The Ben Mar Development

by Wes Clark

The Ben Mar Hills development is one of Burbank's more interesting speculative land deals. It started off with high hopes and high aims (locating a major university in Burbank), but later became a mass of confusion and legal tangles. The Ben Mar project borders were approximately from Walnut to the edge of town and from Glenoaks up to the hills. Excerpts from a couple of Burbank histories tell the story...

From "A HISTORY OF BURBANK" (Published by the Burbank Unified School District, January, 1967):

"Another land boom started in the early 1920's. A Hollywood real estate promoter, Ben W. Marks, bought a part of the Stough Ranch property in 1919. He planned to develop a subdivision that would equal the Wilshire Boulevard area. He donated the present site of McCambridge Park to the city for a municipal center and hoped that the southern branch of the University of California (U.C.L.A.) would be located in the Benmar Hills residential area. The once-favored Burbank site was rejected when the Janss Investment Company donated the land in what is now Westwood to the University and U.C.L.A. was built in Westwood. Marks' promotion began to collapse and ended in financial disaster, defaulted bonds, and confused property title claims."

From "THE BURBANK COMMUNITY BOOK" By George Lynn Monroe (1944), from the chapter entitled "Chamber of Commerce on the Job":

“When the Benmar Hills project got itself tangled into a ten-year-old knot, the Chamber had a conspicuous part in unscrambling the tangle.”

From a Google Books book describing the origin of Los Angeles country place names: "Ben Mar Hills - Established in 1920 and named by Ben Mark, promoter of the subdivision. The "k" in the family name was obviously omitted to make it sound 'Spanish.'"

From a 1920's promotional brochure describing the then-present and speculative, proposed sights in the Ben Mar area:

Below: "Los Angeles, Metropolis of Knowledge?" brochure, circa 1926.

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