Santa Monica, California Celebrates Opening of Long-Awaited Public Beach Facility

The Annenberg Foundation and the City of Santa Monica, CA celebrate a unique public/private partnership with the long-awaited public beach facility opening on Santa Monica State Beach.

ARTICLE | Apr 20, 2009

The Annenberg Foundation and The City of Santa Monica join forces to celebrate the opening of The Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach. Set amidst the breathtaking sweep of Santa Monica Bay in Southern California, this beautiful and historic beach facility will open to the public beginning April 26, 2009.

Kicking off a public opening celebration on Saturday April 25th at 11 am, Foundation Chairman, President and CEO Wallis Annenberg along with State and local officials will welcome the hundreds of community supporters that have long advocated for the revitalization of this historic site. The original pool with its colorful historic tiles will then be christened with a “First Splash” performance from “O™” by Cirque du Soleil®. The festivities will continue with hula dancers, storytellers, tours, and many other activities for both children and adults. A large sand castle and a flock of kites will celebrate the site’s incredible natural setting. Visitors are encouraged to walk, bike or shuttle to the opening as no onsite parking will be available. Free shuttle service will be available throughout the day from the Santa Monica Civic Center (4th Street & Olympic Drive, just off the 10 freeway).

The Annenberg Community Beach House is a unique project created through the efforts of a rare public/private partnership between the Annenberg Foundation, California State Parks and the City of Santa Monica, with additional funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Federal Preserve America Program. This exciting new public gathering place now joins the ranks of Santa Monica’s other icons of Southern California beach culture such as Muscle Beach and the Santa Monica Pier, responsible for making Santa Monica Beach a ‘Great Public Space’ in 2008 (a designation awarded by the American Planning Association).

The Annenberg Community Beach House transforms and revitalizes an architecturally, socially, and recreationally significant 5-acre beachfront property. It was originally built by William Randolph Hearst in the late 1920’s for actress Marion Davies and for two decades its elegant and expansive mansion hosted many luminaries of Hollywood’s Golden Era – with guests such as Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin and Gloria Swanson frequenting the lavish parties hosted by Ms. Davies. In the late 1940’s, the property was sold, becoming Oceanhouse, a hotel owned by Joseph Drown who eventually demolished the large mansion but preserved an original guest house and pool as well as cabanas and a locker building. Subsequently it was sold to the State of California and leased for thirty years to the popular Sand and Sea Club until the City of Santa Monica assumed responsibility for the site in 1989. After a brief period as a seasonal public beach facility, it was severely damaged during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

Wallis Annenberg of the Annenberg Foundation had fond memories of visiting The Sand and Sea Club as a child and in 2004 when she learned about the City’s struggle to identify funding to realize its vision for a year-round public beach facility, she enthusiastically offered to help. Having a personal connection to the club and truly interested in the benefit it would create for the community, she generously reached out with a $27.5 million Annenberg Foundation grant that paved the way for the site’s rehabilitation and reuse.

Today the property has been restored and renovated to create a truly unique space for all to enjoy, completely open to the public, with no membership required. This exciting new venue incorporates “green” building design throughout as well as promotes full access for persons with a disability. A few of the visitor features include volleyball and beach tennis courts, event and meeting space, the Back on the Beach Café, children’s play areas, gardens and an accessible boardwalk extending westward toward the ocean. Along with new facilities thoughtfully designed by Frederick Fisher and Partners, Architects, comes the rehabilitation of the historic pool and guest house.

For More Information on The Annenberg Community Beach House, please visit You can also call Barbara Stinchfield or Libby Carlson at 310-458-8310.

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