Inglewood’s transformative Sofi Stadium is the most expensive ever built

A full crowd cheers at SoFi Stadium for the Rams-Raiders preseason game on Aug. 21, 2021. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Consider this blog post part three of my history of the Hollywood Park site in Inglewood. Part 1 and Part 2 appeared in 2015, just after the main grandstand of the horse racing track Betfair Hollywood Park was brought down by implosion on May 31.

Earlier that year, on Jan. 5, St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke had announced plans to build an NFL stadium on the site. A month later, the city of Inglewood approved the stadium plan, to be built on land Kroenke had acquired in 2014. The stadium plan was folded into a pre-existing commercial/residential development plan for the Hollywood Park site.

The grandstand for the historic Betfair Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood after it was imploded on May 31, 2015. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

The Rams originally played in Cleveland from 1936-45, winning an NFL championship title in 1945. They moved to Los Angeles in 1946, where they then won another championship in 1951. They would play in the Coliseum for decades before moving to Anaheim Stadium in 1980.

After 14 years in Anaheim, the Rams moved to St. Louis, where they won the Super Bowl in 2000 with quarterback Kurt Warner at the helm. Kroenke bought the team in 2010. 

An agreement in the team’s lease deal with the city called for St. Louis to finance improvements at the city’s stadium. When the city balked, Kroenke began plotting his move back to Los Angeles.

View looking north shows construction underway at the new stadium in Inglewood in May 2017. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

At that time, rumors were floating around that the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and possibly the Oakland Raiders would be moving to a former toxic waste landfill site just off the 405 Freeway in Carson, pending league approval.

The two projects vied along with several others for the final endorsement by the NFL owners, with the Carson faction headed by former Disney executive Robert Iger. Two other competing plans included Farmers Field, Phillip Anschutz’s AEG plan to build a stadium at the downtown Convention Center, and a City of Industry proposal set forth by billionaire Ed Roski.

The back-and-forth battle behind the scenes lasted until January 12, 2016, when the NFL owners voted 30-2 to allow the Rams to return to Los Angeles and, eventually, Kroenke’s new Inglewood stadium.

Originally, the plan was to play in the Coliseum for three years beginning in 2016, until the new 298-acre facility was completed in time for the 2019 season. Ground was broken for the project on Nov. 18, 2016, though grading work already had begun.

From left, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Inglewood Mayor James Butts break ground on the Rams’ new stadium in Inglewood, CA on Nov. 17, 2016. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Several factors contributed to a one-year delay in the plan. Because of the stadium’s proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, much of it had to be built below ground level in order not to interfere with LAX’s radar and the flights of incoming planes.

In addition, FAA approval for the plan was held up for months until Kroenke agreed to build a separate $29 million radar system to eliminate interference with LAX radar operations.

Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers passes against the Los Angeles Rams in the second half of a NFL football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Sept. 23, 2018. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

A 200-foot-deep hole needed to be excavated for that to happen. Unfortunately, the unusually heavy 2016-17 rainy season led to 60 days of rain delays. The rainwater would fill up the excavation site, which then would have to pumped out and dried before work could continue. As a result, the completion date had to be moved to 2020, and the Rams spent an extra year in the Coliseum.

Meanwhile, with the collapse of the Carson stadium deal, the Chargers and the Raiders were left in limbo. The Raiders eventually opted out of Los Angeles completely, gaining approval from the league in 2017 to move to Las Vegas. In 2020, they moved into their new $1.9 billion Allegiant Stadium there.

The Chargers cut ties with the city of San Diego when owner Dean Spanos announced plans in January 2017 to move to Los Angeles after the city’s voters nixed a proposed $1.6 billion financing plan for a new stadium. The team had played its first-ever season of pro football in Los Angeles in 1960, as members of the upstart American Football League (AFL). They moved to San Diego after one year, and stayed there for 56 seasons.

The Chargers play the Houston Texans at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson on Sept. 22, 2019. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Their plan to share the new Inglewood stadium with the Rams also was set back for a year by the construction delays, and they ended up playing three seasons at the Dignity Health Sports Park (formerly the Home Depot Center) in Carson. The NFL okayed the unusual arrangement, even though the Carson stadium’s capacity of 30,000 was 20,000 less than the league’s minimum.

In September 2019, the online finance company Social Finance Inc signed a 20-year deal for the naming rights to the new facility, giving it its name of Sofi Stadium.

The Rams defeated the Dallas Cowboys, 20-17, in the first regular-season NFL game at Sofi on Sept. 13, 2020. What would have been a day of great celebration was muted by the COVID-19 pandemic; the game was played in a very beautiful but very empty stadium save for players and fan cutouts due to health restrictions.

Giant cranes sit in the parking lot ready to lift roof panel sections onto Sofi Stadium in Inglewood on Jan. 22, 2020. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

The full celebration took place in 2021, when fans returned in person to celebrate the return of the Rams and Chargers to football before live crowds.

The construction delay cost Sofi Stadium its chance to host Super Bowl LV in 2021, in a deal that had been made with the NFL in 2016. But the league merely pushed the event ahead by a year, so that Sofi will be the site of Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13, 2022.

In addition, Sofi will host the college football national championship game in 2023, as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028. 

At a total cost of $5.5 billion, Sofi is the most expensive sports stadium ever built as of this writing.

Exterior of completed Sofi Stadium, circa 2020-21. (Credit: Itinerant Fan website)

Sources:

Construction Disputes website.

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

Wikipedia.

The giant Oculus 2-sided video board is assembled inside on the floor of SoFi Stadium in Inglewood on Jan. 22, 2020. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Balloon Route Excursion Co. trolley car tours included South Bay locations

Cover of printed Balloon Route schedule. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

When I first began seeing references to the early 1900s tours operated by the Balloon Route Excursion Co., I assumed they were conducted using hot air balloons. I wondered how that possibly could have worked.

A closer look revealed that the company’s tours got their name from the balloon-shaped trolley car route that they took through Los Angeles, which were conducted most definitely on land, and not via balloon. 

The Balloon Route Excursion Co. was the brainchild of Henry Huntington’s Pacific Electric Railway Co., which introduced the service along its train lines in 1901. 

