Children play in the sand at the Annenberg Community Beach House. (File photo)
Children play in the sand at the Annenberg Community Beach House. (File photo)

PCH — The Annenberg Community Beach House powered through its third operational year, providing the public access to the beach and other amenities while putting a lighter strain on municipal budgets than previously expected.

According to a report by staff, the beach house sold almost 30,000 pool passes in the 2011-12 fiscal year, and served over 1,000 youth and adults in drop-in and enrolled classes.

Docents provided through a partnership with the Santa Monica Conservancy aided 2,692 visitors through 410 docent-led tours, and the 43 events through the Beach=Culture program attracted some 3,674 attendees.

It took time for people to become aware of the beach house and for the programming to take hold, but the community has really embraced the facility, said Nan Friedman, manager at the beach house.

“Seeing people here, using and exploring the many ways they can enjoy and benefit from this outstanding public resource is what makes me proud,” Friedman said.

Not just individuals have been making their way to the facility — paying customers like film crews also took in the sights, sounds and atmosphere for commercials and even the ABC television show “Revenge.”

Filming permits brought in over $166,283 this fiscal year, although the bulk of the revenues for the facility came from leases (almost $990,000) and parking lot fees.

All in all, the beach house raised 72.3 percent more money than expected, and cost almost 10 percent less, according to the report.

That still puts the house almost $1.2 million in the red.

Similar to other areas for community recreation, there was always going to be a gap between revenues and expenditures, said Karen Ginsberg, director of the Community & Cultural Services Department.

“Our facilities are subsidized, and this facility is no different than the Swim Center and other recreation facilities,” Ginsberg said.

The report fulfills a requirement to the Annenberg Foundation, the private nonprofit that gave the $27.5 million needed to restore the Depression-era facility.

It was the fulfillment of decades worth of work on the part of the City Council and other community members, who resisted efforts in the early 1990s to put a luxury hotel on the spot on which the beach house stands.

“Essentially, we were looking at the de facto privatization of the area at the time. We went 180 degrees in the other direction with this plan,” said Michael Feinstein, a former mayor who served on the City Council between 1996 and 2004.

The City Council wanted to ensure that the refurbished site would be open to all aspects of the Santa Monica community, and offer a wide range of potential activities, both those that cost money and those that were free to the public.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown was part of it from the planning stages, and the beach house has fulfilled his expectations for the site. The losses on the operating costs are not a concern, he said.

“This is a long-term investment in egalitarian beach access and a truly gorgeous historic restoration, so a few years of rocky returns are not a cause for regret. We had the misfortune to open during the great recession, and the future of the beach house looks sunny,” he said.

Friedman has a lot of ideas for the future in terms of strengthening connections with Santa Monica residents and visitors, and those efforts are already underway.

The 2012-13 year started off with a “Summer’s Here!” event coordinated to work with the end of the school year and the creation of new semi-private swim lessons, weekly sunset swims and the Cardboard Yacht Regata.

“What is really wonderful about the beach house is that the staff are always looking for that new idea to try out there,” Ginsberg said.


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