In Western Los Angeles, the densely populated city quickly fades into a beautiful landscape, reminiscent of the Mediterranean. Topanga, an area well known to citizens of Los Angeles, captures this beauty better than perhaps anywhere else in the county.
A quick trip up Topanga Canyon reveals a stunning landscape, kissed by the sun, and filled with some of the area’s most diverse flora and fauna. For decades, Topanga has served as both a getaway for Angelinos and a place where natural beauty can thrive.
The word “Topanga” originally came from the Tongva tribe and is roughly translated to mean “a place above.” Another translation suggests Topanga means “where the mountains meet the sea”, which is yet another accurate description. Topanga Canyon is an area that is particularly remarkable, surrounded by California’s iconic mountainside and within reach of the Pacific Ocean.
The area is as rich in culture as it is in nature. The people of Topanga have long sought to distinguish themselves from the surrounding areas, creating a serene escape for all who want (and can afford) it.
Currently, just over 8,000 people live in the area designated as Topanga. Due to limited developable land and relatively restrictive zoning laws, the housing supply is usually very limited. As a result, the median home value in Topanga has remained above 1 million USD.
Here is a brief look into the area known as Topanga, including an overview of the area’s real estate market:
A Bohemian History
Since the early days of Hollywood, Topanga has been known as a nearby getaway. A place where movie stars, artists, and other creative individuals could escape the hustle and bustle of the city and live peacefully. For decades, life in Topanga was considered the area’s “best-kept secret” and though Topanga is now more widely known, its stunning allure remains.
After actor Will Geer was blacklisted from Hollywood (due to his refusal to disclose names of Communist Party members to Congress), he settled in Topanga, hoping to live off the land. Within a short amount of time, he and his friend, folk music legend and activist Woody Guthrie, would “inadvertently” create an artist colony that attracted more bohemians and creative individuals. Decades later, creatives of all sorts are still drawn to the unique scenery and setting that only Topanga Canyon can provide.
To this day, Topanga is still a place that is recognized for its idyllic creative, relaxed, and natural environment. Topanga Canyon has been well-preserved: anyone who has had the joy of driving up this Canyon knows that it is one of Los Angeles’ true treasures.
Things to Do and See in Topanga
Topanga is surrounded by the Santa Monica Mountains, the defining mountain range in Los Angeles County. There are dozens of different areas reserved for hiking and walking, with options ranging from simple (but stunning) roadside overlooks to multi-day adventures. Horseback riding, mountain biking, birdwatching, rock climbing, and other natural activities are all very popular and play a crucial role in the area’s culture.
As a key destination for creatives, Topanga is also recognized for its numerous arts, film, and cultural events that occur every year. Topanga Days (which usually takes place Memorial Day weekend) features an incredibly wide variety of crafts, food from around the world, and an iconic parade.
The area also has notable music festivals, including Reggae on the Mountain, and notable film events, such as the Topanga Film Festival (July). Like most of the areas in Los Angeles County, Topanga receives more than 300 days of sunshine every year. Numerous shopping options, dining options, and facilities are also within reach—despite the fact that Topanga is known for its “retreat”-like status, it is still an area that is easy to live in full-time.
A Look Inside the Topanga Real Estate Market
Over the past few decades (since Topanga’s cultural peak in the late ‘60s and early 70s), Topanga has gradually transitioned from a Bohemian Mecca to a more traditional West Los Angeles community. Recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that Topanga (zip code 90290) has a median sales price of 1.1 million USD. This is well above the averages for the nation, California, and Los Angeles. Topanga homes are often, though not exclusively, built in the Spanish Mission style that can be found throughout the broader region.
Compared to the year before, median home values have increased by 9.9 percent. This figure is also above average for the area. Beyond the natural beauty and thriving culture, people are also drawn to Topanga for its remarkable schools and family environment.
Schools in and near Topanga are very highly rated. Three area elementary schools all score above 900 on the Academic Performance Index, including Woodland Hills Elementary, Bay Laurel Elementary, and Chaparral Elementary. Area middle and high schools also perform quite well (Alice C. Steele Middle 920, Calabasas High 875).
Current residents have an intense desire to keep the housing stock limited. This helps keep housing prices higher, but perhaps more importantly, limited development also helps preserve the incredible natural wildlife in the area.
Mountain lions and other rare mammals can be found throughout Topanga Canyon. Rare plants and birds are also very common. Citizens consistently vote to keep the development of new housing limited, with one agent recently stating “This is a small community. We’re not Venice of the Pacific Palisades, and we don’t want to be those places.”
Overall, it is very easy to see why life in Topanga has gained such an iconic status. From the area’s unique early history to its overwhelming natural beauty to its absolute location, it is not surprising why homes in the area often stay on the market for a week or even less. Both buyers and sellers in Topanga can find lucrative opportunities. In the ever-changing Los Angeles housing market, the iconic draw of Topanga Canyon still remains strong.