Developers and trolley pioneers Moses Sherman and Eli Clark, whose smaller  lines were bought up by the larger Pacific Electric that year, came up with the idea. Sherman would later develop a large chunk of the San Fernando Valley; Sherman Way and Sherman Oaks are named for him.

The pair had an ulterior motive for formulating an excursion route using several existing trolley lines through west Los Angeles and the lightly developed coastal South Bay: to show regular folks the allure of coastal Los Angeles and convince them to buy property along the way.

For just one dollar, riders could board the special excursion cars at 316 W. 4th St. in  downtown Los Angeles and spend the day visiting the advertised “10 beaches and 8 cities.” Tour guides led them to stops in Hollywood, west Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Playa del Rey, Redondo Beach and Venice before returning through Culver City to their point of origin downtown.

Undated postcard shows Balloon Route car in Venice. (Credit: KCET website)

Sherman and Clark did a fine job in putting the Balloon Route concept together, but the railway failed to promote the service adequately in its first couple of years, and ridership was light.

The company remedied that by hiring master marketer Charles Merritt Pierce, who took charge of the Balloon Route operation in November 1904. Pierce had operated horse-and-carriage tours to and from his Glen Avon Hotel in Hollywood before coming to his new job.

Charles Merritt Pierce poses holding undated photo of Balloon Route cars, tour guides and passengers. and personnel. (Credit: Courtesy of the Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection, Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society)

He threw all his considerable promotional talents into the job. He hired carefully vetted tour guides in specially designed Balloon Route uniforms to work in the trolley cars whose spartan interiors he had remodeled to make for more comfortable riding. He also hired professional ad men who made sure that flyers hyping the service got placed in local hotels, the Catalina steamship, and other tourist excursions. 

The Balloon Route’s popularity grew immediately. Additional train cars were added to handle the crowds, and, on peak summer days, thousands of tourists enjoyed the day-long ride.

Passengers from a Balloon Route excursion outing pose for a group shot on the steps of the Sawtelle Old Soldier’s Home in West Los Angeles in 1910. (Credit: Placentia Library District)

The tour’s first stop was in Hollywood, where riders toured the house of then-prominent French artist Paul de Longpre. Next came a visit to the Sawtelle Old Soldier’s Home in West Los Angeles, on the site of the current Veterans Administration grounds, whose lushly  landscaped gardens made it popular among tourists.

From there, the trolley made two stops in Santa Monica, at the Camera Obscura and then at the Long Wharf, a 4,270-foot pier near Pacific Palisades that was removed in 1933.

Balloon Route passengers arrive at the Playa Del Rey Pavilion in this undated postcard.

The South Bay stops came next, beginning with Playa del Rey. In 1902, developer Harry Barbour had opened a resort complex that would include a three-story pavilion, hotel, bowling alley and skating rink there. Balloon Route visitors could eat at the pavilion at a restaurant Pierce owned for 50 cents, as well as enjoying the other facilities.

Two stops in Redondo Beach followed. First, riders would disembark at Moonstone Beach, a stretch of shoreline from roughly present-day Herondo Ave. south to Diamond St. The beach was named for the smooth feldspar stones washed up on its shores by the strong ocean currents in the area.

Tourists flocked to Moonstone Beach in the late 1800s and early 1900s to hunt for the desirable oval stones, which took on a lustrous beauty once polished by jewelers or lapidarists. Unfortunately, the stones began disappearing in the 1920s, gobbled up for use in construction projects. 

Visitors search for moonstones on Moonstone Beach in Redondo Beach. Postcard circa 1910. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

In the 1960s, the geography and geology of Moonstone Beach changed forever with the building of the massive King Harbor project. The city of Redondo Beach created Moonstone Park on Mole B in King Harbor to commemorate the former beach.

From there, tourists were transported to Redondo Beach’s Paseo de la Playa area, home of the Pavilion, saltwater plunge, and other amusements, and then to the lavish Hotel Redondo for a quick tour. The trolley then returned north to Venice and its seaside attractions, including an aquarium and roller coaster as well as shops and cafes, before finally heading back to downtown Los Angeles.

After building up the popularity of the Balloon Route operation, Pierce left the company in 1911, following the Pacific Electric merger with Southern Pacific. The new management took back operation of the many tourist trolley lines that Pierce had managed after the success of the Balloon Route, including the Seaside Route, which transported sightseers to San Pedro and the Harbor Area.

The rise of the automobile and the further development of roads and highways led to the gradual decline in popularity of the tourist trolleys, though they continued to operate for another couple of decades. The freedom of the open road made it possible to conduct one’s own tour.

Pierce remained in the sightseeing business for decades before his death in 1964 at 97.

Los Angeles Herald ad, Dec. 20, 1908, Page 107. (Credit: Los Angeles Herald digital archive)

Sources:

“The Balloon Route: A Tourist’s Trolley Trip Through Early-1900s Los Angeles,” by Victoria Bernal, KCET website, June 9, 2016.

“Charles Merritt (C.M.) Pierce and the Los Angeles Pacific Balloon Route Excursion,” edited by Ira L. Sweet, November 1955, Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society website.

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles A To Z: An Encyclopedia of the City and County, by Leonard and Dale Pitt, University of California Press, 1997.

Los Angeles Herald archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

Redondo Reflex archives.

Brochure cover, circa 1910. (Credit: Courtesy of the Mount Lowe Preservation Society Collection, Pacific Electric Railway Historical Society)

Time is running out for The Links at Victoria Golf Course in Carson

The shadow of the Goodyear blimp passes over The Links at Victoria Golf Course in Carson in 2015. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

In 1966, The Links at Victoria Golf Course in Carson became the first golf course in the area to be built atop a former hazardous waste landfill.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors began accepting bids for the new regulation 18-hole course on 177 acres of land in October 1964, and it opened to golfers in April 1966. Prolific Los Angeles golf architect William F. Bell designed the course.

Years earlier, on July 2, 1948, the County had authorized the Ben A. Kazarian Disposal Company to begin  operating a landfill accepting industrial and municipal waste where Victoria now sits. Landfill magnate Kazarian later changed the name of his firm to the Ben K. Kazarian Co., which became known informally as BKK.

