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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 Harbor there.

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 million.

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 and currents.

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.

Burton W. Chace Park
Park Hours: 6.00 am to 10:00 pm - Office Hours 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
13650 Mindanao Way, Marina del Rey, California 90292
310-305-9595 (Park Main) - 310-305-9545 (Visitor Information)
info@bh.lacounty.gov

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