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LOS ANGELES COUNTY BEACH HISTORY

Los Angeles County beaches are some of the most recognizable and most popular beaches in the world. Malibu and Venice alone conjure up visions of surfers and eccentric sidewalk performers. Each year Los Angeles County beaches attract more than 50 million visitors, both tourists and locals alike. Over 25 miles of scenic sandy beaches and an abundance of ocean activities keep visitors entertained and coming back year after year.

Los Angeles County owned or operated beaches stretch from Nicholas Canyon in Malibu to White Point/Royal Palms in San Pedro. Our beach facilities offer plenty of ample parking, clean restrooms, concession stands, fire pits, volleyball areas, picnic tables and playground equipment. All of our Los Angeles County beaches are patrolled by County Lifeguards, ensuring the safety of all beachgoers. Los Angeles beaches are full of history and culture and are as plentiful and diverse as the city itself.

The following is an attempt to showcase the rich history associated with Los Angeles County beaches, as well as all they currently have to offer the average beachgoer.

Beach Operations

Most of the beaches located in Los Angeles are either owned and/or operated by Los Angeles County. The Department of Beaches and Harbors is responsible for the operation and maintenance of all County owned and operated beaches. The Department of Beaches, as it was first called, was created May 1, 1969 by the County Board of Supervisors. Prior to 1969, beach operations and activities were handled by the Department of Parks and Recreation. The newly formed Department of Beaches dedicated itself to the expansion of public beaches and the preservation of Los Angeles County coastal areas.

Prior to the creation of the Department of Beaches, public access to local beaches was limited. New beaches had not been opened since 1945. The new Department of Beaches opened public access ways in Malibu and new beaches throughout the County for public use, thus quickly expanding its operations from 9.4 miles to 36.6 miles in its first seven years.

Nicholas Canyon County Beach was the first beach acquired by the Department. The acquisition was made possible through a Federal Conservation Program Grant with $1.4 million in County matching funds. The beach was officially opened for public use July 1, 1973. In 1970, the Department entered into agreements to operate Hermosa City Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. On July 1, 1971 the Department began to operate and maintain Las Tunas State Beach and on September 1, 1973 Topanga County Beach was also added to the Department's operations. A major portion of the beach additions were

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made through a June 1, 1975 merger of former City of Los Angeles operated beaches. Will Rogers, Venice, Dockweiler, Royal Palms and White Point Beaches all became a part of the Department's operations through the merger. The County received grant deeds from the State for eight popular beaches in September 1995; Topanga, Malibu Lagoon, Point Dume, Dan Blocker, Las Tunas, Manhattan, Redondo, and Royal Palms Beaches. Today the County not only operates and maintains the beaches along the Los Angeles Coast but also owns most of them.

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MALIBU BEACHES-Nicholas Canyon to Topanga

The City of Malibu has the largest stretch of beaches in Los Angeles County. Malibu encompasses Nicholas Canyon, Zuma, Point Dume, Dan Blocker, Las Tunas, Topanga, and of course Malibu Surfrider and Malibu Lagoon.

Today Malibu has some of the most expensive real estate in Los Angeles County and is home to the rich and famous. However, Malibu's residents have not always been synonymous with fame and wealth. The Native American Chumash were the first group of people to reside in Malibu. The Chumash named the beach at the mouth of Malibu Creek "Humaliwo," which means the surf sounds loudly. Humaliwo was one of the Chumash villages located along the California coast. The Chumash had settlements along the coast from Malibu to San Luis Obispo. Some of their village names can still be seen on current day maps such as Mugu, Ojai, and Zuma.

Spanish settler Jose Bartolome Tapia made the first legal claim to land in Malibu in 1802. Tapia established a ranch, which became known as Rancho Topanga Malibu Simi Sequit. The land was passed down by inheritance until 1891 when the 13,330-acre ranch was sold to Frederick Hastings Rindge for $300,000. The sum, although large at the time, would not even buy a small vacant lot in Malibu today. The Rindge family later expanded the ranch to 17,000 acres.

Frederick Rindge was a cultured and wealthy New Englander seeking an idyllic country home for his family. Rindge and his wife May turned the 17,000 acres into working cattle and grainraising ranch that eventually became one of the most valuable real estate holdings in the United States. Frederick Rindge dies in 1905 and his wife May took over the management of the Malibu Ranch.

Frederick Rindge

May Rindge wanted to administrate her ranch in peace and fiercely guarded her family's privacy. In 1904 the Southern Pacific Railroad applied to the Interstate Commerce Commission to build tracks right through the Malibu Ranch. In response May Rindge built her own 15 miles of tracks and successfully kept Southern Pacific away from her land. Her battle against the State of California was not as successful. The State obtained a right of way to build the Pacific Coast Highway through the ranch. This forced May Rindge to begin leasing property in Malibu to help pay for her extensive legal and tax bills. Today whenever rock and mud slides close Pacific Coast Highway, locals call it "Rindge's revenge."

May Rindge established Malibu as a desirable location by leasing beach lots to movie stars of the day. Leases were made for 30 feet of ocean frontage at $30 per month on a 10-year lease. Studio carpenters were brought in to build cottages, averaging a cost of $2,600. The Malibu Beach Motion Picture Colony was born. Once the leases expired residents were able to purchase their lots. This led to the construction of larger, more

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luxurious homes. This area is still used as a retreat by the rich and famous. It is now just simply known as the Malibu Colony.

In December 1940 the entire Malibu Rindge property went up for sale under the pressure of tax assessments, legal bills and the collapse of the ranch with the Great Depression. May Rindge died 2 months later in February 1941. Within 6 years, over 80% of the Rindge holdings had been sold. Also in 1941, the Marblehead Land Company that May Rindge had created to lease and sell her land defaulted on Los Angeles County taxes due on Zuma Beach property. The County foreclosed on the property, demolished the few beach homes that were there and created a vast public parking lot. Popular Zuma Beach was born.

