By SARAH SHMERLING | Managing Editor
Bruce Schwartz is a man of many hats. You can spot him around town, planting flowers with Palisades PRIDE, helping the homeless population through the Pacific Palisades Task Force on Homelessness and as Pacific Palisades Community Council’s Citizen of the Year.
But when he’s not busy volunteering his time, Schwartz is also a real estate agent with Palisades Realty. Find out more about the man behind the flowers here.
Shmerling: Tell me about your childhood. Where were you born and where did you grow up? What were some of your hobbies and interests as a child and teenager?
Schwartz: I grew up in the Beverlywood section of Los Angeles, I went to Hamilton High School and was involved in Little League.
During those days, we used to ride our bikes all over the place. In fact, we once rode our bikes all the way to Temescal Canyon and Sunset from Robertson and National when we were like 10 years old. That was quite a hike in those days … you don’t see that very much anymore.
Shmerling: Tell me about your first job.
Schwartz: I always had an interest in agriculture and equipment, and I was lucky enough—when I was 18 out of high school—to get a job in Mayor Bradley’s office. We formed the Los Angeles Neighborhood Farm and Garden Project, which is a community garden program still going today. I’m happy to say the work I have done 40 years ago is still evident in the city today.
Shmerling: Where did you go to college and what did you study?
Schwartz: I went to Santa Monica College and I studied general education, then I had a stint at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, but I never did graduate because I wanted to go back to my agricultural consulting business.
I had an opportunity to take over an agricultural consulting business in Kern County, Bakersfield. I was field trained as an agricultural consultant, specializing in plant nutrition, soil testing, leaf testing and custom formulating fertilizer blends for field row crops, tree and vine, and orchard crops.
I’m kind of an expert in plant nutrition. I’ve walked thousands and thousands of acres, checking crops over my career of 20 years in that business. So, during that period of time, I had been on a lot of ranches, big farming operations all up and down the Central Valley—Fresno County, Tulare County and Kern County—and consulted on a whole variety of crops from potatoes to pistachios.
Shmerling: What happened between then and starting your real estate career?
Schwartz: I lived on a horse ranch in Kern County. My girlfriend’s father had 150 horses there, from mares and mothers to weanlings and yearlings. As I ran my agricultural consulting business, I also did farming for him, so I’ve grown cotton, lettuce, carrots, onions and watermelons.
I came back to LA in 2000 because my stepdad was sick and my mom wanted me to move back, so I decided to do it and I got my real estate license in 2002.
Shmerling: How long have you lived in the Palisades and in which neighborhoods? What brought you here and why do you stay?
Schwartz: I moved to the Palisades—my family was here in the Palisades—in 2000 so I’ve been back for 18 years in The Highlands.
I just turned 60, I’ve been in the agriculture business—when you work with crops and you’re on big farms, I miss it. I mean, I really do miss it in a way because it was difficult getting readjusted here in the Palisades because you don’t know anybody, it took years to get involved in all of this stuff. That’s probably with anywhere. So, it’s been really rewarding,
Shmerling: How does your background help you when working with clients to buy or sell a home?
Schwartz: As an agricultural consultant, my clients were farmers and growers who have very little time and very little patience to assign you a job and be their client. I’ve also had growers take me into their pickup truck and drive around for two hours on their ranch and check crops.
You learn to build camaraderie with people and back in those days, before you had Google and smartphones, you had to know what you were talking because if you didn’t, you would hear about it and you could lose business that way, especially when it came to consulting on crops.
In retrospect, I would say that working with farmers, after awhile, you’ll find that some people are friendlier to deal with, some people are more stern, some people listen, some people talk. You develop a technique of trying to bring people in to make them feel comfortable, that you know what you’re talking about and you know what you’re doing.
I developed a technique, being an agricultural consultant and dealing with very large growers—it’s kind of like a homeowner who had a 7,000- or 8,000-square-foot lot and that’s their world. When you’re on a ranch with a guy who owns 6,000 or 8,000 acres, that’s his world.
So whether it’s 6,000 acres or 6,000 square feet, it means a lot to the person that owns it, it’s their home, it’s their farm, it’s their ranch, so I understand the passion involved. You develop the skill of dealing with people, but you have to gain their trust, so whether it’s someone growing thousands of acres of almonds or their house, there’s the same passion, you have to understand that and that approach has helped me over the years.
Shmerling: Do you represent homes in all neighborhoods of the Palisades?
Schwartz: I’ve tried to focus on the Alphabet Streets and The Huntington, but as you know, real estate is very competitive in the Palisades. There’s something like 400 agents and 8,000 or 9,000 single-family residences, so if you divide that, there’s one agent for every 20 residents.
Shmerling: Why should people work with you?
Schwartz: One of the reasons I would like people to do business with me is that, because of my background in agriculture, I’ve developed a stewardship mentality. I feel like I’m very lucky to live here in the Palisades, and that’s why I like to give back to the community.
There are lots of fine agents in the Palisades but I happen to feel my particular thing is I like farming, that’s why I planted those flowers. I like agriculture, I like horticulture, and so I am president of Palisades PRIDE.
I am very fortunate to have gotten myself involved with the homeless task force, Palisades PRIDE, the Pacific Palisades Community Council. I think it’s a very exciting time to be living in the Palisades, with what’s going on with the new projects and so forth.
I feel very passionate about this because think about this community: LA is growing with traffic and congestion, this little corner of this great metropolis is really a paradise in many ways. That’s why I feel so compelled to try to do things to help this community in my own way, whether its picking up trash, homeless encampments or planting flowers—you have to have a skill set for those type of things, because of my career in agriculture and land management, it’s like a no-brainer in a certain way.
Shmerling: What are some of the most memorable homes you have sold or helped a client purchase?
Schwartz: There are several, but what comes to mind is there are so many people from two and three generations ago who came to raise their families here, and I’ve had a few clients where they’ve passed and I’ve helped the kids sell.
I feel when I go into those houses, there was a life well-lived there, that people did great things. They raised great families and they were part of the greatest generation. When their kids feel compelled to use me, it really means something. It’s their parents home even though they’re gone, and a lot of times they are selling it for a lot of money, but there was a life that was lived there, a whole family and pictures. So those are the more compelling moments.
Shmerling: What do you like to do for fun?
Schwartz: I go to Gold’s Gym and I exercise. And I go to the racetrack every now and then. But I’m kind of a homebody these days.
I love Los Angeles, and because I worked for the city of Los Angeles for four years, I am a great LA tour guide. I love getting people in the car and driving them up to Sunset Plaza to the top on a clear day and letting them look at the city. Then I take them to downtown and cruise through Koreatown and Silver Lake and Chinatown and point out all the landmarks because it’s quite a place.
I just feel very content in a certain way just being a Palisadian. I feel very fortunate. I’ve done a lot of traveling in the past and the nicest part of the trip is coming home.