A walk in Culver City from the Luna River to the Hobbit houses

Culver City Park. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

Duquesne Avenue cuts Culver City Park in two; Skate area and basketball court at the bottom and baseball fields at the top. We park along the slope downhill at a stepped point facing west. A few dollars for four hours. More than enough for the planned trip of three kilometers.

Christina, Milo and I cross Jefferson Avenue to reach the upper crossing to Nahal Baluna. The sides of the bridge incorporate public works of art. On the one hand we come across what looks like the skeleton of a rocket ship that crashed with its nose down. On the other side, along the wall of the access path to the bike path, there is a set of murals depicting scenes from eight major rivers in the world. Rivers of the world This is what they call wall art. Appropriate name. Spot.

Ballona Creek in Culver City. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

The signage informs us that the trail is part of the Park to Playa Regional Trail, which stretches from Baldwin Hills to Culver City and then along the creek to the Pacific Ocean. If the wind propelled us, we could follow the path south of the ramp and in about six miles we were caught in the sand. The spirit, however, tells us to stick to the game plan.

Ballona Creek Bicycle Trail. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

We walk one more block on the Duquesne before walking right onto Lucerne Avenue, then three blocks down turn quickly left onto Irving Place. We are now in the midst of a picturesque residential neighborhood, surrounded on all sides by single-family homes and shady branches that receive our footsteps along the sidewalk. Everything is co-opted until we pass Linwood E. Howe Elementary School.

I’m now standing in front of a large sign. Maybe great is not the right word. On one metal rod there are no less than 16 separate seats stacked on top of each other like pieces of jenga. I stare at the ads printed in green and red. “Parking” and “Permits” and “Stop” blend together and create in my mind a kind of alphabetical soup. I think of the bureaucrat who confirmed this, and what must have gone through their minds to witness such an achievement. There is no doubt that some memo is still stored on some hard drive that provides a legitimate explanation. Still, I can not help but wonder, why not just paint the sidewalk red and finish with it?

There are no parking signs along Iriving Pl. In Culver City. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

Of course the real absurdity of these signs is not that they exist. That they were taller. Even when we installed the parking signs for the totem pole in August 2014, some of them stood at a height of fifteen feet. This was enough to stir up a storm on social media, and in the end local factors chose to reduce the height. So now we have these. The “simple” versions. We keep going.

Irving walks another block and a half before spilling onto Culver Avenue and Culver town center. Before us now is a neutron star of gentrification. The supernova effect of the neighborhood’s ‘rebirth’ has long since come and gone. What exists now is a crowded ball of bistros and cafes and yoga studios. There is salt and straw and coffee pellets and equality. Because, you know, of course there is.

We go southwest across all trade and then cross from Culver to Washington Avenue in Duquesne. It takes us past the Kirk Douglas Theater, where I stop for a quick photo shoot.

Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

One very short street to the west, we turn right on Dunn Drive, and this too we reach the residences and apartments of Lawrence and Martha Joseph, or as the property is commonly referred to as the “Hobbit Houses.” You may have read about this place as a great example of storybook architecture in Los Angeles. There are notable cases, like the Witch House in Beverly Hills, or the front of Tam Oshenter in the village of Atwater, but it stands out in my mind because of his loose connection to the notorious crime.

A walk in Culver City from the Luna River to the Hobbit houses
The Hobbit houses in Culver City. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

In 1963, a man named Barry Keenan and two associates decided that the shortest way between them and a load of cash was to kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr. All Blue Eyes’ son was caught at gunpoint in Lake Tahoe and then taken back to Los Angeles where he was held for four days. A ransom of $ 240,000 was paid, but any joy from the big score was short-lived.

After Junior was released, it was not long before the law caught up with the kidnappers, and the cash was recovered. And where exactly did the authorities find the vast majority of her in front of her? You guessed it, inside one of The Hobbit’s apartments.

For his role in planning the program, Keenan was sentenced to seventy-five years in prison. He served only five, then was released, and eventually became a millionaire by choosing a career path that was equally suitable for the blackmailer. He entered the real estate field.

If you are curious to learn more about this story, there is a ten-part podcast series about the kidnapping campaign produced by John Stamos. Yes, the same guy who played Uncle Jesse. What a strange world, huh?

Oh, and speaking of weird, after we leave the Hobbit houses we cruise east along Venice Avenue, where we come to another Los Angeles curiosity: the Jurassic Museum of Technology. The MJT stands out because in reality it has very little to do with being a) a museum or b) technology.

Entrance to the Jurassic Technology Museum. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

I guess in the end it’s more of a concept than anything else. It’s a place you want to tell the people you’ve been to, even if after you left you were left confused by its existence. I tell you at least once. But today is not the day for us.

Further east on Venice we see a kidnapped at the Expo Line station, but before we go that far we turn right at Culver and walk around Media Park. We cross the street, pass by Trader Joe’s and then continue to Washington as we continue our return to the creek. On the way, pass by the Sony Pictures Entertainment sign.

Sony Pictures Sign in Calver City. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

Studios exist in Culver City because of an alleged encounter between real estate promoter Harry Culver (the city’s founder) and filmmaker Thomas H. Ines when the latter took a picture near the Balloon River.


Ines was one of the most prolific filmmakers of his time, credited as the father of the West and as an innovator in the “production line” of filmmaking. More or less, he applied a division of labor philosophy to productions to maximize efficiency. Direct of the director. Writing by a writer. The producer’s produce. It seems like common sense now, but it was a groundbreaking thing in the early 20th century.

The story goes that Colbert offered Ines a sweet deal to move his studio from the Pacific Palisades to Washington Avenue. The location turned out to be exactly what Ince was looking for, and when Culver City was founded in 1917, connections to cinema illuminated the area’s future.

A street that reveals the name slices of the lamp between Sony Pictures and Culver Studios. We follow the sidewalk as the neighborhood moves back to the residence, and as we return to Lucerne I catch a glimpse of ant-sized shapes climbing to the summit of the scenic view of Baldwin Hills.

A dead-end street view in Culver City overlooks the scenic view of Baldwin Hills. Photo by Brian Champlin. February 1, 2022

We turn right on Lucerne and follow it back the way we came to the creek, then back on the bridge, passing Jefferson and up the hill.

The counter in our place shows hours still on the clock. That’s fine I think, some lucky surfer in the park will get a free ticket in my currency. Besides, parking is that this neighborhood is tough enough. You know, huge signs and everything. I’m just glad I can help a little.

starting point: Culver City Park, 9600 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, CA 90232

End point: him

distance: 3.10 miles

Miles to the goal: 981.6

previous: Walking on Ventura Blvd from the home of Brady’s gang to Universal City Los Angeles on foot # 6


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