Aerial view looking northwest of the Victoria Golf Course in Carson under construction, circa 1966. Dominguez Channel and 405 Freeway, upper left. (Credit: Los Angeles County Library Digital Collections)

BKK would gain its greatest notoriety for operating one of the largest landfills in the state in West Covina for 33 years before its closure in 1996. In 2007, the city finally acquired the land after BKK shut the site, which had been accepting hazardous waste for years.

The BKK landfill on which Victoria Golf Course sits operated until 1959. It was bounded by M.L.K. Jr. St. (formerly East 192nd St.) on the north, Avalon Blvd. on the east, Del Amo Blvd. on the southeast, the Dominguez Channel on the south, and South Main St. on the west. In addition to the golf course, it included the land on which the Goodyear Blimp base operates.

(Credit: Google Maps)

Kazarain also operated the landfill south of the 405 Freeway that has remained undeveloped for decades after it closed in 1965. For years, an outlet mall was planned for that site, and construction actually began on it in 2019 before the deal fell apart. 

Before moving to Sofi Stadium in Inglewood, the Rams seriously considered building their new stadium there. The 18-hole, par-3 Dominguez Golf Course on the site closed in 2012 to make way for the Porsche Experience Center auto test track facility.

The Goodyear Blimp base port in Carson sits on the same former landfill as Victoria Golf Course. (October 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Across the freeway at Victoria, golfers began to notice that the grass in the fairways never seemed to fill in, and what little there was more brown than green. Sinkholes began to appear, resulting in a wildly uneven landscape. Los Angeles Times writer Fred Robledo noted in a 1993 story that the course “would be better served for use by all-terrain vehicles instead of golf carts.”

Golfers at Victoria Golf Course traverse a dusty and barren fairway in September 1999. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Its groundskeepers fought a losing battle against the underground elements for years. Golfers liked that they could almost always get a tee time at Victoria, but once on the ragged links,  their complaints would begin to increase.

Finally, in 1999, the County approved a major renovation at the struggling course, authorizing $7 million to add new layers of soil, improve fairways and landscaping, and refurbish its  buildings.

The remake was completed in March 2001. Both public officials and golfers felt that the newly renovated course would become one of the County’s most popular layouts due to the positive changes.

Road sign on MLK Jr. St. in front of Victoria Park directly across from Victoria Golf Course reads, “Rough Road, 20 MPH.” Its bumpiness has been caused by sinkholes formed as a result of the former landfill. (October 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

But problems stemming from the landfill beneath continued. In 2006, the California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) began monitoring in the area, including at nearby Towne Elementary School, to check for high levels of methane gas from the landfill.

Detectors had been placed at Towne in 1998 to monitor methane levels in classrooms after students and teachers complained about asthma symptoms, rashes and headaches. In 2007, the DTSC determined that methane levels in the area were safe.

Sadly, the golf course never could overcome its problematic playing conditions despite the 2001 makeover. It remained one of the County’s lowest-performing courses despite frequent changes in operating companies contracted to improve its fortunes.

In November 2017, County officials threw in the towel on Victoria. They began implementing a new plan to transform the course into a “state-of-the-art community recreational center,” according to Daily Breeze reporter Sandy Mazza.

Details remained vague until 2019, when private equity firm head Doug Kimmelman announced plans for the proposed Carol Kimmelman Athletic & Academic Campus on the site, which would be the largest community tennis center in the western United States when completed. The center would be named for his wife, who died of cancer at 53.

A rendering of the proposed Carol Kimmelman Athletic & Academic Campus shows the planned layout, including up to 52 tennis courts, at the current site of The Links at Victoria Golf Course. (Credit: Courtesy of Kimmelman Foundation)

It became part of an overall transformative project that is expected to cost up to $100 million. The new facilities are envisioned to  include 62 tennis courts, eight soccer fields and a 25,000-square-foot, youth-focused learning center operated by the Tiger Woods Foundation. 

In November 2020, The Creek at Dominguez Hills development on the southern 94 acres of the site was added to the mix. It will have more than a half-million square feet of retail and restaurant space, a driving range, a 7-acre golf facility, a multi-use sports complex, a sky diving facility, an outdoor adventure park, a nearly 7-acre public park, and a sports health and wellness building.

The various projects slated to replace Victoria Golf Course are expected to take about three years to complete. The course remains open for now; no firm date for its closure has been announced. But its time is running out.

The clubhouse at Victoria Golf Course in Carson. (October 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

The Southern California Golf Guide, by Daniel Wexler, MTIII Golf Media, El Segundo, 2017.

Torrance Press-Herald archives.

“Victoria Golf Course,” Los Angeles County Dept. of Parks and Recreation website.

“Victoria Golf Course (Former BKK Carson Landfill),” Fact Sheet, California Dept. of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), Feb. 2016.

A golfer prepares to tee off on the 10th hole, center, while his playing partners look on at Victoria Golf Course. (October 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour diners watch as small plane narrowly misses them in 1982

Firemen douse the wreckage following the small plane crash as spectators look on in front of the Torrance Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour on Hawthorne Blvd. on April 9, 1982. (Credit: Check-Six.com website)

Birthday parties were in full swing at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour on Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance at 12:39 p.m. on Friday, April 9, 1982. At that moment, diners looked on in shock and disbelief as a small plane crashed and exploded into flames just in front of the popular restaurant.

Bob Farrell and Ken McCarthy had opened the first Farrell’s in Portland, Oregon, in 1963, and the chain grew quickly. The partners adopted an old-fashioned, good-timey theme both for the restaurants, which featured player pianos, and its servers, who wore early 1900s-style employee uniforms and straw hats.

The restaurants served regular meals, but specialized in ice cream. Lots of ice cream. They offered free sundaes to patrons on their birthdays, but became best known for seeming to promote the gluttonous consumption of ice cream. Employees would bring the largest dessert on the menu, the Zoo, to the table on a wooden stretcher-like carrier, accompanied by ambulance sirens and great fanfare.

The restaurant’s wholesome atmosphere and emphasis on large portions of food made it a big favorite among families, and the chain grew rapidly. The Marriott Corp. took notice, and acquired Farrell’s in 1972, when the chain had 58 total locations. By the mid-1970s, there were more than 130 Farrell’s restaurants nationwide.

