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Community Ideas on Beach House:

Imagine a beach club equipped with a pool, a café, event rooms, beach volleyball courts, and a children’s recreation area. The Annenberg Community Beach House, scheduled to open in April 2009, is planning to offer all of the above. At a meeting held October 25, City planners presented an overview of the Annenberg project, and asked the community to imagine some solutions for usage issues.

Callie Hurd, Open Space Manager for the City, gave a brief history of the site. Formerly the estate of movie star Marion Davies, the property has also been a luxury hotel and private beach club. Sold to the state of California in 1959, the site had long been of interest to Santa Monica for use as a public facility, but it was not until the Wallis Annenberg Foundation stepped in with a $27.5 million grant in 2005 that the beach house project got under way.

The project includes the original swimming pool and guest house, designed by Julia Morgan, with adaptive re-use and new facilities designed by Fred Fisher and Partners, and landscape design by Mia Lehrer and Associates. New features include a boardwalk to the water’s edge, a picnic area, gardens, an event house, viewing deck, a “splash pad” for kids, a decorative “water wall,” and courts for beach volleyball.

All facilities will be free except for the pool and splash pad, and the rental of event rooms. Hurd said that these charges are necessary because the yearly cost of operations and programs ($893,861) exceeds the available revenues ($445,014).

Parking will be provided by two lots at the north and south ends of the property, with 100 spaces for bikes. The City is encouraging visitors to use alternative transportation to Annenberg, and is working with the Big Blue Bus on a shuttle ride.

During the second half of the meeting, community members gave suggestions on issues of usage for the facility.

One was the schedule for the pool. Currently it is scheduled to be open from May through September, weekends only during May, early June, and September, all week during July and August. Someone suggested that the pool remain open through October (this October has been a hot month).

The pool’s total hours of operation per year, however, will have to factor in the expense of employing four lifeguards at all times.

Other issues involved the viewing deck and splash pad being free rather than included with the pool pass, the percentage of reservations versus walk-in guests, the cost of a reservation, safety and signage for the bike path, and classes and activities offered at the center.

The proposed ten dollar fee for a pool pass met with some resistance from community members who were concerned that, with the additional non-refundable reservation fee, the cost of regular attendance at the facility might be almost as expensive as a private club.

One suggestion was that people who want to use the beach club frequently might become “Friends” or members of the club. It was also suggested that reservation fees be less for people who may not use all the facilities.

The planners assured the community that they are being flexible with ideas for the beach club.

“We always do things differently in Santa Monica, “ said Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick. “The idea of a public beach house is very new and different. There is no model for this.”

The Annenberg Community Beach House project will be reviewed by the Recreation and Parks Commission on November 20 and by the City Council in December. For more information go to smgov.net/beach_house/project.htm

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