Palms Park

In May 1958, the Los Angeles Times reported negotiations between Los Angeles’ Board of Library Commissioners and owners of the “Rainey property” at 2950 Overland Avenue for the new Palms Library.  That same month, the City’s Recreation and Parks Commission determined to create a park either on the Rainey property or at the corner of Overland and Rose avenues to the south. 

Aerial photograph (courtesy UCSB) from October 6, 1940, showing Rainey Estate at center. Rancho La Lomita is across Overland to the left, while the Santa Monica Air Line (later the route of the “E” or”Expo Line”) is on its right. Beneath it is the Vista Del Mar subdivision, which would be bulldozed for the Santa Monica Freeway in the early-1960s.

Garnet Cecil Rainey (1896-1943) and Marjorie M. “Marge” Rainey (1905-1992) were regulars in Los Angeles’ society pages for decades.  Marge Rainey’s father, prominent car dealer Ralph Cunningham Hamlin (1880-1974), started racing bicycles at 16, using the prize money to establish a bicycle repair shop.  He pioneered motorcycle and motorcar sales in Los Angeles.  He raced and sold Franklin automobiles, becoming the largest and most successful dealer, with showrooms in Hollywood, Pasadena, Glendale, and San Diego; whenever a new highway or bridge was to be opened for traffic, Hamlin would make sure that a Franklin was the first car on it.

​​​​Mayor Charles Norris Poulson (1895-1982) preferred the Rainey property for the park, siding with Westwood Gardens Civic Association over the Palms Citizens Advisory Committee.  Possibly to increase the prospective valuation of her land, in September 1958, Mrs. Rainey sought rezoning to build 144 apartments on the property.  Soon after, in October 1958, the City Council approved condemning the land for park purposes.  By December 1958, the parties agreed that the Recreation and Parks Department would buy the 4.7-acre Rainey property for $302,500, with the City taking it over on January 15, 1959. The Los Angeles Times reported that residents had “been after such a facility for the Palms-Rancho Park communities since 1947-48, when the Rancho Park Golf Course was being designed and constructed.

The Palms Chamber of Commerce wanted the park to be called Palms Pioneer Park. (Chamber-member, historian, and Palms’ biggest mid-20th-century booster, David Ira Worsfold (1907-1975) called Palms “the pioneer town.”) Naming the park “Palms Park,” rather than Palms Pioneer Park, may have contributed to what the Los Angeles Times headlined in 1966, “From Farms to Apartments, Palms Losing Identity, Calm Life.” For the northern portion of what was originally The Palms, the 1965 opening of the Santa Monica Freeway, cleaved Palms from its historic northern portions (up to Pico Boulevard). By the late 20th century, most people no longer considered any area north of the freeway – including Palms Park – to be part of Palms.  When the City established neighborhood councils at the start of the 21st century, Palms Park was governed by the Westside Neighborhood Council, not the (later formed) Palms Neighborhood Council.

In 1960, the City funded converting the Rainey house into the park’s clubhouse. 

The Santa Monica Freeway was built past Palms Park beginning in the early-1960s, necessitating realignment of the Pacific Electric trains (a single track).  That made the trench holding the tracks, which separates Palms Park from Cheviot Hills, steeper.  Because of that and other safety concerns, neighbors including community activist Patsy Ruth (Boggs) Flanigan (1931-2009) started working around 1959 to get the Dunleer footbridge built.  As reflected in an October 5, 1965 memo, they worked with City Council members Rosalind “Roz” Wiener Wyman (1930-2022) and Edmund Douglas “Ed” Edelman. A couple of weeks before the June 30, 1966 opening, Councilman Edelman wrote that it was “conceived of by residents in the area more than seven years [before] as a convenient and safer way to reach the Palms Park Playground and the Palms Branch Library.”

June 30, 1966, ribbon-untying ceremony at which Patsy Flanigan’s daughter and a neighbor Mark Slavkin participated in dedicating the footbridge.

The first sanctioned BMX bicycle racing in the United States, if not the world, ran around a track at Palms Park on July 10, 1969, as detailed elsewhere on this website.    

The Palms Park BMXers Facebook page is dedicated to and followed by a number of the original racers.

In the late-1970s, the City demolished the Rainey house and the remaining structures to erect a new recreation center.  A negative declaration was published on March 1, 1979 to “replace the existing outdated structure.”  

On May 25, 2013, the recreation center was renamed the Rosalind Wyman Recreation Center after the former city councilmember.

Roz Wyman speaks to the assembled crowd at the renaming ceremony.  
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