Sawtelle, Los Angeles

Sawtelle/sɔːˈtɛl/ is a district in the Westside of the city of Los Angeles, California, partially within the West Los Angeles subregion. It was established in 1899 and named after a manager of the Pacific Land Company who was initially responsible for its development and promotion.

Neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, United States
Neighborhood of Los Angeles in California, United States
Country  United States
State  California
County Los Angeles
City Los Angeles

Sawtelle is noted for its thriving Japanese American community, busy restaurants and arthouse movie theaters. It has strong roots in Japanese-American history. In recognition of its historical heritage, the area was designated Sawtelle Japantown in 2015.[1]

. . . Sawtelle, Los Angeles . . .

A Los Angeles Pacific Railroad streetcar on Santa Monica Boulevard in Sawtelle, 1890

In 1896, the Pacific Land Company purchased a 225-acre (0.91 km2) tract, which lay just south of the veterans home, and hired S. H. Taft to develop a new town named Barrett, after Andrew W. Barrett, local manager of the veterans home. When the Pacific Land Company attempted to secure a post office for the new town, the postal authorities objected to the name “Barrett” on account of its similarity to Bassett, California. In 1899, the name of the town was formally changed to Sawtelle (for W. E. Sawtelle, who succeeded Taft as manager of the Pacific Land Company).[2]

The Pacific Branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers served as an attraction for both tourists and local real estate speculators. In 1906, the Pacific Branch became a stop on the Los Angeles Pacific Railroad‘s “Balloon Route”,[3][4] a popular tour of local attractions conducted by an entrepreneur who escorted tourists via a rented streetcar, often from downtown Los Angeles to the ocean and back.[5] In 1905, residential lots and larger tracts in the new Westgate Subdivision, which joined “the beautiful Soldier’s Home”, and which were owned and promoted by Jones and Baker’s Santa Monica Land and Water Company, were for sale.[6] The new community of Sawtelle developed around the Pacific Branch when veterans’ families, as well as veterans themselves who were drawing relief, settled there.[7] Most of Sawtelle thus grew up after the veterans home was established.

Sawtelle existed as a separate city until 1922. According to the Los Angeles Times,[8] the following events took place:[9]

In 1918, the voters of Sawtelle decided by a margin of three votes to merge their city with Los Angeles. The vote was 519-516. However, the Board of Trustees, equivalent to a city council, refused to accept the decision and “ordered a challenge in the courts.”

The city of Los Angeles, however, did not wait for a court decision but instead “rounded up a squad of policemen and ‘swooped’ down upon the Sawtelle City Hall, as one account put it at the time.”

Sawtelle city officials were locked out of the City Hall, and the city of Los Angeles took over all the municipal and school activities.

In the meantime, the ousted Sawtelle trustees continued their case in the courts, and on September 15, 1921, the California Supreme Court decided the consolidation had indeed been illegal because the voters “had not been told on their ballots that they would have to pay a proportionate share of all Los Angeles debts for bonds.”

Thirty-two days later the city of Los Angeles moved out of Sawtelle as quickly as it had moved in. Nine policemen packed up the records and left; eight firemen abandoned the fire engine and reported for work elsewhere. The city of Sawtelle was back in operation.

Businesses on Sawtelle Boulevard north of Olympic Boulevard in the city of Los Angeles, 2008

In 1922, another election was held, and once again Sawtelle voters decided to join Los Angeles. This time the merger was permanent, and the municipal district or neighborhood of Sawtelle was created. Sawtelle was the fourth city to be merged with Los Angeles, after Wilmington and San Pedro in 1909 and Hollywood in 1910.

. . . Sawtelle, Los Angeles . . .

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. . . Sawtelle, Los Angeles . . .

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