Los Altos - A Desirable area of Long Beach for Good Reason

A Story by Michele Kreinheder | Updated 02/2/2014 8:33pm


The Los Altos area of Long Beach is one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Long Beach for many reasons but mostly it is due location. It has the advantage of being close to the both coast and freeways, while being firmly anchored by Cal State Long Beach.

The Los Altos area was developed soon after the end of World War II to accommodate the scores of military personnel returning to civilian life. Many came from states with severe weather conditions, so it must have been an easy decision to start a new life in weather temperate southern California. This is where the history of Los Altos begins. Lloyd S. Whaley, born in 1906 was raised on a farm in Nebraska, graduated from Iowa State and moved to north Long Beach in 1935. He was a laborer but was soon designing homes in the Jordan High/Houghton Park area and later, during World War II Whaley was developing homes in Wrigley Heights. It was after the war that Whaley saw the potential of developing the land north of PCH that was previously part of the old Rancho Los Alamitos.  Ironically, this land was called “Alkali Flats” because of the strong smell from its swampy soil. Whaley hired L. Deming Tilton to design this master-planned community that almost became known as University Village, which is interesting since Cal State was not established until 1949, while Whaley started construction in 1946. Whaley who must have known a thing about marketing by this point in his career, pushed for the name that means heights in spanish. Reading permit records of Los Altos homes gives us a perfect snapshot of where construction started and how it progressed.  The homes at the corner of Atherton and Clark were completed in 1947 and it wasn’t until 1949 that homes were completed at the Atherton and Bellflower. As you move further east and north the completion dates start to move further into the 50s, and Whaley’s name is no longer the contractor of record. Imagine Bellflower Blvd as a two lane country road and the only artery that leading up from the beach.  It makes perfect sense that this home at 2000 Bellflower on the corner of Garford, was the original model home. There are still a few original home owners in the neighborhood and I consider myself fortunate to have met and taped Jimmie Harrison who tells a story of how he and his wife came to live in ‘the sticks’, as his mother-in-law put it, in1949.  With a $25 deposit, which he had to borrow from his boss, he bought his family home on Radnor. And don’t even get me started on the story of how he and his wife met over an egg at the age of two; history, nostalgia and true love, who could ask for more! One of the key features Tilton and Whaley included in their plan was the Los Altos Shopping Center. Fun fact #1 - Miss Nebraska, not Miss California, was at the ground breaking ceremony that must have been carefully orchestrated by Whaley. Fun Fact #2 - Long Beach is known as Iowa by the Sea due to the large number of migrates from this state. Mr. Lloyd S. Whaley became one of the most successful Nebraskans to settle in Long Beach and eventually sold over 11,000 new homes. He was also involved in the planning and developing of the area now known as Park Estates, with larger lots and more expensive custom built homes.  Fun Fact #3 - Whaley kept the largest parcel for himself and in the CC&R exempted it from the yearly association fees, and that parcel still retains that exemption. To his credit he left a legacy of parks that are still in use today. He donated 12 acres for eponymous Whaley Park, 11 areas for Scherer Park and five acres for Los Altos Park. As a Realtor that previews homes all over Long Beach I was not surprised in the least that Whaley had such a far reaching impact in the city.  Many of the homes in North Long Beach and Wrigley would fit right into the Los Altos neighborhood and I always thought the similarity was uncanny. I like to think that by the time Whaley got to Los Altos he got it right. Although Los Altos homes are well over 60 years old, they have weathered time well. All were built with beautiful, just about irreplaceable, hardwood floors and large double-hung sash windows that give the home an inviting exterior appearance and fill the home’s interior with light. Most had fireplaces, and they had just enough character, that although many owners have extended the rear of the house, the front of most of the homes have remained unchanged over time. The mature trees on many of the streets, but especially on Abbeyfield between Atherton and Bellflower, have made Whaley’s Los Altos even more beautiful as it ages.  Of course we have had some of Whaley’s creation taken down to allow for a complete remodel and the rebuilding of a much larger home, but the vast majority of homes would be easily recognizable to Mr. Whaley if he were to visit today.         Los Altos is still known as a family friendly place just as it was in his time. The area grade schools and Stanford Middle School are highly ranked.  Cal State Long Beach gives Los Altos a college town flavor and many amenities. Click Here Part 1 and Here for Part 2 for YouTube Videos showing historical Los  Click Here To search for properties in Los Altos  
Michele K - Local Real Estate Expert and Neighborhood Enthusiast
             
 

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