expected that LAX would expand closer and closer to the Pacific Ocean. However as Los Angeles’ expansion and explosion in growth ensued, it started encroaching on the West.

The photo above, courtesy of Wikipedia, was taken in 2007. The white arrow is pointing to Palisades del Rey. See the empty streets? From this shot, Sepulveda Boulevard, where the airport first broke ground, isn’t even visible.

It is one of the classic and inevitable urban battles-airports verses the neighborhoods that feed into them. Playa del Rey became the worst-case scenario, a scarred place, a place of heavy losses, tears, lawsuits and hard negotiations over fair-market value.

New runways, various federal restrictions on jet landings and takeoffs, and potential liability for hearing loss were all part of the equation and problem for this once promising neighborhood. As a result, wonderful old buildings were knocked out, in other cases, moved in sections to other neighborhoods. Source: Los Angeles Times

In the late 1960s when the Palisades del Rey demolitions started, the average annual passenger volume at LAX was only about 7,000,000. Today, the number is approaching almost 60,000,000, making LAX the sixth largest airport in the world.

Now only 2 of the original 470 acres are in use, home to the El Segundo Blue Butterfly Habitat Preserve where an estimated 50,000 Blue Butterflies, an endangered species live.

Now when you come near the Los Angeles Ghost Town of Palisades del Rey, you’ll know what and why it is what it is.

What’s interesting is that someone hasn’t figured out a way to capitalize on this issue after all these years considering the price of land in prime Los Angeles beach areas is very expensive, and this area of over 400 acres is just sitting empty.

In the our ever moving city, perhaps doing nothing there is the right thing to do.

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2 Responses to “Los Angeles’ Ghost Town”

  1. O. Bisogno Scotti says:

    I think the City should remove all the cement and plant coast buckwheat so the Blue Butterfly can thrive.


    Lisa Newton Reply:

    @O. Bisogno Scotti, That would definitely be a possible use for the land.


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