Protecting the Cradle of Life

Historic Sites Create Local Pride and May Help Preserve Ecological Habitat
Ballona Valley has a rich history that continues to unfold. Citizens groups are beginning to take an interest in historic sites, and get official historic designations from appropriate agencies. Sometimes preserving a community's history can have the unexpected benefit of also preserving the ecology, as in the situation of Mariners Village which is home to many Great Blue Herons, and Fishman's Village which is a magnet for wading birds that enjoy hanging out by the docks.

Two Ballona Valley locations currently seeking status as historic sites are:

Fisherman’s Village (Above) – A replica of a seacoast village in Europe or on the eastern seaboard of the United States, Fisherman’s Village was designed to be a tourist destination, although it has fallen into disrepair recently. Locals want to protect the charm and character of this iconic place and to encourage the County of Los Angeles and future developers to propose development enhancements that include this spirit of renewal of a part of recent LA coastal history.

Mariners Village (Below) – This charming residential coastal garden apartment complex was developed in the mid 1960s on the water in Marina del Rey. Considered a nature sanctuary by those who live and visit, the original award-winning landscape architecture still wins over the hearts and minds of people who make their home there. The village includes a rookery of Great Blue Herons that provides youthful new bird generations to the Ballona Wetlands areas. Mariners Village also is a roosting site for Black-crowned Night Herons and offers shelter and food for numerous migrating and resident bird species. The fountains, waterfalls, balconies, community-feel and spacious common areas are also part of the historical features that historic preservationists wish to retain.

Historic preservation advocates who would like to convene on a monthly basis to help with these and other historic preservation efforts may contact:
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Most historic sites fall into one of these historic time periods:

5,000 B.C. to 1700
First Nation peoples lived in Ballona Valley.

• 1700s – 1800s
Spain made large grants to settlers for ranchos; Augustin and Ygnacio Machado and Felipe and Tomas Talamantes owned Rancho La Ballona, the nearly 14,000 acres that make up much of present day Del Rey and Culver City, as determined by the United States Board of Land Commissioners.   The Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve, the City of LA-owned Ballona Lagoon, Grand Canal Lagoon and Del Rey Lagoon, and Marina del Rey are also part of what was once Rancho La Ballona.

• 19th Century
By 1868, Rancho La Ballona had been partitioned into 23 separate parcels of land.
-- The Los Angeles Pacific Electric Trolley had a route to the area including Port Ballona.
-- The Ballona Harbor and Improvement Company mapped plans for the Port Ballona City, hoping business and development would prosper. But only 300 LA residents had arrived by 1889; city development funds had been exhausted and the tide had taken most of a new wharf.
-- By the end of the 1800s, La Ballona was still considered swampland but a sea shore retreat was constructed for ocean sportsmen and hunters, creating the first man-made navigational connection to the sea from Ballona Creek.

• 20th Century
-- The surrounding area was agricultural, including dairy farms and fields of produce
-- Port Ballona and 1,000 acres of land around the Ballona Lagoon were purchased in 1902, under the name of the Beach Land Company
-- 1903: L.A. Department of City Planning maps identified nine divisions of the West Los Angeles Planning Commission, including Venice, Culver City , Del Rey.
-- Late 1930s early 1940s --
A brief but crucial period when Howard Hughes, Hughes Helicopter, and the Spruce Goose took residence.  (it was the name of one of his companies - Hughes Helicopter).
-- Federal bridge and levee projects were constructed.
Post World War II -- Japanese-Americans returning from relocation centers and internment camps began to locate nearby and many Japanese clubs, classes and businesses sprang up.
-- 1960s -- Construction of Marina del Rey begins
Howard Hughes dies.  In the 1970s Hughes' heirs, Summa Corporation, decided to propose a massive development for the wetlands and surrounding open spaces that Hughes' had previously left mostly wild and open.

21st Century -
-- Playa Vista development begins in 2001

Historic Preservation in the Ballona Valley

When Howard Hughes’ heirs decided to develop some of his land during the 1990s, William DeIvac took more than a casual interest.

At that time DeIvac worked for Latham & Watkins, the law firm handling the proposal for Hughes' heirs. He was interested not just in development, but in history, with the thought that historic significance could and would add tremendous value to the nature of the development.

Most of the land was destined to become Playa Vista, a community of high-rise condos, apartments, and office buildings. But DeIvac also wanted to include some of Hughes’ former office buildings, a building to house his helicopter, and also the unique Spruce Goose Hangar,

DeIvac went beyond the family's expectations and succeeded in gainining recognition from the National Park Service for the Hughes buildings, which are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

By doing that, Howard Hughes’ presence in the Ballona Valley was transformed from a quirky, anecdotal piece of history, into a charming and pivotal piece of heritage, one that helped shape the character and pride of neighborhoods that are there today.