Sitting in between Marina Del Rey to the north, the Ballona Wetlands to the east and LAX to the South, Playa del Rey offers beautiful beaches overlooking the Pacific Ocean just a few miles just about everything. With downtown Los Angeles 19 miles northeast of here, the commute is far shorter than neighboring cities such as Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach which makes the area an ideal combination of small town, beach front and a shorter drive for downtown and Westside commuters.
Housing in the area consists of a number of condominium complexes, large single family homes located on the bluffs with spectacular ocean and marina views, and beautiful homes located right on the sand. The residential community is built along streets that dead-end into a lagoon near the ocean and run on top of towering bluffs that have sand beach and ocean views. The beach ends at a rock jetty and channel for boats entering the Pacific Ocean from the Marina del Rey harbor. See the current homes for sale in Playa Del Rey.
Playa del Rey appears to be one of those sleepy neighborhood beaches where residents want to keep secret and prefer fewer people knowing about their tucked away treasure.
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The Playa del Rey area, located about two miles south of Kinney’s Venice of America resort, was once, centuries ago, the mouth of the Los Angles River. But after the river shifted course to begin emptying in Los Alamitos Bay in Long Beach, it left behind a sleepy lagoon more than two miles wide and one fifth of a mile wide with a trickle of fresh water flowing to sea along La Ballona
Del Rey Lagoon formed the southwest corner of the 13,920 acre (15 square miles) Rancho La Ballona that stretched inland from the ocean into what is now Palms and Culver City and north to Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica. It was a land grant that was awarded by the Mexican governor in 1839 to Ygnacio and Augustin Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes.
In 1874, when the widow of Augustin Machado brought suit to evict Tell, he packed up and moved to Santa Monica. However, in 1877 an Irishman named Michael Duffy opened “Hunter’s Cottage” in Tell’s old location.
During the late 1880’s land boom in Southern California, one visionary named Moye L. Wicks saw the potential of Playa del Rey as a harbor. In 1886 he organized the Ballona Harbor and Improvement Company to dredge out “Port Ballona.” The company’s plans included a 200 foot channel linking the ocean to the inner harbor which would be two miles long, 300 to 600 foot wide and twenty feet deep.
After the Santa Fe Railroad broke the Union Pacific’s railroad monopoly in Southern California by building a line north from San Diego, they were searching for a major ocean terminal near Los Angeles for the markets of the Orient. When the railroad agreed to extend tracks to the port, Wicks’ company began round-the-clock dredging operations. The first passenger train, carrying 800 prominent and well- fed Angelenos, arrived at “Port Ballona” on August 24, 1887.
In June 1902, Sherman and Clark announced the formation of the Beach Land Company, a syndicate of fifteen investors who had teamed up with Henry P. Barbour. He had previously purchased 1000 acres around the lagoon and renamed the community Playa del Rey (The King’s Beach). The company intended to develop the marshy land into a Venetian style resort. The landscape architect, Alfred Solano, intended to take advantage of a channel previously dredged in 1885 for a proposed harbor. His design included Venetian bridges and towers, a bathing pavilion along the beach, and a 250 room luxury hotel on top of the bluffs. Some additional dredging was required but there were no plans to build an extensive canal network.
Nearly 100 lots were sold for prices ranging from 0 to 500 at a July 16th auction and more were sold in August and September. With the completion of the Sherman andClark owned Los Angeles Pacific electric trolley line, the “Short Line,” to Los Angeles on October 19, 1902, hundreds began visiting the new resort. A pavilion and small hotel were eventually built in Oriental craftsman rather than Venetian style, around the lagoon in 1904, but few investors actually built on their lots. While Playa del Rey was considered a modest success in attracting day tourists, it proved to be Abbot Kinney’s inspiration and served as an example of a resort that wasn’t large enough in scope to attract investors
or excite the public.
The company built an impressive three-story, pavilion with restaurant and dining rooms, bowling alleys and dance floor. Sherman and Clark’s Los Angeles Pacific Railway Company built the Hotel Del Rey with fifty guests rooms. A boat racing course was laid out and a grandstand and boathouse erected on shore. A bridge spanned the lagoon’s ocean entrance and a 1200 foot long fishing pier was built nearby.
While Playa del Rey wasn’t nearly as popular as nearby Venice, it partially owed its success to C.M. Pierce who included it on his Balloon Line Excursion Route. Tourists could ride big red electric streetcars from downtown
Los Angeles and visit Hollywood, the Sawtelle Old Soldier’s home, Santa Monica, Venice, Playa del Rey, Redondo Beach’s Long Wharf, and return to Los Angeles. They would often move 2000 peopleto Playa del Rey and back on a Saturday or Sunday excursion.