Commercial Real Estate Encyclopedia

Los Angeles History: Harrison Otis, the Chandlers, and the Development of LA

As one of the world's largest economies, Los Angeles is characterized by a well diversified economic base, extensive infrastructure, and multitude of diverse communities and suburbs that create a region unto itself. Globally renowned for its Southern California lifestyle and climate, Los Angeles has attracted millions of people from the rest of the country and beyond as tourists or a place to permanently reside.

Given the enormous scale and diversity of Los Angeles, it is hard to imagine how such an enormous city took shape. Remarkably, modern day Los Angeles is the direct result of a handful of men who relentlessly pursued their vision to define the region over a century ago. Among these men are Harrison Otis and his son-in-law Harry Chandler.

Harrison Otis, Harry Chandler, and the Development of Los Angeles

Harrison Otis was a civil war veteran who came out west. He partnered in a newspaper in Los Angeles and would eventually become sole owner of the Times Mirror Company.

Harry Chandler came out to California from New Hampshire ending up in the San Fernando Valley selling fruit. He eventually found work as a clerk at the Los Angeles Times. His ambition would drive him through the ranks, gaining favor with Harrison Otis. He would eventually marry Otis' daughter.

Together, they had a vision that extended well beyond the newspaper business. Their interests lied in developing the land, the economy, and the city. The newspaper would serve to promote their interests.

In their pursuit to develop the Los Angeles region, they would acquire water rights from the Owens Valley and route the water to the San Fernando Valley, just north of Los Angeles. William Mulholland would engineer and build the aqueduct.

In a shrewd business calculation, Otis and Chandler formed a syndicate to purchase 44,000 acres of land in the San Fernando Valley in the vicinity of where the aqueduct would end.

They also acquired farmland at the foothills of the Santa Monica mountains for a large subdivision. They would build a large sign to promote their project. The sign remained and is now the iconic Hollywood sign known throughout the world.

In addition to real estate, Chandler would promote the region to entice a variety of industries to establish themselves in the Los Angeles area. These industries included the auto industry, the oil industry, and the aerospace industry.

Chandler placed his holdings in separate trusts for posterity. One trust included an estimated 2,000,000 acres of real estate, while the Times Mirror Company was placed in a separate trust so the family would maintain control.

Eventually, the family would sell various properties including the Tejon Ranch in 1997. The Times Mirror Company was eventually acquired by the Tribune Company in 2000, which was in turn acquired by Sam Zell in 2007.

In 2016, The Tribune Company reportedly sold the Times Mirror Square in downtown Los Angeles, including the iconic Los Angeles Times building to Onni Group.



Real Estate Terms

1. How much cash will be required to make your mortgage payments? Debt Service >>

2. Who can you go to to finance your construction or development project? Construction Lender >>

3. What professional can assist you in maximizing the value of your investment property? Asset Manager >>

4. How can we assess future commitment to infrastructure to support our communities and future development? Capital Improvements Projects >>

5. What measurement indicates if a property's financial performance can cover its debt? DSCR >>

6. What part of a city is the center of urban economic development? CBD >>

7. What allows property owners and professionals to estimate the market value of a commercial property? Comparable Property >>

8. What can landords do to entice prospective tenants? Concession >>

9. What critical factor do stores depend on to drive traffic? Anchor Tenant >>

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