Sand Rush: The Revival of the Beach in Twentieth-Century Los Angeles

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review


Los Angeles’s shoreline is among the world’s most iconic natural landscapes, yet how natural is it? How did it come to embody the quintessential modern beach experience? In the early 1900s, Angelenos lamented the condition of LA’s shores; many beaches were private and inaccessible to the public. Sand Rush recounts the beach modernization campaign that transformed Los Angeles into one of the world’s greatest coastal metropolises, revealing how the city’s man-made shores hosted the reinvention of seaside leisure and the triumph of modern bodies. Between the 1920s and 1960s, LA engineers, city officials, urban planners, and the business elite collaborated to transform relatively untouched beaches into modern playgrounds for the white middle class. They cleaned up and artificially enlarged the beaches, destroying old piers and barracks to make room for new accommodations. This powerful beach lobby adapted the beach experience to the suburban age, preventing much-feared white flight from the coast. Southern California became a national reference point for beach planning, with vast public spaces created for Angelenos to express themselves and forge lively subcultures. By mid-century, Southern California’s beaches were a global cultural phenomenon, yet these transformations adversely affected certain beachgoers—especially African Americans, gay men and women, and bodybuilders—whose presence there did not align with the beach lobby’s vision. In Los Angeles, modern expectations of the beach and beach bodies took shape. When rising sea levels threaten the world’s shorelines, Sand Rush reveals the web of environmental, social, and cultural factors that created these influential American spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages328
ISBN (Electronic)9780197539781
ISBN (Print)9780197539750
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2024

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