Action at 415…Finally
In 1929, publisher William Randolph Hearst commissioned architect Julia Morgan, who designed his famed San Simeon, to design a beach house on Santa Monica’s Gold Coast for his mistress, movie star Marion Davies.
It was a pretty elaborate beach house – a main house, three guest houses – with a total of 118 rooms and 58 bathrooms, two swimming pools, tennis courts, dog kennels and garages.
When Davies sold it in 1957, it became a hotel and then the Sand and Sea Club.
In the late 1980s, Santa Monica restaurateur Michael McCarty
proposed demolishing what was left of the Davies estate and
building a “luxury hotel” on the site . The City Council approved the plan, but residents put the question on the ballot and voters rejected the hotel and, for good measure, banned any further hotels on the beach.
The state owns the property and the City operates it. Following the vote, the City abruptly cancelled the popular Sand and Sea Beach Club’s lease and assumed control of the property at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, but never quite decided what to make of it.
After the remains of the estate were damaged in the 1994 Northridge
earthquake, the City wrapped it in chainlink fencing and shut it down.
In 1998, a City task force spent $180,000 developing a design for a public beach club, but it was shelved.
Several years ago, City staff proposed offering it to a private sector operator.
But, just in time, Wallis Annenberg, who has warm memories of the Sand and Sea Club and was interested in the idea of documenting the historic Hollywood-Gold Coast connection on the, rode to the rescue – with a $21 million Annenberg Foundation grant.
With the grant in hand, City and foundation staff members developed plans for the unique property. Public workshops were held. An architect,
Frederick Fisher Partners, was hired And now, 13 years after the City shut it dawn, work on the five-acre Annenberg Community Beach Club at Santa Monica State Beach (415 PCH) has begun — . with the demolition of the locker building, which was not part of the Davies estate.
Midwest Environmental Controls began the demolition on Monday, April 16, and should be finished next month. Pankow Special Projects LP will construct the club, which is scheduled to open in January, 2009,
The remaining Davies guest house, now called the North House, will be restored and an interpretive center will be installed. The swimming pool will be rehabbed. Outdoor spaces, including two garden areas, sports courts, a picnic and play area, and a boardwalk to the ocean. , will be installed. New buildings will include an entry pavilion with lifeguard and staff offices; a two-story pool house with locker and changing rooms and a multi-purpose room and a one-story event house.
In addition to the Annenberg grant, some funding has been provided by the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development.