Remains of the F-86 Sabrejet that crashed into the Sacramento Farrell’s on Sept. 24, 1972. (Credit: Sacramento Bee)

Strangely, Farrell’s seemed to have more than its share of tragedies associated with it. The most devastating of these occurred in Sacramento on Sept. 24, 1972. On that Sunday afternoon, the pilot of a vintage F-86 Sabrejet fighter plane crashed into the Sacramento Farrell’s after an unsuccessful takeoff attempt.

There were more than 100 people inside the Farrell’s when the plane struck it. 22 people died, 12 of them children. The pilot survived.

Ten years later, Farrell’s patrons looked on in horror as a private plane carrying three passengers crashed right in front of the restaurant at 23705 Hawthorne Blvd.

The aircraft, a Cessna Cardinal 177, had just taken off after a brief refueling stop at Torrance Municipal Airport following a return trip from Catalina Island. Los Angeles Fire Dept. Capt. Donald Morgan, 44, was piloting the plane, which also carried his 17-year-old daughter, Michelle, and her 19-year-old fiance Joseph Bagley. All three perished in the crash.

Witnesses at the airport heard the airport’s engine sputtering on takeoff, and the control tower radioed the plane to check on it, but received no response. 

Farrell’s ice cream desserts menu from the Seattle restaurant, circa 1965. (Credit: University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections)

Farrell’s waitress Iris Sicuro also heard the plane sputtering shortly before it landed on Hawthorne Blvd., which luckily was devoid of cars at that moment.

“It exploded into a big ball of fire,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “The flames were shooting up past the (restaurant) windows. We opened the front door, but the heat was too intense to go out just then.”

Miraculously, no one on the ground was injured, including the 30-40 lunchtime customers and staff inside the restaurant at the time. Flames reportedly shot more than 100 feet in the air, and several nearby parked cars were destroyed.

About two hours after the crash, Michelle Morgan’s brother Jim arrived at the crash site after hearing about it on the radio. “Oh God, it’s them!” he cried out upon realizing who the victims were.

Michelle, a junior at Torrance High School, was memorialized when the school’s Student Memorial Fund sponsored a 5K race in her honor in 1983. The surviving family members, her mother and two brothers Jim and Bart, ran in the race.

During the early 1980s, Marriott sold off the chain to a group of private investors, who changed the restaurant’s concept to more of an everyday family restaurant without the nostalgic trappings and emphasis on ice cream. Many of the restaurants began to close.

By 1986, the Torrance Farrell’s had closed. That year, Ed Debevic’s, a 1950s-style burger joint, announced plans to operate at its 23705 Hawthorne Blvd. location. They served up burgers and updated nostalgia until 1991. The site’s current occupant, the El Pollo Inka Peruvian restaurant, opened there in 1995.

As for Farrell’s, by 1990, nearly all of its locations had closed. The moribund chain was revived in 2008, when Paul Kramer’s Parlour Enterprises acquired rights to the name.

The El Pollo Inka Peruvian restaurant stands on the former Farrell’s site at 23705 Hawthorne Blvd. in Torrance. (Credit: El Pollo Inka website)

His new company, headquartered in Lake Forest in Orange County, began opening locations in 2009 in California and Hawaii.

Bob Farrell

The new chain, though much smaller than the original, operated with some success for several years, with founder Bob Farrell on board in an advisory role.

In 2011, there were rumors that Kramer was considering opening a Farrell’s at the Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, to be located at the former site of Jerry’s Deli. It never happened; the company ultimately decided against it.

Bob Farrell died in 2015 at 87. The new company’s fortunes began to ebb later in the 2010s, and the final Farrell’s location in Brea, Ca. closed in 2019.

Undated photo of Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour. (Credit: Old Los Angeles Restaurants website)

Sources:

“The Age of Aries in Torrance, California, April 9, 1982,” Check-Six.com website.

Daily Breeze files.

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Facebook pages.

Los Angeles Times files.

“Two Plane Crashes, Tragedy, and Ice Cream Sundaes: Was Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour Cursed or Just Unlucky?”, by Erica Landis, Wide Open Eats blog, Aug. 30, 2021.

Wikipedia.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX revitalizes the space program — and Hawthorne’s business profile

The SpaceX headquarters building in Hawthorne. June 11, 2020. Photo by Steve Jurvetson. (Credit: SpaceX)

For a brief time in January 2021, Elon Musk inched ahead of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the richest man in the world, with a net worth of $185 billion. Bezos reclaimed the title a month later, but Musk’s flagship ventures — SpaceX and Tesla Motors — continue to prosper.

Elon Musk. (Credit: SpaceX)

Musk’s pioneering rocket manufacturing company SpaceX has had a particularly strong impact on the South Bay. Its rise from a start-up firm scrambling to make the privatization of space a reality to the acknowledged leader in the field remains one of the great business success stories of the early 21st century.

Musk was born in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 28, 1971. He spent his childhood there before moving to Canada to attend college at age 17. He ended up transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned degrees in economics and physics.

He was accepted to the Stanford doctoral program in 1995, but the promise of the Internet boom enticed him into the business world after he’d attended just two days of classes in Palo Alto.

His first business venture was the development of a video game, which he sold for $500.

Next, he, together with his brother Kimbal and another investor, started Zip2, which produced Internet-based city guides. Compaq bought the service in 1999, bringing Musk his first fortune of $22 million.

Musk didn’t start the PayPal online payment service, but he did end up as the company’s CEO for a time. More importantly, he received a $100 million payout when eBay acquired PayPal in 2002.

He then used those funds to make another career U-turn, leaving the software industry for a different kind of venture: forming a private firm to manufacture rockets for space travel.

“I thought there was a significant opportunity to set a new benchmark for low-cost, reliable access to space,” Musk told Daily Breeze business reporter Muhammad el-Hasan in 2003. “The market is looking for an option that’s much better than what’s out there today.”

