The history of
Marina del Rey

     Marina del Rey has been a long time in the making. Construction of the jetties for the present entrance channel began in December 1957, but efforts toward a harbor at this location actually began some seventy years earlier, sponsored, ironically, by a railroad.
L A Bridge Office in Marina del Rey, CA
    In 1887, a far-sighted man, named M.C. Wicks, organized the Port Ballona Development Company under the auspices of the Santa Fe Railroad. Wicks dreamed of developing the Playa del Rey estuary and inlet into a major commercial harbor to serve the Los Angeles area. He managed to raise $300,00, all of which went for construction work of a three year period. Wicks went bankrupt and the area was taken over by duck hunters.

    Another quarter of a century passed without action, but the dream kept recurring. However, in 1916, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported to Congress that a new proposal to develop the Playa del Rey Inlet and Basin as a major harbor was impractical.

|    But the dream refused to die. Twenty years later, in 1936, Congress authorized reconsideration of the negative 1916 report and the County Board of Supervisors in 1937 ordered another study. This time there was competition and the decision went to San Pedro, where major expansion was approved to form the present Los Angeles Harbor.

    From this point on, the dream focused with increasing clarity on a harbor for small craft. World War II caused a temporary halt to planning. But on September 7, 1949, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submitted a report indication the feasibility of constructing a pleasure craft harbor for 8,000 boats at a total estimated cost of $23,603,000.

    In 1953, the County Board of Supervisors sponsored State legislation which eventually granted the County a $2 million loan from State tidelands oil revenues to assist in purchase of the new harbor site. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed Public Law 780 marking the Marina del Rey harbor an authorized federal project, and planning moved into high gear. The federal commitment, however, was limited to the “main navigational features” and involved a 50-50 sharing of these cost by the local sponsor, in this case, the County of Los Angeles.

    On November 6, 1956, a general election resulted in County voters approving the revenue bond method of financing the remainder of the project, and in December 1959, a $13 million revenue bond issue was sold to provide funds for much of the actual construction.

    Meanwhile, in December 1957, construction of the “main navigational features” began as a joint Federal-County project; by November 1958, the entrance channel jetties were completed and the first tangible facilities had emerged from the long-standing dream.

    Fortunately, based on early indication of excessive vulnerability of the harbor to wave action, a model study was already well under way at the U.S. Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station at Vicksburg, Miss., when the first physical damage occurred in the winter of 1962-63.

    With the cooperation of the Federal Government this study program was expedited on a “crash” basis; the model was used to arrive at a feasible interim solution, and the County proceeded immediately to construct temporary protective sheet-pile baffles in the entrance to the channel to give vital protection to continued development and operation pending the completion of permanent protective works by the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

    Meanwhile, the results of the model study indication a requirement for an off-shore breakwater. The County Board of Supervisors promptly appropriated $2.1 million of the estimated cost of $4.2 million for the project as the sponsoring agency's share, and concerted effort by the County's legislators in Congress was successful in securing the matching Federal appropriation in the 1963-64 budget.

    Construction of the off-shore breakwater began on October 15, 1963, and was completed in January 1965. The dispatch with which this major point the project was planned, funded and constructed reflected a healthy working relationship between County and Federal governments and particularly indicated the effective representation enjoyed by the County in Congress.

    Marina del Rey successfully surmounted its major development problems and was progressing steadily toward complete fulfillment of its destiny. Formal dedication of the Marina del Rey Harbor was held on April 10, 1965.

    Today, more than 6,000 recreational boat slips are available in the various marinas and hundreds of smaller boats in dry storage also claim Marina del Rey as their home port; the total seating capacity of 35 restaurants and clubs represent the nations highest one-square mile concentration of restaurant out-side of New York City; the boat launching ramp facilities make the marina harbor of opportunity to about 100,000 trailer-class boats throughout the Southland; occupancy of the 5,800 apartment units hold consistently at 99%, and represents a population in excess of 10,800. Seasonal day population often exceeds 30,000 persons.

    Private investment in leasehold facilities, at time of construction, exceeded $150 million.

    Public facilities constructed in recent years include Burton W. Chance Bark and Community Building, more than 1,900 lineal feet of transient/gust boat docks, 180 feet of public fishing docks, Admiralty Park, view piers and promenade overlooking the main channel on both the north and south jetties.

    The Marina del Rey Visitors Information Center opened it permanent building in November 1982.

    Project revenues for the County are now running in excess of $13 million annually. Meanwhile, taxes accruing to the County from the Project area are substantial. Before development of the Marina, taxes generated in project area were insufficient to cover the annual $58,000 cost of the mosquito abatement program.


Total investment of public funds in the basic project is broken down as follows:

Federal Government:
50% of cost of navigation features: jetties, breakwater, dredging main channel.
$4.6 million.
State Government:
Loan from tideland oil revenues to ward acquisition of site (now repaid out to project revenues).
$2 million.
County Government:
Land acquisition, 50% of cost of main navigation features, more roads, administrative facilities and Coast Guard Base.
$15.89 million.
Motor Vehicle Fund:
Perimeter roads.
Proceeds from Public Sale of Revenue Bonds:
Bulkhead, sewers and underground utilities; dredging side basins; landscaping, ect.:initial cost of operations and bond service (now repaid out of project revenues).
For land, construction, initial operation and bond service.


This history published by the
Department of Beaches and Harbors
13837 Fiji Way
Marina del Rey, CA 90292

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