SM BEACH HOUSE — They grow up so fast. It seems like only yesterday that City Council was agreeing to subsidize the Annenberg Community Beach House.

The beach house turns 5 today and will celebrate its birthday with tons of special events this weekend.

The land was originally developed by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst in the 1920s for his mistress, actress Marion Davies. In 1947, Davies sold the property and it was turned into a hotel and beach club.

The state bought the property in 1959 and continued to operate the beach club.

City Hall took over the facilities in the 1990s until they were damaged by the Northridge Earthquake in 1994. The property sat for many years before the Annenberg Foundation agreed to spend $27.5 million on its rehabilitation.

Council agreed to subsidize the property and it opened as the Annenberg Community Beach House on April 25, 2009.

The beach house’s public events were an almost immediate success but, particularly in the early years, it struggled to meet its revenue goals. It fell $800,000 short in the first fiscal year, according to Daily Press archive, forcing City Hall to further subsidize the property.

In the following years it far exceeded expectations, with revenues up 72.5 percent over projections in fiscal year 2011-12. Revenues were down slightly in 2012-13 but were still exceeding projections.

“We’ve done really well,” said Karen Ginsberg, director of Community and Cultural Services at City Hall. “I think that we have a great compliment of staff including our special events team that really works on the special events side.”

Last fiscal year it cost just under $3.3 million to keep the beach house up and running. The beach house brought in just under $2 million, largely through private events and parking. City Hall covers the difference, which has been around $1.3 million annually in recent years.

Private events brought in close to a million dollars in both fiscal years 2011-12 and 2012-13, more than double the 2009-10 totals. Private filming spiked in 2011-12, bringing in $166,283. Last fiscal year that film permits brought in only $15,000.

While the direction of the film industry can be hard to predict, some of the other revenue generators may be reliably leveling off.

“It’s hard to say,” Ginsberg said. “It’s five years and we’re definitely on the map so to speak from a private event and filming perspective. Film permits go up and down depending on the larger industry issues. I think our other revenues for other types of events probably are in the ballpark. The facility is just so unique and that plays to our advantage.”

Then there’s the community events, like the annual cardboard yacht regatta, that make the subsidies worthwhile, Ginsberg said.

“It’s not a revenue generator at all,” she said. “It’s public programing but it’s just a wonderful community event for families and others to get together and launch the yachts in the pool. We do paddle board lessons. That does generate probably a little bit of revenue but nothing major.”

One benefit, although not the point of the public programming, is that community visitors have returned to book the space for corporate events.

The beach house sold more than 30,305 pool passes last fiscal year, up from the year before. Santa Monica Conservancy docent-led tours were also up, with nearly 3,000 visitors.

This summer they’re adding more umbrellas at the pool, more public programming, and expanding summer weekend hours to 8 p.m.

“We continually are looking at our balance between rentals and public programming so that we maintain that very careful balance,” Ginsberg said. “Because really the private rentals do support the public programming and the public programming is so important.”

Birthday events, including stilt walkers, a photo booth, and ballroom dance lessons, are scheduled for 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

For more information visit annenbergbeachhouse.com

 

dave@smdp.com

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