Elon Musk of SpaceX at its El Segundo headquarters on June 7, 2005. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Musk had started Space Exploration Technologies Corp., later shortened to SpaceX, in El Segundo in June 2002 at 1310 East Grand Ave. The nondescript industrial building currently houses Lee Fish USA, which imports fish from New Zealand.

Musk originally had attempted to build his operation through recycling discarded Russian ICBMs, but when that failed to work out, he decided that manufacturing his own rockets, while challenging, would make more sense in the long run.

The privatization of space following years of government funded and controlled efforts through NASA still seemed like a novel idea at the time, but Musk committed to it fully. 

In February 2007, Musk announced plans to consolidate SpaceX’s operations in El Segundo and East Los Angeles into a former Northrup Corp. manufacturing site built in 1966 and located off Crenshaw Blvd.  just south of the Hawthorne Airport. Its new address? 1 Rocket Road.

A booster rocket adorns the exterior of SpaceX’s Hawthorne headquarters in 2016. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

 “You guys don’t realize how big this is for Hawthorne,” Hawthorne Mayor Larry Guidi told an audience of 600 businessmen and community leaders, and Daily Breeze reporter Doug Irving,  at the time of the announcement. In hindsight, Guidi’s enthusiasm was not misplaced.

Unfortunately, it took the company several years to successfully launch one of its rockets into orbit. But Musk was persistent, and the company’s breakthrough successes began to come in 2008. After three previous attempts failed, the fourth one succeeded on Sept. 8, 2008.

The first successful Falcon 1 launch on Sept. 28, 2008. It marked a turning point for SpaceX’s fortunes. (Credit: SpaceX)

In addition to the launch success, the company also won a large contract from NASA to develop a program for supply flights from Earth to the International Space Station (ISS), becoming the first private space firm to take control of a NASA program.

After that, the company steadily began to assume its role as the primary provider for space travel in the U.S., recording a series of firsts for a private space firm throughout the 2010s.

The first stage of a Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket after landing on the autonomous spaceport drone ship (ASDS) in April 2016. According to SpaceX, the photograph was taken from a NASA chase plane. (Credit: SpaceX)

It also has pioneered the recycling of used rockets, crafting a system that returns them undamaged to earth, often onto a company barge landing platform in San Pedro. (The rocket recycling operation moved to the Port of Long Beach in 2021.)

By the end of 2008, the first Tesla automobiles had begun to be produced. The all-electric cars were considered an expensive novelty also at first, but, as prices fell and performance proved true to Musk’s promises, the cars have become increasingly common. (Musk didn’t found Tesla, but he bought into control of the company in 2004 and has been its CEO since 2008.)

Musk also has explored several other ventures, including tests of the Hyperloop mass transit system, tunneling operations using his Boring Co. firm,  and work with the artificial intelligence company Neuralink and the solar energy firm SolarCity, among others. Tests and demonstrations of both Boring Co. and Hyperloop operations often take place at the Hawthorne facility.

A SpaceX employee works on Falcon 9 rocket engines at the Hawthorne headquarters in this undated photo. (Credit: SpaceX)

As for SpaceX, the company has gone from 20 employees in 2003 to more than 9,500 by early 2021. Musk has moved some of his operations to Austin, Texas, and is building a large rocket factory near South Padre Island at the southern tip of the state. Rumors persist that he will move SpaceX to Texas in the future; Musk himself now lives in Austin.

So far, the company’s headquarters remains in Hawthorne, where it contributes significantly to the city’s tax base — it paid more than $700,000 in property taxes for 2021-22 — but also receives many tax breaks. The company’s current 10-year agreement with Hawthorne expires in 2022.

The company’s latest success occurred on Sept. 18, 2021, when its Dragon spacecraft  successfully completed Inspiration 4, the first-ever flight carrying only civilian passengers, returning the quartet safely to earth after three days in space.

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

El Segundo Herald archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

“SpaceX closes in on West Coast Starlink launches with lease for drone ship dock space,” by Eric Ralph, Teslarati website, April 27, 2021.

SpaceX  website.

Wikipedia.

Lunada Bay coast retains its natural beauty thanks in part to a $10 agreement made in 1924

View from the Lunada Bay bluffs looking southward toward Resort Point in 2016. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Even after nearly a century of residential development encroaching upon it, the view from the Lunada Bay cliffs in Palos Verdes Estates remains breathtaking. 

The cliff edges are unsullied by any manmade structures, leaving nothing to impede the sight of the gently curving arc of shoreline and the crescent-moon shaped bay which inspired the area’s name, Spanish for “half moon.”

When Frank Vanderlip took over the management of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1923, he did so with a goal in mind. He created the Palos Verdes Project, a carefully thought out plan for its development.

View of Lunada Bay looking northward from undated photo postcard circa 1950. (Credit: CSUDH Digital Archives)

In order to assure the longevity of the plan, a deal was struck for the Bank of America to transfer ownership of four and a half miles of shoreline extending from Malaga Cove south to just past Lunada Bay for $10. The symbolic sale, which became final in July 1925, was predicated on the agreement that no development would ever take place on the beachfront land stretching from Bluff Cove south to Lunada Bay.

Under the terms of the deal, the Palos Verdes Home Owners’ Association, whose members were the property owners in Palos Verdes Estates, gained stewardship of the shoreline and how it would be used. Developers, who were eager to subdivide and sell lots in the area, were prevented from building on the coastline itself, as were commercial entities.

A Palos Verdes Project promotional brochure from 1926 titled “Palos Verdes Estates: Prominent among the world’s famous residential communities” shows ambitious plans for Lunada Bay. It was to house one of five central business plazas planned for Peninsula neighborhoods, but, of these, only Malaga Cove Plaza was completed. Too bad, as the Lunada Bay Plaza design featured elaborate Spanish colonial architectural elements.

Portion of an advertisement shows the planned Lunada Bay Plaza complex that never was built. Undated, circa 1926. (Credit: The Palos Verdes Story, by Delane Morgan, 1982)

The brochure also mentions another plan that never became reality, and we quote: “Lunada Bay will be improved and converted into a swimming cove. A breakwater will be thrown out and a kiosk erected to accommodate bathing and beach parties.”

Both of these projects fell victim to the arrival of the Depression a couple of years later, with neither of them coming to fruition. 

