When Elizabeth and Giovanni Cecchetti began looking for a house in Los Angeles two decades ago, they narrowed the choice to Westwood and Pacific Palisades.
"We considered Westwood Village, which would have been more convenient and less isolated, but the schools in the Palisades, along with the beauty of the area, convinced us to buy in the Palisades," Elizabeth Cecchetti said.
"There is a sense of community in the Palisades that reminds me of a small town," said Cecchetti, whose husband is a professor of Italian at UCLA.
They bought a house in the Marquez Knolls section of the Palisades for slightly more than $70,000, she said. It is probably worth close to $1 million today.
Isolation from the rest of the city of Los Angeles has long been a prized quality in this affluent community of winding streets lined by mature trees, where many houses have Pacific Ocean views.
The isolated location attracted the community's Methodist founders in the 1920s and has been a factor in the Palisades ever since. That isolation has both its good and bad points, according to recent arrivals and longtime residents of this community of about 30,000.
On the positive side, the Palisades is geographically removed from much of the crime, air pollution and traffic congestion that afflicts most of the city. Despite the presence of Will Rogers State Beach, Palisades residents think of their area as a seaside community with more in common with, say, Santa Barbara, than the typical California beach city.
On the negative side, the isolation means that commuters face long drives on Sunset Boulevard or Pacific Coast Highway, the only routes in or out of the Palisades.
One major criticism of the Palisades is that despite the numerous organizations in the community, there are too few activities for teen-agers. Young people seeking entertainment in popular Westwood Village must travel seven winding miles on Sunset Boulevard.
Isolation and relative freedom from crime also has attracted newer residents who can afford houses in a community where the average single-family house sells for more than $600,000.
Moved From Ocean Park
When the Cecchettis moved to the Palisades in 1969, "the husband worked and the wife stayed home to raise the children," Elizabeth Cecchetti recalls. "Now, both work and a baby sitter or housekeeper watches the kids."
Her description fits one of the newest families in Pacific Palisades, Larry and Randi Dubey, who moved recently to a $675,000, 1,700-square-foot house on DePauw Street. They had owned a house in the the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica for the past five years.
"We were looking for a community with less crime than our area of Santa Monica, which wasn't far from Lincoln Boulevard," Randi Dubey said. She's an executive of Sacks SFO, a chain of discount fashion clothiers; her husband is a partner in Ernst & Dubey, a residential contracting firm.
The Dubeys, with two young children, wanted to live in an area where there are other families. With about an 80% to 20% ratio of homeowners to renters, the Palisades is in sharp contrast to Santa Monica, where the ratio is reversed.
"When you're single or don't have children, you can live anywhere," Randi Dubey said. "But when the children come, you start looking for safety. We rented here in 1982 and grew to love the community."
"We like to say that we bought our house because the neighborhood is great and because the kitchen had just been remodeled," Larry Dubey said, adding that the equity in their Santa Monica house, purchased in 1983, was a big help in qualifying for the Palisades house.
According to real estate broker Bud Petrick, whose firm sold the Dubeys their house, virtually every family moving to the Palisades from elsewhere in the Los Angeles area has two incomes and a hefty equity in their previous home.
It's a matter of economics, he said. The latest multiple listing book for the Palisades has an asking price of $475,000 for the least expensive single-family house, with the most expensive, in the Riviera section, listed at $5.3 million. The least expensive condominium is $210,000, a one-bedroom, one-bath unit, he said, while the most expensive condominium lists for $795,000.
According to the Los Angeles Board of Realtors, Pacific Palisades was the second most active area in the city last year, with 395 sales, just behind Silver Lake-Echo Park, with 398. The average price for all 1988 sales in Pacific Palisades was $704,477, a 32.5% increase from the 1987 average price of $531,755.
"The Palisades was largely built up in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s and, aside from a few lots in Palisades Highlands and tear-down lots elsewhere, there's no place to build here," Petrick said.
Purchased for the Land