An LA gem location hiding in plain sight
Playa del Rey is one of those small beach side pockets of Los Angeles that for the most part just flies under the radar. If you don’t know where it is, chances are you have at least passed it going either to or from LAX or maybe you biked through on the beach path heading towards Manhattan Beach. It’s not one of those areas like Venice or West Hollywood that people specifically seek out when they move to Los Angeles. It’s one of those hidden gem locations that really is just hiding in plain sight – its where people move when they still want to be on the Westside but want something that’s a little more quiet and away from it all.
Location wise, Playa del Rey is sandwiched in between Marina del Rey to the north and El Segundo to the south. And it’s right next to the Ballona Wetlands which is about 600 acres of protected saltwater marsh, just west of Lincoln Boulevard as you head towards the ocean. It’s about a 30 minute car ride to Downtown LA with no traffic.
The area was established in the early 1920s but most of the homes and apartment buildings in the area weren’t built until the 1950s and 60s. There’s only about 13,000 residents in Playa del Rey today. It’s a small community. Among the more famous residents was Jerry Buss, who owned the Los Angeles Lakers and lived in an area of Playa del Rey called the Bluffs which is perched on a hill and overlooks the Wetlands and the entire Westside. Former Laker head coach Phil Jackson, also calls Playa del Rey home.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Playa del Rey is that it’s not really like most beachside communities in LA County. There’s no bougie aesthetic, there’s no chain restaurants or nationally-recognized coffee shops. Its an area that has never really cared to be cool, But in a lot of ways it still is. As somebody who grew up there, I can tell you that not a whole lot has changed in Playa del Rey over the years. The residents are mostly easy going long-term locals who for the most part have a lot of pride being from the area.
For such a small community, Playa del Rey has some pretty decent spots to eat. Going down Culver Boulevard, you have restaurants like Cantelini’s which has been there for 50 years and has really good homestyle Italian food with a Dan Tana’s like vibe in the interior. There’s Bacari PDR, which is a solid Mediterranean spot – who also has locations in Silverlake and West Adams. There are also local watering holes like Prince of Whales and Mo’s Place which have been there for decades. And The Shack, a kind of grimy yet delicious burger joint that will serve you a cheeseburger with a Louisiana Sausage inside of it. My favorite place is probably the most low key of low key spots – Senor G’s…its a hole in the wall Mexican joint which serves up pretty fantastic Burritos.
Like most communities near the water, real estate values in Playa del rey have soared over the years. In the last year alone, there were 73 single family homes which sold in the area with an average price per square foot of $820. The median home price in that same data set is right around $2 Million dollars. This is not a geography where you will find $30 Million dollar homes, but make no mistake, it is certainly not cheap to live in Playa del Rey.
If you are renting an apartment, you can expect to pay anywhere from $1,800 – $2,500 a month for a one-bedroom and anywhere from $2,700 to over $4,000 a month for a two bedroom.
A lot of what is driving the demand for real estate in Playa del Rey is the influx of the tech and media companies which have dominated Playa Vista just on the other side of Lincoln Boulevard. To name a few, you have companies like Google, Youtube, Facebook, Electronic Arts and so many others that populate those office buildings. Playa del Rey has in a lot of ways been the beneficiary of the high rent spill over from Playa Vista. For instance, it is tough to find a one-bedroom for rent in Playa Vista right now that is under $3,000 per month. So Playa del Rey is positioned as the nearby and more affordable option.
The multifamily investment sales market in Playa del Rey is really no different than single family…the prices are high and there seems to be more demand than available supply. There’s only about 200 multifamily buildings in the area that are 5 units or larger. Of those 200 buildings, only four of them are over 50 units. In other words, this is not an institutional submarket as far as multifamily properties are concerned. It’s mostly small properties that are 5-15 units with Mom and Pop owners. And as far as multifamily sales, it’s pretty low velocity. There were only 3 multifamily properties which traded hands in Playa del Rey in the last 12 months. Those sales metrics averaged right around $500,000 per unit with cap rates just under 4%. If you are not in the multifamily space, that is an expensive deal. Like most Westside buyers, the people buying multifamily in Playa del Rey aren’t really buying for cash flow. They’re buying for appreciation and rent growth – not to mention a stellar location.
As far as development is concerned, there’s really not a lot of it happening in Playa del rey, simply because it’s just hard to do. In 2018, the LA City Council voted unanimously to block the construction of Legado 138. Legado 138 is a mixed-use development which proposed 72 apartment units and 7,500 square feet of commercial space right on Culver Boulevard near the water. Local advocates argued that it would trigger a development rush and endanger the culture of Playa del Rey.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Playa del Rey and even though I live on the opposite side of town now, I still love going there. It has a rich history and the fabric of the community is tight knit and well-established. Location-wise, I like that it’s close enough yet far enough from everything at the same time. And if you’re a beach person, the ocean is right there. Let’s be honest, Playa del rey is never going to be Santa Monica or Venice. And it will it almost certainly never be Malibu. And that’s what I love about it. It’s an area that never tries to be anything that it’s not – Playa del Rey just flies under the radar – unassuming and uniquely itself.