Homes in Rancho Palos Verdes, San Pedro and South Bay
Albena Pachmakov
(310) 408-4018(310) 408-4018

History of Palos Verdes

About the area:



In the South Bay area of Los Angeles, an address on “The Hill” is a home on the Palos Verdes Peninsula – a terraced prow of land at the southwestern tip of Los Angeles County that is rural by Southland standards, and affluent by any standard.

Palos Verdes is the Spanish name for the Indian term “green tree”. Keeping true to its name, the early planners of the Peninsula showed great vision in establishing ground rules for development, which have protected Palos Verdes from the massive overdevelopment that marks much of the L.A. basin.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula is a 27+ square-mile area containing some of the most spectacular topography to be found anywhere in the world. Its beauty extends breath-taking panorama of the Pacific Ocean on one side to its colorful mountain ranges on the other, and includes a fascinating geology abounding in prehistoric fossil remains.


H I S T O R Y:

While first described in 1542 by Spanish Explorer Juan Cabrillo, Palos Verdes Peninsula remained undisturbed and the exclusive domain of the Gabrielino Indians, for almost three centuries. In 1827, Don Dolores Sepulveda received an original land grant to Rancho de los Palos Verdes, which translates to “ranch of the green trees.”

For the next 35 years, the 75,000 acres awarded by the Governor of Mexico California to Don Sepulveda supported several thousand heads of cattle and a flourishing hacienda. However, through misfortune and mishaps from 1862 to 1882, stewardship of much of this land passed from the Sepulveda family through various mortgage holders to Jotham Bixby of Rancho Los Cerritos.

When land values dictated that his Peninsula property could no longer be used for only cattle grazing, Bixby leased the land to Japanese farmers for cultivating  grains and vegetables. By 1913, a consortium of New York investors owned most of the Bixby land.

Initially, these investors intended to divide the land into large estates. The founding father of the Peninsula, Frank Vanderlip, was one of these investors. Over the next decade, interest in the Peninsula would wane until Vanderlip allied himself with real estate promoter E.G. Lewis. The First Homes began to appear in 1924. During the next fifty years the communities of Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills would begin to take shape.


Rolling Hills and its surrounding area was originally home to Native American Indian Tribes and Spanish cattle ranches.  In 1913, most of the peninsula was purchased by Frank Vanderlip Jr., who planned to develop the peninsula into luxurious country estates and recreational facilities.  The plan included polo grounds, a marina and an airfield as community amenities.  Following World War I these plans were significantly scaled down, which resulted in the residential development of Palos Verdes Estates and the Miraleste area.  Instead of what now are Rolling Hills homes, this area would have been part of the “American Riviera”

In 1936, the Rolling Hills acreage was sold to the Palos Verdes Corporation, headed by A. E. Hanson, who envisioned creating a private, gated community of homes on one to five-acre parcels.  One of the Corporation’s first steps was to adopt general deed restrictions and create the Rolling Hills Community Association as the community’s first governing body.

As the community grew, bridle trails, riding rings, and tennis courts were built and the Women’s and Cabelleros clubs were formed.  These clubs and amenities helped new and old residents meet, and maintained a sense of community as the population grew.  In 1957 Rolling Hills was incorporated as a city.

Despite expansion and increased development in the Los Angeles area in the subsequent years, Rolling Hills has maintained much of the rural character of the original development.  In his book, Rolling Hills, the Early Years, A. E Hanson offers words of caution to his reader, “Open space is an irreplaceable asset.”  These enduring concepts of open space and aesthetic continuity along with a strong sense of community make Rolling Hills the special place it is today.


The Palos Verdes Peninsula is an oasis connected yet separated from the hectic pace of modern city life. For the many families who have lived in Rancho Palos Verdes/ Rolling Hills/Rolling Hills Estates, prior to and since its incorporation, it has been, in the words of author Augusta Fink, “the promise of paradise fulfilled.”