“Is this a beautiful day in paradise?” was how Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser greeted the audience at the opening ceremonies at Annenberg Community Beach House. Looking out at the blue sky and the eager beach-goers surrounding the pool area, he answered his own question: “I guess it’s just another typical day in Santa Monica.”The Community Beach House, on the site of the former Marion Davies Beach House, is the culmination of a decade’s worth of planning and restoration. In its history since the golden days of movie-star parties, the five-acre site has been a private club, was slated for redevelopment as a luxury hotel, and was damaged in the 1994 earthquake. Thanks to the efforts of state preservationists such as State Senator Fran Pavley, a City working group study, and the financial donations of the Annenberg Foundation, the site is now a public beach and recreation center and a part of the State Parks System.On opening day, hundreds of people came early to explore the grounds, which include the restored swimming pool with its original mosaic tiled floor, the Marion Davies Guest House, the new Events Building, and the stretch of beach fronting the property. A speaker system blared surf hits like “Wipeout,” and vendors poured free lemonade.At the opening ceremony, Mayor Genser thanked a long list of contributors to the creation of the Beach House, including the design/build project team: Charles Pankow Builders, Fred Fisher Partners Architects, Mia Lehrer and Associates, and artist Roy McMakin; the Santa Monica Conservancy (who trained 75 docents for the Beach House), Director of Community and Cultural Services Barbara Stinchfield, State Senator Fran Pavley, City Councilmember Bobby Shriver, and philanthropist Wallis Annenberg.Pavley, County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, and State Parks Director Ruth Coleman also spoke, as did Annenberg, who explained modestly that she gave $27.5 million to the project because “this stretch of beach should belong to us all and that’s why I wanted to preserve it.”She announced that following the ceremonies, there would be a beach volleyball competition between the Santa Monica and Pacific Palisades volleyball teams. And beginning next April, the Annenberg Community Beach House will host an annual volleyball competition, the Wallis Annenberg Four-Person Championship.The ceremony concluded with five members of the Cirque du Soleil troupe doing the first dive into the new pool and performing a synchronized swimming water ballet.Then it was time to enjoy the Beach House and environs. Young folks played volleyball, kids splashed in the poolside fountains, adults danced in the Event House ballroom and looked at an exhibit of beach-related memorabilia entitled “36 by 27-Stories of Santa Monica Beach.”And some people simply lay in the sun or walked on the beach, enjoying the promise alluded to by Yaroslavsky in his dedication remarks: “I always wanted to belong to a beach club and now there’s one I can afford!”The Beach House is now open to the public daily from 9 a. m to 6 p.m. The pool, with a fee of $10 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children, will be open on weekends in May from 10 a. m to 6 p.m. (Advance reservations recommended.) Docent tours will be available Thursday through Monday at 11 a. m, 1 and 3 p.m. For more information, call 310.458.4904 or beachhouse.smgov.net.
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