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Marina del Rey

An affluent unincorporated seaside community in Los Angeles County. A Westside locale, the population was 8,866 at the 2010 census. Fisherman’s Village offers a view of Marina del Rey’s dominant feature, the Marina, the world’s largest man-made small craft harbor: 19 marinas with capacity for 5,300 boats and home port to approximately 6,500 boats. The harbor, the Los Angeles Times said, is “perhaps the county’s most valuable resource”.




Originally, Marina del Rey was part of a salt-marsh fed by fresh water from Ballona Creek, frequented by duck hunters and few others. The area was referred to as mud flats (today we say wetlands).

In the mid-19th century, entrepreneurs wanted to turn this Playa del Rey estuary into a commercial port. Ballona Development Company was formed in 1888 to develop the area, but 3 years later the company went bankrupt. Port Ballona was then sold to an individual who purchased 1,000 acres of land around Ballona lagoon and Port Ballona in 1902 under the name “Beach Land Company”. The land was renamed “Del Rey”; Port Ballona was renamed “Playa Del Rey”.

In 1916, the Army Corps of Engineers investigated the idea of a commercial harbor, but declared it economically impractical. In 1936, Congress ordered another re-evaluation, and the Corps of Engineers came back positive. However, the Marina del Rey harbor concept lost out to San Pedro as a commercial harbor and development funding went to the Port of Los Angeles instead.

In 1953, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors authorized a $2 million loan to fund construction of the marina. Since the loan only covered about half the cost, Congress passed and President Eisenhower signed Public Law 780, making construction possible. Ground breaking began shortly after.

After 75 years and various starts and stops, the dredging of Marina del Rey — at that time the largest man-made small craft harbor in the country — was completed in May 1962. Winter, however, brought disaster. Violent storms Feb. 9 and 10, 1963, sent 9-foot swells into the channel, destroying boats and docks. The storm caused millions of dollars in damage to both the marina and the few small boats anchored there.

The solution was to create a breakwater at the marina mouth, and the L.A. Supervisors appropriated $2.1 million to build it. In October 1963, breakwater construction began, with rocks from a Catalina Island quarry shipped to the marina’s entrance. The marina breakwater was completed January 1965.

On April 10, 1965 Marina del Rey was formally dedicated. Total cost of the marina was $36.25 million for land, construction, and initial operation.

Marina del Rey celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2015.