View Journey #3: Manhattan Beach in a larger map
I’ve said quite a bit about Manhattan Beach, and shown quite a few pictures. And because it’s a place so central to me and my beach-going experience, I’m confident there are many more details to come in word and picture.
Still, to get on with the journey of seeing the entire coast, I had to get across Manhattan Beach.
It’s only about two miles, north to south, along the beach. The closest street is a road called Ocean Drive, which is not a street, a road, or a drive, except in the broadest definition of those words. It’s really an alley.
It runs behind a continuous row of beach-front homes, most of them imposingly large and three stories tall, that block at the view at all except the narrow cross-streets. I know this only too well because I lived in a second-story apartment on Ocean Drive for more than a decade, and my view of the ocean was limited to what I could see between the two large homes on the water side of Ocean Drive. A friend nicknamed the place “Fifteen Degrees of Paradise.”
Manhattan Beach was subdivided and started to be settled in 1902, largely as a place city folks could have a weekend cottage that wasn’t too terribly far from the city (meaning what we now call downtown Los Angeles, about 20 miles to the northeast). But the advent of the Pacific Electric Red Cars a few years later cut the commute. The rise of an extensive aerospace presence in World War II in what southern Californians call “the South Bay” provided jobs. A decade later, the freeway system provided a connectedness that had been lacking. It effectively made Manhattan Beach another Los Angeles suburb. By the time aerospace contracted in the 1990s in what the rest of the world called “the peace dividend,” Manhattan Beach was a prosperous community. Economic diversification came in the form of a movie studio and other businesses.
Today, Manhattan Beach’s median annual income is over $100,000, more than 80 per cent above the national figure. Its property is some of the most expensive in the world, estimated at over $35 million an acre on the ocean-front walk known as The Strand.
I knew my end in Manhattan Beach had come in 2005, when a neighbor told me that Nomar Garciaparra, a star baseball player who had just signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and his wife, pro soccer star Mia Hamm, bought the place a few doors from us, a little closer to the beach. Somehow, I figured millionaire star athletes weren’t spending that kind of money to say they lived down the street from me.
In a matter of months, a developer purchased the Postwar-Era building where I lived. I was evicted and the building was razed. About a year later, another mini-mansion sprouted from the Manhattan Beach sand.