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A look at Palos Verdes Estates in 1939

PENINSULA PAST - October 30, 2014Sample Ballot for Palos Verdes Estates in 1939
By Dennis Piotrowski and Monique Sugimoto

As the city of Palos Verdes Estates winds down the celebration of its 75th anniversary, let's look back at some of its history during the year of its incorporation in 1939.

While World War II was erupting in Europe and the New York World's Fair was opening on the East Coast, PVE was fast growing into a tight-knit community of country estates, scenic rural roads, and vibrant cultural, recreational and political activity.

About a thousand people lived in the area, up from about 700 from a decade earlier.

Residents enjoyed the fact that PVE was internationally reknown for its city plan that included large park and recreational areas and tree-lined streets with "borders of shrubs and flowering plants."

The Palos Verdes News quoted the County of Los Angeles Regional Plan of Highways at the time: "An unusual combination of hills, ocean and tempered climate, with fertile adobe soil... has made possible a community of exceptional beauty."

This helped to fuel a brisk real estate market. An 8 1/2-acre level lot overlooking the ocean was selling for $10,000, while a new four-bedroom, three-bathroom house was selling for $15,500.
In February the Palos Verdes Arts Association sponsored a tea reception that opened an exhibit by artists Alice Maynard Griggs, Esther Smee and Viola Stone. Griggs also worked as a local music critic, Smee painted California landscapes and seascapes, while Stone was listed in Who's Who in American Art.
Mr. and Mrs. A. E. Cameron were busy running the large Erracht Dog Kennels in PVE. Among their champions was a Sealeyham Terrier named Samphire Shindy of Erracht, who took first place in the terrier variety group in front of 5,000 spectators at the Beverly Hills dog show in March.
Not long after, Capt. Arthur Shelwell of the British Royal Air Force gave a well-received talk on "The Conquest of the Air" at the Palos Verdes Country Club. Shelwell was from an old English military family and was severely wounded in combat over France during World War I.
The Malaga Cove Library was busy, too, its patrons checking out recently published books including "America in Mid-Passage" by Charles A. Beard, one of the leading historians of the last century.
Twenty members of the local Camp Fire Girls youth organization, first organized in Palos Verdes in 1933, were busy studying nature and learning first aid. Younger Palos Verdes residents also were active riding their surfboards off the coast.
In July, Ralph Bandini, of Palos Verdes Estates and a member of the pioneer Bandini family, was active politically. He led an effort of local sports fishermen that helped defeat a bill that would have opened all of Catalina waters and Santa Monica Bay to commercial fishermen and their 1,800-foot-long nets. Bandini's group, named the Federated Conservationists, claimed that this would have devastated local amateur and sports fishers.
The defining political battle commenced later in July when residents filed a petition with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors requesting incorporation of the city. The Homes Association was liable for taxes on local park lands, and because of economic difficulties, many residents were concerned that the parklands would be sold for payment.
Proponents and opponents of incorporation swung into action.
Supporters of incorporation were led by the Palos Verdes Estates Civic Association and the Citizens' Committee of One Hundred. Opponents promoted their viewpoints through the Palos Verdes Committee Against Incorporation.
The area in the new city comprised about 3,200 acres of land with an overall assessed valuation of approximately $2,000,000.
The vote on Dec. 9, 1939, was razor thin: 213 for incorporation, and 206 against. Coinciding with the incorporation vote, the first ever City Council was elected. H.B.F. Roessler garnered the most votes and worked diligently as mayor for the first 25 years of PVE's cityhood keeping to the principles set forth by the PV Project.
As the momentous year of 1939 drew to a close, the newly formed city of PVE was already well-known for its open space, tree-lined streets, and vigorous cultural and recreational life - much the same as it is 75 years later.

Dennis Piotrowski and Monique Sugimoto are Adult Services librarians at the Palos Verdes Library District.