Del Rey – A Brief History …

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By Longtime Resident, Mary Anderson

The westside neighborhood of Del Rey is something of an enigma. Bordered by Culver City to the east and, Mar Vista on the north, Marina Del Rey and Venice on the west, and the emerging community of Playa Vista to the South, Del Rey actually pre-dates its more famous neighbors as a community. In 1903, the Department of City Planning identified Del Rey as one of nine divisions of the West Los Angeles Planning Commission.

Originally part of the sprawling Rancho Ballona, the area’s agricultural identity was established early in its history and Del Rey remained a farming community, dotted by dairies and fields of produce, well into the 20th century. But the area’s vulnerability to flooding combined with Los Angeles’ continual growth and the arrival of Hughes Aircraft in the 1940s, resulted in Del Rey’s slow but steady urbanization.

Today, Del Rey is a largely residential community, dominated by single-story homes built during the post-war boom. Located a mere two miles from the beach, Del Rey is the most affordable neighborhood on Los Angeles’ Westside. It is also one of the most ethnnically diverse, containing East Indian, Fijian, Hawaiian and Hispanic communities.

Del Rey is also home to a vibrant Japanese-American community.  After World War II, the Venice Japanese Community Center (located squarely in Del Rey in spite of its name) served as a relocation center for Japanese Americans returning from internment camps. Today the VJCC offers more than 30 clubs and classes ranging from traditional Japanese arts such as ikebana (flower arrangement) to contemporary youth-orientated activities.

Del Rey is home to Mar Vista Gardens. Operated by the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the Gardens, with its 600 apartments, has a mostly Hispanic population and is served by the Mar Vista Family Center, the Westside Children’s Center, and St. Gerard Majella Catholic Church.

Ballona Creek is one of Del Rey’s most distinctive physical features. Until the 1930’s, it was a free-flowing stream that emptied into the coastal wetlands. Prone to regional flooding, Ballona Creek turned into a raging torrent on New Year’s Day, 1934, cresting its banks and devastating the area’s farms. The following year, Ballona Creek was straightened and paved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

Today, a well used bicycle path runs along the creek providing locals with easy access to the beach. Del Reyans also have another bike path they can enjoy — the Culver Boulevard Median Path. Starting at McConnell Blvd., in the heart of Del Rey, the path heads east into neighboring Culver City, ending at Overland Blvd. The Median Path, which also includes a pededtrian walkway, provides the neighborhood with rare and greatly appreciated green space.

While the name Del Rey predates the development of both Marina Del Rey and Playa Del Rey, until recently, relatively few locals used the term to identify their neighborhood. The U.S. Postal Service contributes to the problem. As far as the post office is concerned, more than one-third of our residents — those with a 90230 zip code — live in Culver City and must list that municipality as their address to receive mail.

There is, however, a burgeoning sense of community identity within Del Rey. Close to the beach, close to LAX (but not too close), ethnically varied and relatively affordable, Del Ray, may be the most interesting neighborhood most Angelinos have never heard of — yet.

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