The proposed Lunada Bay swimming cove and breakwater project that never became reality. (Credit: “Palos Verdes Estates: Prominent among the world’s famous residential communities,” Palos Verdes Project promotional brochure, 1926.)

Another idea floated in 1936 called for gifting former King Edward VIII of England, who had recently abdicated the throne over his scandalous affair with Wallis Simpson, with a prime $150,000 homesite overlooking Lunada Bay. He never took them up on the sweet deal.

But another crisis would threaten the pristine coastline in 1938. The Palos Verdes Estates community was situated on unincorporated Los Angeles County land, and it was revealed that the Palos Verdes Home Owners Association had been unable to pay county property taxes since 1931, amassing $62,000 in debt in the process.

The fear was that the county would take control of lands along the shoreline and then develop them into public beaches and parklands in return for retiring the debt, which the Association otherwise was unable to pay.

Torrance Herald ad, Oct. 13, 1938, Page 3-B. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

A possible solution came in the form of a movement for PVE to incorporate as a city of the sixth class. If that happened, the county would have no further influence on the future of the coastline. The new city would have complete control in perpetuity.

Debate raged over the pros and cons of incorporation, and the final vote was close. On Dec. 4, 1939, residents voted to incorporate by a margin of nine votes, 213-204. The shoreline was safe.

During World War II, the U.S. Army maintained a small station there, and housing for defnese workers was provided in the area.

Following the war, housing development in Lunada Bay ramped up significantly, with most lots snapped up for development. The city also succeeded in building new schools in the area, with Lunada Bay Elementary School opening in November 1956, and nearby Palos Verdes High School in September 1961.

A surfer catches a wave during high surf conditions in Lunada Bay in December 2015. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Through it all, the beachfront remained in its original undeveloped state. In 2016, the California Coastal Commission even put pressure on the city of PVE to add “amenities” to make the shoreline more accommodating to outside visitors. The city flatly refused.

The Commission’s recommendation came about as a result of the “locals only” activities of the Lunada Bay Boys, a band of surfers who have been accused of using harassment, vandalism and threats to discourage outside visitors from enjoying Lunada Bay’s excellent surfing conditions.

In fact, the Lunada Bay Boys built the only structure on the Lunada Bay beach, a rock patio  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 finished demolishing it in December 2016.

A work crew uses sledge hammers and a jackhammer to demolish the illegal patio in Lunada Bay on Nov. 29, 2016. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

The Coastal Commision felt that the addition of benches, new signs and a parklike atmosphere would discourage localism and allow everyone to use the area for recreation without fear of retribution.

PVE officials disagreed, and Lunada Bay’s shoreline remains undeveloped for now.

Lunada Bay, 2021. (Credit: Google Earth)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

“Palos Verdes Estates: Prominent among the world’s famous residential communities,” Palos Verdes Project promotional brochure, 1926.

Palos  Verdes Peninsula News archives.

The Palos Verdes Story, by Delane Morgan, The Palos Verdes Review, 1982.

San Pedro News Pilot archives.

Torrance Herald ad, Oct. 27, 1938, Page 3-A. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

Republican candidate Barry Goldwater brings 1964 campaign to the South Bay

President Lyndon B. Johnson, left, a Democrat, and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater faced off in the 1964 presidential election. (Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Lyndon B. Johnson’s 1964 decisive presidential election victory over Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater always comes up when the subject of landslide elections arises.

Johnson had been vice president under President John F. Kennedy, and became president after the Nov. 22, 1963 assassination of Kennedy. LBJ had only been in office a couple of months when the 1964 presidential campaign began in earnest in January 1964. It had been postponed in the wake of the assassination.

The Johnson-Goldwater tussle offered a clear choice between the incumbent president, a centrist Democrat, and Goldwater, a staunchly conservative Republican. Johnson’s campaign tried to paint Goldwater as a dangerous war-monger, while Goldwater’s campaign attacked Johnson as being too liberal.

Goldwater had a couple of ties to the South Bay that brought him to the area in 1963, after he’d already made it clear that he was running for president. Members of the Peninsula Republican Men’s Club presented him with an award in April 1963 in Torrance, where he was helping his daughter with a project at her home. Social/political events also were held for another daughter, Mrs. Thomas H. Ross, who lived in Redondo Beach where her husband practiced medicine.

Once the campaign began in 1964, Goldwater established a strong South Bay presence.

The first Goldwater for President office in Torrance opened on Jan. 11, 1964, at 4729 Torrance Blvd., near where Scardino’s Italian restaurant currently stands.

His campaign later moved their headquarters to 1323 El Prado in Torrance, across the street from McCown’s Rexall drug store. The small storefront building still stands, just north of the Clutch and Coffee restaurant in downtown Torrance.

Torrance Press-Herald, Oct. 28, 1964, Page C-1. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

Goldwater had to cancel his first major South Bay campaign appearance scheduled for  April 6, 1964, at Ascot Park near Gardena because he had to stay in Washington for the congressional debate on civil rights legislation.

On May 16, the Palos Verdes Young Republicans sponsored a one-day to cruise to Catalina Island, where those who paid $10 for a ticket got a chance to meet Goldwater in person.

Palos Verdes Peninsula News ad, April 30, 1964, Page 24. (Credit: Palos Verdes Peninsula News archives)

Goldwater appeared at a major campaign rally at El Camino Stadium (later renamed Murdock Stadium) on the El Camino College campus on Aug. 22, 1964. The 7,000-seat venue was filled for the event, with tickets costing $1.50. Area Congressman Alphonso Bell introduced Goldwater.

Teenagers also got in on the local campaign. The group Torrance Teenagers for Goldwater held a bake sale fundraiser at 228th and Sepulveda in Torrance on Oct. 4.

Torrance Press-Herald, Oct. 28, 1964, Page C-1. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

At Torrance High School, history teacher James Armstrong engaged three of his classes in projects involving the presidential election. (Armstrong later would become one of Torrance’s most celebrated mayors, serving from 1978-1986. )

They spent a total of 18 hours participating in activities outside of the classroom related to the campaign, choosing the side with which they wanted to be involved.

