If you’ve ever flown out of LAX, you might have looked down just after take off and noticed this peculiar scene:


The image shows what appears to be suburban-style streets sandwiched between the airport’s runways and Dockweiler State Beach. I’ve driven by this spot many times over the years and noticed the dry weeds and streets — which I mistook for driveways or service roads — but thanks to barbed wire-topped fences never got a good look, or thought much about it. At least until I looked down during a recent flight.

But it turns out this is the community of Surfridge, which the LA Times describes as “what was once one of Los Angeles’ most coveted neighborhoods.”

According to the Daily Breeze, Surfridge dates back to the 1900s. It ended up becoming “an isolated playground of the wealthy,” and Hollywood figures built homes there with sweeping views.

However, the Breeze reports, as LAX grew air authorities began buying up homes in Surfridge and tearing them down. The result is that today there is a 302-acre space crisscrossed by streets, old lights, and other artifacts of its former glory. The Breeze characterized it as a “ghost town.”

Surfridge made headlines in January 2013 when authorities were considering tearing up some of the old streets and planting native vegetation. That plan only affected part of the area, and whatever happened the streets were still very much there when I flew over in July.

Interestingly enough, another neighborhood is currently undergoing a similar ghost-town-ification process near LAX. Manchester Square lies just east of the airport, and is gradually being bought up and demolished. The neighborhood could end up becoming a parking lot and was featured earlier this year in a mini documentary by The Atlantic.

Manchester Square likely won’t end up looking like Surfridge, but both communities are curious examples of “ghost towns” in the middle of an otherwise massive metropolis.

— Jim Dalrymple II


Written by Jim Dalrymple II

Urbanism and travel writer. Also a journalist covering the news.

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