Monterey Hills: The Eastside’s condo colony

For many aspiring home owners, especially those first-time buyers on a budget, the road to home ownership leads to the hilltop condo acropolis that is Monterey Hills. Here, in a master-planned community that would make the builders of Irvine and Valencia proud,  residents live in compounds with names like Vallejo Villas and Chadwick Terrace that are surrounded by greenbelts, winding footpaths and city and mountain views. It’s clean and tranquil, with the sounds of creaking of automatic parking garage gates and humming swimming pool filters breaking the silence. Writer Maria Hsin took a look at what condo shoppers can expect in Monterey Hills.

By Maria Hsin

When exiting Via Marisol from the northbound Arroyo Seco Parkway, you have two options: century-old  Highland Park to your left or a much more contemporary community called Monterrey Hills to the right. Via Marisol slowly winds it’s way up from the freeway, eventually revealing green hillsides, tree-lined sidewalks and more than 1,700 condominiums, town homes and apartments.

About 40 years ago, the City of Los Angeles set aside a redevelopment project intended to cater to low- and middle-income people who were working in downtown L.A. Three hillsides between Montecito Heights and Hermon were leveled and a community of condominiums and townhomes sprang up – Monterey Hills.

But the shifting land created more cracks in the buildings leading to a lawsuit of at least $60 million to cover repairs and stabilization work.

The lawsuit is now history and young professionals, couples working downtown and others looking to purchase a home they can afford in a safe, walkable neighborhood have chosen Monterey Hills.  A new market called  Fresco, at the base of the hill in Hermon, is a nice addition, with it’s Trader Joe’s- like lay out, substantial wine selection, Latino foods and cafe. Downtown L.A. is only a short drive away on the southbound Arroyo Seco Parkway (110 Freeway). Head north and you are soon in South Pasadena and Pasadena, which are both packed with amenities but higher home prices.

In Monterey Hills, the average price for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium is about $277,000, said Wayne Rog of Dilbeck Realtors of San Marino.

“Monterey Hills prices are very steady, it’s a very attractive area, interest rates are still low — it’s still a buyer’s market,” Rog said. “If you’re looking to buy, now is the time to buy.”

Rog said that in June 2010 a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo with 1,148 square feet on Via Arbolada sold for $340,000, down from the list price of $349,900. The bank-owned property was built in 1987 and has central AC and heating, a pool and spa and club house.

Rog said two-bedroom, two-bathroom condos can go for as high as $336,000, depending on the building, the views and amenities offered, or for as low as $220,000. “There are doctors who are interning at USC and other white collar professionals from downtown that can’t afford Pasadena or don’t want to live downtown.”

Robert Hawkes, chair of the Monterey Hills Federation, said the organization would like to see a lot called Parcel S become open space or a passive park and looks forward to the $4 million landscaping, median improvements and traffic calming measures recently approved for the area.

Hawkes and his wife moved here from Westwood four years ago.

“We were looking to buy and came to the area one weekend and saw people walking their dogs and doing yoga in the park,” Hawkes said. “It was affordable, there were views of green hillsides and we fell in love with it.”


  1. great article. I love this area, and it’s not well-known among those in Hollywood/downtown, but I think I like that!

  2. Weren’t these the same homes/condo’s that where cracking and falling apart some years back?????

  3. Yeah, EP Lady, they sure are. The walls were literally separating at the seams. The front porch steps were 4″ away from the structures. It was a blame game in full effect for years. Around in circles it went: contractor blamed architect blamed city blamed builder – for years it went on. The problem is the unstable landfill they’re built on.

  4. I’m not sure, but I doubt it was built on a “landfill”. When a development like that is constructed they “cut” the tops of the hills and the bulldozers push the cut into the depressions where the cut turns into “fill” thus creating a flat buildable area.
    Now fill can be a tricky thing. Nowadays, builders are required to compact the fill to 90% and have it certified. Decades ago, not so much. But even 90% compaction can leave a lot of room for settling. If there is 10 feet of fill at that compaction it can still settle up to a foot.

  5. I want to clarify that I meant landfill in the commonly understood form as trash dump. I saw the wikipedia entry said a 100 foot landfill which I believe is open to misinterpretation. That said, 100 feet!!!!! That’s a lot of fill. Even if it were properly compacted there would still be a ridiculous amount of settling.

  6. I just found out that my father lived there in the 1950s, before it was turned into the Monterey Hills. There were people living there. It wasn’t just empty land. The streets cut straight up the hill. Just look at Collis, and run the streets that are perpendicular right up into the hill, and run Oak Hill and Hellman straight through as well.

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