Annenberg Foundation Gives Santa Monica Just What it Needs: A Beach House

img_1462Like the sand castles being built in the competition on the beach a few yards away, Santa Monica‘s new Annenberg Community Beach House, which held its grand opening last Saturday, is spectacular-looking and largely useless.  To take the analogy further, the grand opening also featured free flavored ice cooler snacks that tasted sweet but had little nutritional value, and Cirque du Soleil performers walking on stilts and wearing wispy costumes. 

The Beach House facility cost almost $35 million, of which $27.5 million came from the Annenberg Foundation.  The remaining money, according to the Foundation, is from an “innovative 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.”  The “Preserve America” portion apparently pertains to the former Marion Davies house that is part of the facility, and which was open for tours on Saturday.  The Beach House is made with first-rate materials, such as wood, steel, glass, and concrete.  It’s clean, modern-looking, and beautiful.  I just can’t figure out what it does.

The Beach House is well made and gorgeous-looking
The Beach House is well made and gorgeous-looking

The two-level Beach House has a pool, but it’s a narrow lap pool suitable for maybe 4 swimmers at a time.  There are changing rooms inside, as well as a volleyball and tennis court outside, and an observation deck on the second floor.  The Beach House also sports several good-sized “event” rooms suitable for parties, classes, and art exhibits.  It also has at least 4 really nice bathrooms.  It is open to the public, and no membership card, i.d. card, or fee is needed to get in the door (although use of the pool requires a modest fee).

The observation deck on the 2nd floor sports a great view
The observation deck on the 2nd floor sports a great view

But the Beach House is, surprisingly, not designed to be a low-cost alternative to the pricey beach clubs nearby.  Specifically, it provides no beach chairs, chaise lounges, umbrellas, or canopies for people to use when they actually go to the beach.  So I guess the Annenberg Community Beach House will be primarily a party rental space, and a much fancier place to take a crap than the bathrooms located on the beach nearby.

Cirque du Soleil characters can be beautiful, or scary
Cirque du Soleil characters can be beautiful, or scary

I know this sounds perhaps unduly harsh, and the Annenberg Foundation can spend its money any way it wants. Perhaps the public will find the Beach House really valuable. But I can’t help thinking: couldn’t the governments of Santa Monica, the State of California, and the United States of America figure out something more useful on which to spend $7 million than a beachfront birthday party rental facility?  How about better public transportation?  Feeding and sheltering the homeless?  Environmental initiatives?  Cleaning up the filthy Santa Monica Bay?  Or here’s a radical idea: how about just returning that $7 million to the taxpayers?

Out front, castles made of sand
Out front, castles made of sand

5 Replies to “Annenberg Foundation Gives Santa Monica Just What it Needs: A Beach House”

  1. As stunning a display of reporting (actually I guess blogs aren’t really reports, just opinions) as this is the Annenberg house does preserve a historic landmark, the Davies house as well is a fully LEED certified structure. Also it preserves and protects the beach from further exclusive beach club development and allows for a free public access beach club for people not fortunate enough to afford such privileges. Also as noted, the house might not have chairs, awnings etc. like the other beach clubs, but it still offers alot of amenities besides nice bathrooms. Such as an art gallery displaying historic photos of the Santa Monica beach, a community center for meetings etc. and a swimming pool with showers, lockers. The pool as noted is not the hugest pool but will allow for a nice swim, maybe not Olympic quality lap swimming, but if you want alot of space the ocean is conveniently located west of the pool. While it is true that the 7mill could go to better uses in this time of Obamification (maybe more bailouts?)just wanted to add a more positive spin to the beach house than offered in the post. Thanks!

  2. Matt, you’re right; you do sound unduly harsh singling out this one project. A new public facility for the beach in this area is sorely needed. The restrooms at Montana are disgusting. They were a challenge as changing rooms too because of their filth. It remains to be seen how accommodating the pool will be. And I agree that rentable beach furniture would be nice.

    This project was funded years ago, and really, $7 million dollars of public money is not a lot in light of the public benefit received. That amount would only fund a transit study, if that. And “giving it back to taxpayers” would be an insignificant, one-time amount.

    Rather I argue that building this facility gives back to the public by improving the quality of life to the beach users. (Disclosure: I’m one of them– I frequent that area since I have friends who live nearby. I know they’re pretty happy about it too.)

    Near to where I live, in Silver Lake, the city has built a new dirt track around the perimeter of the reservoir, and a new public library and new park are also being built in the area. Not too long ago as I was running along the new track, (something I would never do in the past due to sharing the pavement with cars zipping by) I reflected on how nice it was having tax-payer money being used for projects like these.

    Most of the Silver Lake community supports these projects, except for a few homeowners who are worried about their property values plummeting because of the new park’s proximity. Fortunately, they now can blame a different set of circumstances for that happening.

  3. Agreed the post is unduly harsh. Maybe another example of Westside haterism displayed on the blog.

  4. As I wrote, if others find the Beach House useful and beneficial, I’ll be thrilled. It’s certainly nice looking. I just didn’t see its utility. I’m all for having a low-cost public beach club, but this isn’t it. I’m all for parks with dirt tracks, and libraries (one of my earliest posts here was a rave about the Santa Monica Library), but this is neither.

    Also, cutfoot, you should know that I’m a West Sider and West Side lover, and joined Los Angeles Metblogs specifically to add a West Side beat to the blog. If you read my posts, you’ll see that they mostly cover West Side activities and issues. Finally, I agree with your earlier mention distinguishing blogging from “reporting” (which, based on your context, appears to mean completely objective news reporting). That subject has undergone extensive discussion here. In my view, blogs generally, including Metblogs, are not primarily designed for objective news reporting. If you simply wanted to read facts about the Beach House, you could just read the Annenberg’s website that I linked to. Anyway, I appreciate the differing views, that’s what hopefully makes this blog interesting.

  5. Also, I’m all for having two more sets of nicer bathrooms on the beach, but $35 million seems a bit pricey to achieve that goal.

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