Davies Estate to Be a Public Beach Club

Times Staff Writer

A public beach club will be built on the former estate of early film star Marion Davies under an agreement reached between the city of Santa Monica and a property owners association.

The City Council approved the settlement Tuesday after the city agreed to conditions relating to operating hours, parking, lighting, noise and security. Under the pact, the city vowed to keep certain conditions in place for at least 7 1/2 years and to continue to push the California Department of Transportation to install a stoplight at the location, at 415 Pacific Coast Highway.

Nearby residents belonging to the Palisades Beach Property Owners Assn. had sued, citing objections about safety, noise and traffic.

“We are delighted that we have reached this agreement,” said City Manager Lamont Ewell. “It allows us to move forward to meet tight project deadlines.”

Jonathan Ornstein, a homeowner who was party to the lawsuit, said it “was never about denying access to this wide open public beach or preventing construction of the beach club.” Rather, he said, the goal was public safety and assuring “quality of life for everyone.”


In the late 1920s and 1930s, Davies lived on the five-acre Gold Coast property in a Georgian-style mansion built for her by her married paramour, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. She and Hearst threw lavish parties that attracted the Hollywood elite, including Cary Grant, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.

Davies sold the property in 1945. It subsequently housed a hotel and the private Sand & Sea Club. In the late 1950s, the main house was torn down, leaving a guesthouse and a pool designed by famed architect Julia Morgan. The guesthouse and other buildings were damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

The city plans to refurbish the historic pool and build new locker facilities as well as sand volleyball and paddle tennis courts. Propelling the effort is a nearly $28-million grant from the Annenberg Foundation.