The view from the cliffs of Lunada Bay in Palos Verdes Estates remains breathtaking – even after almost a century of residential development.
The cliff edges are untouched by any man-made structure, so nothing obstructs the view of the gently curving coastal arch and the crescent-shaped bay that inspired the area’s name, Spanish for crescent moon.
When Frank Vanderlip took over the administration of the Palos Verdes peninsula in 1923, he did so with one goal in mind. He created the Palos Verdes Project, a carefully thought out plan for its development.
To ensure the longevity of the plan, an agreement was signed for Bank of America to transfer ownership of 4.5 miles of coastline – stretching south from Malaga Cove to just beyond Lunada Bay – for $ 10. The token sale, which became final in July 1925, was based on an agreement that the beachfront property stretching south from Bluff Cove to Lunada Bay would never be developed.
Under the agreement, the Palos Verdes Home Owners’ Association, whose members were the landowners of the Palos Verdes Estates, took responsibility for the coastline and its use. Builders who wanted to subdivide and sell land in the area, as well as commercial companies, were prevented from building on the coast themselves.
An advertising brochure for the Palos Verdes project from 1926 was entitled “Palos Verdes Estates: Prominent Among the Most Famous Housing Communities in the World”. This title shows ambitious plans for Lunada Bay. It was to house one of five central business locations that were planned for the peninsula’s neighborhoods.
But of these, only Malaga Cove Plaza was completed. It’s a shame, because the design of the Lunada Bay Plaza was characterized by elaborate Spanish colonial architectural elements.
The brochure also mentions another plan that never materialized, and we quote: âLunada Bay is being improved and converted into a bathing bay. A breakwater is thrown out and a kiosk is set up for bathing and beach parties. “
Both projects fell victim to the Great Depression a few years later without ever being realized.
Another idea that came up in 1936 was to give former King Edward VIII of England, who recently abdicated because of his scandalous affair with Wallis Simpson, a prime apartment for $ 150,000 overlooking Lunada Bay . He never accepted her on the sweet deal.
But in 1938 another crisis would threaten the pristine coast.
The Palos Verdes Estates community was on Los Angeles County’s unincorporated land, and it found that the Palos Verdes Home Owners Association had been unable to pay the county’s property taxes since 1931, which was $ 62,000 in the process Had accumulated debt.
It was feared that the county would take control of the land along the coast and then develop it into public beaches and parks in order to pay off debts that the association could not otherwise pay.
One possible solution came in the form of a movement for PVE to integrate as a city. In this case, the district would no longer have any influence on the future of the coast. The new city would have complete control in the long run.
The debate about the pros and cons of the founding raged – and the final vote was tight. But on December 4, 1939, residents voted for admission by a majority of nine votes, 213 to 204. The coast was safe.
During the Second World War, the US Army had a small station there and accommodation for defense forces was provided in the area.
After the war, residential development in Lunada Bay increased significantly. The city also managed to build new schools in the area, with the Lunada Bay Elementary School opening in November 1956 and the nearby Palos Verdes High School opening in September 1961.
The beach promenade remained in its original, undeveloped condition. In 2016, the California Coastal Commission even put pressure on the city of PVE to add “amenities” to make the coast more accessible to outside visitors. The city flatly refused.
The Commission’s recommendation was the result of “locals only” activities by the Lunada Bay Boys, a gang of surfers accused of harassment, vandalism and threats to deter outside visitors from enjoying Lunada Bay’s excellent surfing conditions.
In fact, the Lunada Bay Boys built the only structure on Lunada Bay Beach, a rock terrace that stood for years at the base of the rocky cliffs. Under pressure from the Coastal Commission, the PVE City Council voted to remove the structure. Crews completed the demolition in December 2016.
The Coastal Commission had said the addition of benches, new signs, and a park-like atmosphere would discourage localism and allow anyone to use the area for recreation without fear of retaliation.
PVE officials disagreed and the coast of Lunada Bay remains undeveloped for the time being.
Sources: Daily Breeze Archives; Los Angeles Times Archives; âPalos Verdes Estates: Prominent Among the Most Famous Housing Communities in the Worldâ, advertising brochure for the Palos Verdes project, 1926; News archive of the Palos Verdes peninsula; The Palos Verdes Story by Delane Morgan, The Palos Verdes Review, 1982; San Pedro News Pilot Archive.