Groups of South Bay and Harbor Area Goldwater supporters also made the pilgrimage to rallies at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on March 19, Dodger Stadium for another major rally on Sept. 16, and then, close to the Nov. 3 election, back to the Sports Arena.

Torrance Press-Herald, Oct. 28, 1964, Page C-1. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

As for Johnson, he had no such local ties. His local Democratic Headquarters office in Torrance didn’t open until October 11, 1964, less than a month before the election. It was located at 1876 Torrance Blvd., currently the site of a residential housing development.

South Bay Johnson supporters did greet Johnson when Air Force One arrived at Long Beach Airport on Oct. 11, the same day as the opening of his Torrance headquarters. From there, they accompanied Johnson to his public speech in South Gate, bypassing the South Bay.

Area newspapers offer no evidence that Johnson made any personal appearances in the South Bay during the campaign.

Dell comic book biographies of the two candidates from 1964.

So how did it all turn out locally? Goldwater may have lost the national race by a large margin, but he won several cities in the South Bay. 

According to near-complete results from selected cities reported in the Torrance Press-Herald, Goldwater won the city of Torrance by more than 1,000 votes, 24,293 to 23,241. Thanks to strong Republican support on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Goldwater won in Rolling Hills Estates, 2,351 to 868 votes. It was the largest margin for him in the area.

Johnson had victorious margins in Carson, Lomita and the Los Angeles city and county areas in the South Bay. He also won by more than 400,000 votes in Los Angeles County, and by more than 1 million in the state of California (59.11% to 40.79%).

Nationally, Johnson defeated Goldwater by almost 16 million votes, garnering 61.1% to Goldwater’s 38.5%. Johnson’s final margin in the electoral college was 486-52. He carried 44 states to Goldwater’s six.

Torrance Press-Herald, Sept. 2, 1964, Page 28. The event later was rescheduled for Sept. 16. (Credit: Torrance Historical Newspaper and Directories Archive database, Torrance Public Library)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

“The Most Lopsided Presidential Elections in US History,” by Tom Murse, ThoughtCo. website, Jan. 15, 2020.

Palos Verdes Peninsula News archives.

Redondo Reflex archives.

Torrance Press-Herald archives.

Wikipedia.

1964 presidential campaign ads:

Lyndon Johnson (Credit: Library of Congress):

Barry Goldwater (Credit: JFK Library):

Development of San Pedro’s Deane Dana Friendship Park a lengthy process

View of San Pedro and the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach from Deane Dana Friendship Park. May 5, 2020. (Credit: Photo by Henry Gonzalez, from Deane Dana Friendship Park & Nature Center Facebook page)

Deane Dana Friendship Park’s hilltop location offers some of the most spectacular views of the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in the entire Harbor Area.

The park also offers sports facilities, hiking trails and a nature center, all of which have been added in recent years.

In 1960, Los Angeles County purchased the 123-acre parcel of land which stretches from San Pedro across into neighboring Rancho Palos Verdes. The Friendship Park land remained completely undeveloped for decades, and area residents prized it for its wilderness feel. 

View of undeveloped Friendship Park from the air looking west, top, in 1960. Western San Pedro in the foreground with portion of Averill Park visible at lower left, Western Ave. at center. (Credit: Los Angeles County Library Digital Collections)

Perhaps that’s why an early plan to rename it Cabrillo Historical Park and conduct a local “world’s fair” event displaying histories of local cultures never became a reality.

The park’s future as an undeveloped wilderness began to change in the mid-1960s, when ideas to develop the land in one way or another started to proliferate. 

The first idea? Make the open land part of the new California State University campus approved for the South Bay/Harbor Area in 1960. Classes began at temporary locations in 1965 while CSU leaders tried to decide between three permanent sites.

The three sites: Friendship Park and some additional parcels in the South Shores area of San Pedro, land on the border between Torrance and Rolling Hills Estates, and the Carson site where the campus eventually was built.

In 1966, the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce proposed building an 18-hole golf course on the hilltop site. The County Board of Supervisors nixed the idea, saying the site was too small. 

But the idea didn’t die. In 1972, supervisors okayed the construction of a smaller nine-hole course on the site. County parks department head Norman Johnson told the Los Angeles Times that he expected the course would open in Summer 1973.

After that proposal fizzled, the supervisors started on a novel track: developing the barren acreage into an actual park. $2 million was appropriated, and planning began in May 1974. 

By 1980, the project was still in the planning phase. That October, it was announced that the construction of trails, picnic sites, a playground and restrooms would begin. Much of the land would remain undeveloped under the plan.

In 1987, the supervisors voted to rename the recreation area of the park from the San Pedro Recreation Center to the Martin Bogdanovich Recreation Center, after the founder of Star-Kist Tuna.

Sign near 9th St. and Western Ave. in San Pedro, with park on top of the hill rising in the background. August 2021. (Photo by Sam Gnerre)

The park, still in somewhat of a spartan state despite the addition of soccer fields that same year, faced its biggest crisis in 1993. Los Angeles County faced a $1.6 billion budget deficit that year, the largest in its history. As a result, closures of county facilities had to be made.

The supervisors included Friendship Park on its list of 23 parks to be shuttered, along with Bodger Park in Hawthorne and Del Aire Park east of El Segundo. Fortunately, that worst-case scenario of abandoning the park was averted.

Deane Dana at the February 2001 groundbreaking of the Deane Dana Nature Center. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

In February 1995, the supervisors voted to rename the park after one of their own, retiring Supervisor Deane Dana. Dana lived in Palos Verdes Estates, and enjoyed hiking in Friendship Park.

The park’s biggest controversy erupted a month later with the unveiling of plans to build a $4 million, 6,426-square-foot nature center at a highly visible location in the park to be named after Dana. Public reaction came swiftly, and harshly.

Residents and environmental activists mobilized quickly to express vigorous opposition to the plan at a series of often fiery meetings during the rest of 1995. Opponents filed a lawsuit opposing the center in early 1996. The project was put on hold.

Dana retired from the board later that year. His successor, Don Knabe, adopted a more conciliatory role toward the community, pledging to scale back the size of the nature center.

