Finding Our Way To Larchmont: Episode 4

By: Sondi Toll Sepenuk

My husband I and I both hail from the Northwest. I grew up in Portland, then Seattle, then Portland, and my husband grew up in Portland.  We met here in Los Angeles, and decided to make it our home.

We both remember riding bikes to friends’ homes after school, walking to and from our friends’ houses, taking the city busses, playing in the schoolyards on the weekends, and roaming the streets until after sundown.

When we married, we were renting a wonderful 2 bed, 2 bath 1930s apartment in the heart of Westwood Village.  We loved being able to walk down to the movie theaters and restaurants, and we totally dug the young vibe of our neighborhood. We really couldn’t imagine a better place to live anywhere in Los Angeles.  When we started to look to purchase our first home, we told our realtor that we wanted to remain in the Westwood area.  After looking for a very brief time, we realized that we could only afford a very small, 2 bed, 1 bath house in that area. Our realtor suggested that we look further east because we could get more for our money.  We unenthusiastically agreed to widen our search area, which led us to Brookside.  We loved the 1920s architecture and the mature trees that lined the streets. The wide sidewalks caught our attention, because they reminded us of our own upbringing.

As we looked around, we had a plan.  We would buy our “starter” home over in the Larchmont/Brookside area, but then move back to Westwood within five years.  We called it our “five-year plan.”

The moment we saw our house in Brookside, we knew that “it was the one.”  We put in an offer, along with three other people, and were lucky enough to come out on the winning end of the bidding war. Within three months of moving into our home, we knew we would never leave.  We were astounded by how central the neighborhood is to other areas of the city.  We could drive to Hollywood, Downtown, and Beverly Hills within 15 minutes. We could walk to Larchmont Village. West Hollywood, the Valley, and even Santa Monica weren’t too bad a commute if you weren’t fighting rush hour traffic.  The Hollywood Bowl, The Pantages, The Staples Center — all at our fingertips.  Plus, we had the best neighbors EVER.  Brookside is like Mayberry in the city.  The neighborhood hosts annual caroling parties, Easter egg hunts, movie nights in the park, and the longest-running block party in the city. Everyone knows everyone, but in a good way.  We all look out for each other.  Our kids grow up together.  We don’t feel like we’re living in a city of millions.  We feel like we’re living in a community of hundreds.  That’s a pretty special thing to find in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world.

It is not unusual to go for a thirty minute walk around the neighborhood and return two hours later, having been invited into a neighbor’s home for drinks and conversation. There is a brook, there are raccoons, coyotes, wild parrots, egrets, crayfish and more wildlife that I’m sure escapes me.  Our community is alive.

The diversity of the area is also very special.  We live in an area that reflects the diversity of the city, which we feel is very important for our children as they grow into well-informed, respectful, and empathetic members of the global community. We love Brookside so much that when we outgrew our home, we decided we didn’t want to move — so we added onto the home in a respectful way that keeps the house in line with the other 1920’s homes on the street.  So now, this truly IS our forever home.  And all I can say is… Westwood WHO??????

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