During World War II long military convoys were a common sight in Malibu. The military used Point Dume as the northern observation point for Santa Monica Bay. Japanese submarines were verified to be operating off of the California coast. Wartime blackout restrictions forced everyone in Malibu to turn off their lights at night. Even vehicles on the coast road were not allowed to use their lights at night, resulting in many accidents. Military beach patrols remained active until July 1944.

Surfing in Malibu began in the late 1920's and 1930's when the beaches were still isolated and pristine. When experienced surfers returned from WWII and went to Malibu they were surprised to find their beaches crowded. The returning military men would see as many as 10 surfers at a time, a sight that most surfers today would love to see. By 1949, "a crowd of surfers" in Malibu meant 25 surfers.

Much of California's oceanfront development took place from the mid-1940's to the mid-

1970's. The increase in development was influenced by the

growing popularity of Malibu. Malibu's reputation had expanded

outside of the local Southern California area. In 1957 a

fictionalized version of the beach life of Kathy Kohner was

published. The novel, written by her father, Frederick Kohner was

given the title Gidget. One of the surfers named her Gidget due to

her diminutive size and because she was a girl thought, "Girl plus

Midget = Gidget." In 1959 the movie version of Gidget opened

and created the Surf Craze and Malibu became "Surf City USA."

By the summer of 1961 up to 150 surfers could be seen colliding

with one another in the Malibu surf. Malibu Point was no longer an unspoiled paradise and became known as Surfrider Beach.

Kathy Kohner

The surf craze that started in the late fifties has remained strong to this day. Even the threat of mudslides and fires doesn't keep people away. Malibu property is in constant demand and always sells for hefty prices. The summers are when the popularity of Malibu beaches is more evident. From Nicholas Canyon to Topanga, surfers and sunbathers alike can be seen enjoying the cool Pacific Ocean and the sandy beaches.

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Nicholas Canyon County Beach: 33850 Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA

90265

Nicholas Canyon

is usually less

crowded than

most

Malibu

beaches. Surfers

refer to this beach

as "Zeros" or

"Point Zero" and

it is one of the

few perfect point

breaks left in Los Angeles County. Nicholas Canyon is a great beach for surfing, body

surfing, body boarding, swimming, windsailing, and scuba diving. With almost a mile of

beach frontage and 23 acres of property it is also a great place to take the whole family.

There are several picnic tables, upper and lower parking for 151 cars, restroom facilities,

stairs to the beach, and plenty of room for sun bathing and other beach activities.

For a more educational and cultural experience, visitors will be able to see an outdoor working Native American village. Located on a four-acre site at Nicholas Canyon County Beach, the Wishtoyo Foundation's Chumash Village is open for guided tours and presentations, by appointment. The village showcases a typical day in the life of the Chumash people using replicas of Chumash homes, canoes, tools and handicrafts, ceremonies and celebrations. This offers the public and schoolchildren a unique and multi-sensory experience of what living in a Chumash Village was really like.

Zuma County Beach: 30000 Blk of Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA 90265 Zuma is the ultimate Southern California beach: wide, extends for miles. Zuma Beach has 1.8 miles of beach frontage with 105 acres of property. There are eight parking lots with approximately 2000 parking spaces. Food stands are located at each end of the beach. Other amenities include restrooms, restaurants, showers, volleyball nets, and a bus stop. Beach wheelchairs are also available.

The water at Zuma is a little colder than at other Los Angeles beaches but with its ample amenities and white sand it continues to be a perennial favorite with residents and visitors alike. This beach has become popular for both swimming and body surfing; however, it is also known for its rough surf and riptides. Zuma also has

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fishing, surfing, and windsurfing. Zuma is also a great place to watch grey whales make their winter migration.

Point Dume County Beach: 7103 Westward Beach Rd., Malibu, CA 90265 Point Dume has over one mile of ocean frontage with 34 acres of sand. It is surrounded by headlands, cliffs, rocky coves, and vast beach access. Amenities include restrooms, showers, restaurants, 373 parking spaces, and a hiking trail. Popular activities include swimming, diving, surfing, fishing, and scuba diving.

The hiking trail leads to an ancient coastal bluff sand dune. On a clear day visitors can enjoy an incredible view encompassing the entire Santa Monica Bay and distant Catalina Island. A stairway from the east side of the bluff-top gives access to a more isolated beach with fine tide-pooling opportunities. Point Dume, just like Zuma is also a great place to watch grey whales during their December-March migration.

Dan Blocker County Beach: 26000 Block of Pacific Coast Hwy., Malibu, CA 90265 This beach was originally donated to the State of California by Lorne Greene and Michael Landon of the TV series Bonanza in memory of Dan Blocker. Mr. Blocker played Eric Haas Cartwright, affectionately known as "Hoss" on the popular TV series. The State then transferred the property over to Los Angeles County in September 1995. With 15.2 acres of bluff and beach property and over one mile of ocean frontage, Dan Blocker State Beach draws surfers, divers, and scuba enthusiasts. Other activities at this beach include swimming and fishing.

This beach has remained largely undeveloped, but Los Angeles County is currently in the process of creating additional public parking and access improvements. The project includes the development of the unimproved westerly portion of the beach to include a small paved parking lot, stairs to the beach, bluff-top ADA-compliant improvements, bluff-top trail development with protective railing, benches and picnic area with protective railing, a concrete pad and enclosure for chemical toilets on the bluff, new perimeter fencing, erosion control landscape for the bluff-top and slopes, an irrigation system, and interpretive signage for the tidepools.

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