The Development of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes

1949 Road Map
1949 Road Map

Maureen Megowan, a Realtor with Remax Estate Properties, provides an article in her series "South Bay History Tid-Bits"

Probably the greatest single event that would shape the future of Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates occurred in 1953.  Since 1944, the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation had leased a 300-acre tract of land on the north side of the Peninsula for mining of diatomaceous earth (the original mine included the current site of the South Bay Botanical Gardens, the former Palos Verdes Landfill, and Ernie Howlett Park, and the remnants of this mine can be seen at the southwest intersection of Hawthorne Blvd. and Via Valmonte) from the Vanderlip family. Although this mine’s resources had nearly been exhausted, another rich deposit was known to exist on a 165-acre tract near the crest of the Peninsula.

For two years, the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation had been unsuccessfully attempting to purchase this property. Finally, Frank Vanderlip Jr., President of the Palos Verdes Corporation, agreed to sell, provided that Great Lakes purchase all of the stock in the Palos Verdes Corporation for about $9 million, so that the sale would be taxed at capital gains rates. Upon completion of the transaction in December 1953 Great Lakes Carbon Corporation suddenly owned 6,800 acres of prime undeveloped land in the center of the Peninsula, all that was left of the 16,000 acres bought by Frank Vanderlip Sr. from Mr. George Bixby in 1913, with the exception of 500 acres retained by the Vanderlip family in the Portuguese Bend area.

What happened next was not surprising. The plans for mining operations were quickly discarded when it was discovered that the quality of the dicalite deposit was not good and a group of well-known architects and engineers were hired to create a master plan to develop the property. Great Lakes also formed a 79%/21% partnership with Capital Company, an experienced real estate firm. Capital Company, in the late 1930's became a subsidiary of Transamerica Corp. and in 1964 changed its name to Transamerica Development Co.
Fueled by the master plan created by the Great Lakes Carbon Corporation and the burgeoning economic growth occurring in the South Bay area, the remaining unincorporated area on the Peninsula began to develop rapidly and in ever-increasing densities. In September 1955, Palos Verdes Properties, Inc. sold the first 117 acres of the 6,800 acres that Greak Lakes Carbon Corp. and Transamerica Developement had purchased in 1953 to McCarthy Co., land developers. In May 1956, one of the largest land sales took place with Ed Zuckerman and other investors for 1,000 acres known as Grandview Palos Verdes, located near Montemalaga Drive and Silver Spur Road for $6 million. The Monaco development of 180 acres was begun in September 1959.

On April 1, 1950, the Palos Verdes Peninsula had about 6,500 residents, and by June 1967, the number of residents had grown to approx. 54,000. By 1967, only about 1,600 acres remained to be developed.

For more south bay history, see http://www.southbayhistory.com on my website http://www.maureenmegowan.com 

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robin December 08, 2013 at 01:22 PM
And sadly no undeveloped land or empty spaces wil remain. Another eyesore popping up off crestridge, on Rolling Hills Rd, and so on. Traffic is terrible and the "urban life" is turning into Suburban life and a one giant concrete hill. Wildlife is disappearing, Peacocks and other wildlife being killed left and right, No neighborly neighbors exist anymore. Must lock your house and kids get griped at for being kids. What happened to the wide open spaces????
Maureen Megowan December 08, 2013 at 05:00 PM
Robin, fortunately the cities on the Peninsula have planned and set aside large areas of parklands and open space forever. The original planners of Palos Verdes Estates set aside 28% of the land as open space and parklands. The City of Rancho Palos Verdes was established in 1973 to establish development limits and has set aside at least 1,600 acres of land as Nature Preserves. Our neighbors in Palos Verdes are wonderful people and we feel very safe in our neighborhoods. This is why people love living on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.


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