The northern part was originally wetlands, but the natural flooding was halted by the concrete channel which contains Ballona Creek.
In the 1870s, Playa Del Rey was the location of the first attempt at a dredged harbor in Santa Monica Bay. Under contract with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, Moye Wicks’ syndicate spent $300,000 to dredge “Port Ballona Harbor”, for shipping to the Orient. Within three years, winter waves brought flooding, but what remained of man’s early efforts became the Playa Del Rey Lagoon, now a regional public park.
Palisades del Rey (also, Palisades Del Rey) was the name of the original 1921 neighborhood land development by Dickinson & Gillespie Co. that later came to be called Playa del Rey. The company advertised this area of sand dunes as the last stretch of coastal land in the city of Los Angeles to be developed. All of the houses in this area were custom built, many as beach homes owned by Hollywood actors and producers, including Cecil B. Demille, Charles Bickford, and others.
Construction in Playa del Rey surged in 1928 with the development of the Del Rey Hills neighborhood in the Eastern part of the community (to the East of Pershing Drive), and the move of Loyola University (now Loyola Marymount University) to the adjacent community of Westchester.
The southern portion of the original Playa del Rey development, which came to be known as “Surfridge,” is now vacant. Between 1966 and 1975 the houses that were once there were either moved or demolished to facilitate the expansion of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and to address concerns about the noise of increasing jet plane traffic. The noise from the flights made it less desirable to live on the dunes above the ocean under the LAX flight path. The City of Los Angeles condemned the southern section of Playa del Rey under the power of eminent domain, and purchased all of the homes. Today one can see only barbed-wire fences protecting vacant land and old streets where houses once sat. Recent LAX rejuvenation plans call for the city to finally remove the old streets that still line the empty neighborhood. The condemned areas of the community are now a protected habitat of the endangered El Segundo blue butterfly.
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