Marina del Rey - Marshlands
to World Class Pleasure Harbor
Marina del Rey started with
a plan in 1887 by real estate speculator M.C. Wicks to develop the marshlands
north of the Playa del Rey estuary. M.C. Wicks organized the Port Ballona
Development Company (PBDC) under the management of the Santa Fe Railroad
and his plan was to dredge and develop the area into a commercial harbor
to serve the Los Angeles area. Under his management, the PBDC was able to
raise $300,000 to enable initial development efforts towards the construction
of a harbor. Work progressed for 3 years, but proved overwhelming and
finances were quickly exhausted and Wicks and PBDC went bankrupt in 1891.
For the next 25 years the area remained essentially as marshland and
home to many sea birds and wildlife.
In 1916, the US Army Corps
of Engineers investigated potential development of the Marina del Rey area
as a harbor, but reported to Congress that the proposal to develop the area
was impractical. Twenty years later, in 1936, the US Congress again requested
a review of the US Army Corps of Engineers 1916 report. The Los Angeles
County Board of Supervisors also started another review in 1937. Both the
Congress and the LA County Board of Supervisors were interested in
development a major commercial shipping port in the Los Angeles area to
accommodate the growing import and export of goods with other countries,
as Los Angeles had no major port to accommodate shipping commerce. A commercial
harbor had previously been considered in the Santa Monica Bay, but it had
also been determined to be impractical. Other competing plans in the late
1930s included one to develop the San Pedro area as the Port of Los Angeles.
Given the terrain and nature of the already open harbor area in San Pedro,
the decision was made to go ahead with developing it as what we now know
as the Port of LA and major funding was allocated to create the Los Angeles
There was no longer a purpose
to develop what would become Marina del Rey as another commercial shipping
harbor in Los Angeles, but there was significant interest from the community
for developing a harbor for small and medium sized pleasure craft and yachts.
All plans were set aside from the late 1930s until well after World War II.
Then on September 7, 1949, the US Army Corps of Engineers submitted a report
to the US Congress which positively concluded that it would be feasible to
construct a pleasure craft harbor for up to 8,000 boats in the Playa del
Rey / Marina del Rey area at a total estimated cost of less than $24
It took until 1954 when
newly-elected county Supervisor Burton W. Chace urged the LA County Board
of Supervisors to sponsor legislation with the State of California to authorize
and fund the the construction of the what would become today's Marina del
Rey, one of the world's largest public pleasure craft harbors. Burton's efforts
resulted in the State granting the county a $2 million loan from State tidelands
oil revenues to assist in purchase of the Marina del Rey site. Later in 1954,
President Ike Eisenhower signed Public Law 780, making the Marina del Rey
harbor an authorized federal project and planning started in earnest with
the federal government, State of California, and County of Los Angeles all
working together. The federal government agreed only to fund the limited
purpose of creating "main navigational features" and required sharing of
these costs on a 50% basis with the County of Los Angeles.
On November 6, 1956, a general
election in Los Angeles County resulted in voters approving a Revenue Bond
to finance the Marina del Rey project. In December 1957, the federal
government using the US Army Corps of Engineers began construction of jetties
for the present entrance to the harbor which comprised the "main navigational
features" funded by the federal government. By November 1958, the entrance
channel jetties were completed and the first tangible facilities for the
harbor became a reality. This led to a $13 million revenue bond issue being
sold by the County of Los Angeles in December 1959 to provide complete funding
for the County's share of the harbor construction cost.
During the course of development
in the early 1960s, the Marina del Rey project encountered more than a few
issues, including construction problems which delayed the early development.
It was first ready for initial operation in early 1962, however, but suffered
storm damage so severe in the late Fall 1962 and early Winter 1963 that an
emergency program was initiated to construct substantial additional protection
from strident wave action from heavy storms. The US Army Corps of Engineers
had always been concerned about wave turbulence making the harbor vulnerable
to erosion and damage to the shore and boats. They had created a model
study of wave action which was advancing at the US Army Corps of Engineers
Waterways Experiment Station at Vicksburg, MS. With the cooperation of the
Federal Government, this study program was expedited on a "crash" basis and
the model led to rapid construction by Los Angeles County of interim protective
sheet-pile baffles in the entrance to the channel. The next step was the
US Army Corps of Engineers fully implementing a well-designed permanent baffle
system to substantially reduce harbor wave action.
The main system put in place
by the US Army Corps of Engineers based on their extensive modeling program
was a permanent off-shore breakwater. In 1963, Burton W. Chace urged the
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to allocate 50% of the estimated
cost of $4.2 million for this project which came to a $2.1 million investment
by the County of Los Angeles. The Federal government approved a matching
$2.1 million Federal appropriation in their 1963-64 budget and the breakwater
began construction on October 15, 1963 with its completion accomplished in
January 1965 which made Marina del Rey safe from even heavy storm wave action
Marina del Rey successfully
opened in early 1965 and the formally dedication to the public of Marina
del Rey Harbor was held on April 10, 1965. Today, Marina del Rey is a vital
and thriving social, environmental, and economic success. It is the
largest man-made harbor/marina in the United States and center of boating
activity in Los Angeles County. It is one of the world's foremost small and
medium sized pleasure boat marinas.
Yet, Marina del Rey is constantly
changing and a number of plans are being considered for future redesign and
development. Marina del Rey is community area bordered by Playa del Rey to
the South and Venice to the North in an unincorporated area of Los Angeles
County, California. In 2007, Its population is approximately 10,000
residents. Public facilities include more than 1,900 feet of guest boat docks
and 180 feet of public fishing docks. Thousands of smaller boats in dry storage
claim Marina del Rey as their home port. View piers and a promenade overlook
the main channel on both the north and south jetties. Currently, the County
continues to strive for an optimum balance between public and private interests,
which is not always an easy task.
Marina del Rey today has more
than 6,100 recreational-boat slips within its many channels and launch ramp
facilities make the marina a harbor of opportunity for about 100,000
trailer-class boats throughout the Southland.
A vast array of apartments
and condominiums surround the Marina, accompanied by a large variety of excellent
restaurants and shops. The total seating capacity of the more than 35 restaurants
and clubs is said to represent the highest one-square mile concentration
of restaurants outside of New York City. Occupancy of the 5,000 apartment
units is at nearly 100% capacity. The seasonal day population often
exceeds 30,000 people.
Yet the marina has its pastoral
side and extensive lawns grace area parks. The 10-acre Burton W. Chace Park
features barbecues and bicycle riding, Admiralty Park has a self-guided exercise
path for fitness enthusiasts, Aubrey E. Austin Park offers beaches and
spectacular views, and the more intimate Harold Edington Park offers tranquility.
The largest of the parks and the centerpiece of community interaction
in Marina del Rey is the Burton W. Chace Park at 13650 Mindanao Way. Marina
del Rey has been a long time in the making, but like the regal persona of
its name, it is a destination fit for a king.