According to the Mapping L.A. feature of the Los Angeles Times, the location of the neighborhood is Beverly Glen to Sepulveda and Santa Monica to Pico Blvd.
It abuts Sawtelle neighborhood to the west and Century City to the east. Westwood to the north and Rancho Park to the south.
The district's geographic boundaries are the Santa Monica Freeway (I-10) on the south, and the green borders composed of hedges and green space with the neighborhoods of Century City (Century Park West) and Rancho Park on the west. The northern border of the portion of West L.A. that is east of the I-405 is Santa Monica Boulevard (north of which is Westwood). These parts of the district are represented by the Westside Neighborhood Council, a council shared with Century City, Cheviot Hills, and Rancho Park.
The Big Blue Bus (Santa Monica's municipal bus network) using UCLA as one of its terminals, provides public transit within the region, especially along east-west routes, as does the LACMTA to a lesser extent.
This district contains and is adjacent to an area of Japanese-American culture along Sawtelle Boulevard officially called Little Osaka, which is sometimes called Sawtelle.
There are other areas included by locals as part of the West Los Angeles subregion but are not part of the neighborhood called West L.A. itself.
After colonization by the Spanish, most of what is now West Los Angeles became part of the Rancho San Vicente y Santa Monica. With the arrival of Anglo settlers after the Mexican-American War, the original Californio landowners sold out, or were forced from their holdings, and by the beginning of the 20th century the area was mostly bean and wheat fields. Many Japanese immigrants settled in the district, establishing orchards and nurseries in the process. Some of these nurseries are still in business today, along the stretch of Sawtelle Boulevard between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevards.
The core of what is now West Los Angeles, including the West Los Angeles government center at Santa Monica and Purdue, was incorporated as the City of Sawtelle. In the 1920s, West L.A. was annexed by the City of Los Angeles.