Urban Renewal by the Sea: Reinventing the Beach for the Suburban Age in Postwar Los Angeles

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Abstract

Urban renewal was not just a city phenomenon: it also unfolded on the beaches of coastal metropolises, most spectacularly in Los Angeles where a “beach lobby” made up of public officials, businessmen, and engineers coalesced in the 1930s. In the postwar, they implemented their vision by buying beaches for the public and turning the polluted and eroded strands of the early-twentieth century into modern playgrounds. While they effectively prevented a “white flight” from the beach and successfully reshaped the coastal environment, their efforts also resulted in the erasure of alternative beach communities. By the 1960s, the lobby could rejoice in the enduring popularity of the city’s beaches. Yet new beach advocates used the California public beach tradition as a rallying cry to stop further development. “Beach renewal” in Los Angeles thus challenges both narratives of postwar urban decline and the binary opposition between 1930s conservationists and 1960s environmental activists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-125
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Urban History
Volume45
Issue number1
Early online date29 Mar 2018
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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