In September 1997, he announced a plan calling for a center with just under 4,000 square feet of floor space, to be built at a less conspicuous location in the park.

L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe addresses the audience gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Deane Dana Friendship Park Nature Center in February 2001. A model of the center is in the foreground. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

The supervisors signed on to the new plan in 1998, and opponents dropped their lawsuit. In February 2001, both groups gathered, peacefully this time, at the groundbreaking for the new center. The Deane Dana Friendship Park Nature Center officially opened on March 14, 2002. The dedication ceremony took place seven years after the center first was proposed.

The Bogadanovich Recreation Center portion of the park now includes a large playground, the soccer fields, a baseball field and an indoor gymnasium. And the park still has some of  the best scenic vistas around.

Adult league hoopsters play on the new gym floor at the newly remodeled Bogdanovich Recreation Center in 2006. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

San Pedro News Pilot archives.

Torrance Press-Herald archives.

The once hotly debated Deane Dana Nature Center in September 2018. (Credit: Deane Dana Friendship Park & Nature Center Facebook page)

Residents have lived with giant electrical towers in Redondo and Torrance for decades

The AES power plant, rear left, the King Harbor welcome sign and the row of power line towers are seen in view looking west from Anita St. in Redondo Beach toward the Pacific Ocean on Oct. 23, 2018. (Daily Breeze file photo by Kristen Farmer)

The 100-foot high electric towers dominate the skyline along the Redondo-Hermosa Beach border. They stretch east from the AES power plant near the shoreline, down Herondo and Anita streets, which become 190th St. in west Torrance. From there, their path follows the 190th St. corridor, eventually veering north to terminate at the Southern California Edison (SCE) La Fresa substation in north Torrance.

The high-tension wires carry a powerful 220 kilovolt current, which gets distributed along smaller lines from substations such as La Fresa to South Bay business and residential users.

Giant towers have already been erected this view looking toward the La Fresa substation in north Torrance on Oct. 9, 1947. Wires had yet to be attached. (Credit: Huntington Digital Library)

SCE built the line of huge steel towers beginning in the late 1940s. In 1917, it had purchased the old Redondo Beach steam plant property, which was built in 1907 by Henry Huntington, in large part to provide power to his popular Pacific Electric Red Car trolley lines.

As new sources of electric power came online, the plant’s role lessened, and it began to be used mostly as a backup. It closed in 1933. In 1946, SCE announced plans to build a modern power plant to replace it on the N. Harbor Dr. site near the city’s border with Hermosa Beach. It came online in 1948.

The SCE La Fresa substation main building in 1941. (Credit: Huntington Digital Library

The purpose of the giant towers? To connect the new power plant with the main electrical substation for the Torrance-Redondo area, La Fresa. The substation’s name came from the Spanish word for strawberry, as the plant was constructed in 1930 in an area of mostly strawberry fields.

Located at 17860 Yukon Ave. in north Torrance, the substation underwent a $2.8 million  upgrade completed in 1948 in order to be able to receive and distribute the high-voltage power coming from the Redondo station and other sources. It was part of SCE’s overall plan to conform to what was then becoming the modern de facto national standard of power transmission: 220 volts at 60 hertz. (La Fresa had been operating at 66 volts and 50 hertz.)

La Fresa substation in 2021. (Credit: Google Earth)

Many of the giant towers used probably were made of steel from Torrance’s Columbia Steel plant, then a major provider of steel used in electric utility structures.

When they first were erected, the swath of electric towers marched across mostly farmland and vacant rolling hills. But the area quickly filled with housing developments during the post-WWII residential housing boom, and the unsightly nature of the towers became more noticeable, with houses built near the steel behemoths routinely selling for less than others in the area. 

It wasn’t until many decades later that SCE allowed the land directly underneath the towers to be used for civic purposes. The Redondo Beach Dog Park, located directly beneath the row of towers at 190 Flagler Lane, didn’t open until 1992. Nurseries and community gardens also were allowed to operate under the towers.

Owners let their dogs run at the Redondo Beach Dog Park, beneath the line of SCE towers heading eastward. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

The Redondo Beach King Harbor welcome sign also lies beneath the towers, and is dwarfed by them. Its water fountain had to be shut down in 2009 due to safety concerns over its spray potentially coming into contact with the tower’s electric current.

But the potential effects from electromagnetic fields in the area around the towers caused the most public outrage and debate. The furore began with a study conducted by the University of Colorado in Denver in the 1970s that linked some types of cancer in children to proximity to electromagnetic (EMF) fields created by electricity.

The 1992 publication of a major study conducted by Robert P. Liburdy at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at UC Berkeley describing a possible physiological link between EMF and cancer in children ramped up the intensity of concern around the topic.

Lawsuits began to pop in courts, including one in San Diego, with litigants claiming that high-tension wires had caused cancer in their children.

The high tension wires rise behind houses on Arvada St. in west Torrance. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

The hysteria began to die down in 1995, when an unknown whistleblower’s claims that Liburdy had fudged the data to make his EMF case in the 1992 study were verified to be true by an independent panel of scientists. Liburdy had to forego the $3.3 million in federal funds he’d received as a result of his study, and he left his job at the UC Berkeley lab.

The jury remains out on exactly what effects EMF areas near high-tension power lines have on humans, with the Environmental Protection Agency currently stating that the evidence of such links remains inconclusive.

The negative aesthetic effects of the towers remain real, however. Now that their once lightly populated path has become a dense urban landscape, calls for them to be removed, especially in the Redondo Beach portion of the pathway, have become louder.

Towers stretch eastward in this view from Flagler Lane in Redondo Beach along 190th St. toward Torrance. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Energy company AES purchased the Redondo power plant from SCE in 1997. It scaled back operations at the plant over the years, but continued to operate it despite opposition from the city, which wants to convert the property into parkland and possibly a mixed-use development, and to have the towers removed to improve the area’s scenic qualities.

AES agreed to sell the site to a private developer in 2020, but only after the plant has closed down. In April 2021, the company received permission from state power regulators to operate the plant until 2023.

In 2019, SCE offered to pay for the towers in the Redondo Beach section to be dismantled and the lines moved underground once the AES plant does close. The high-tension lines can’t be completely removed even with the closure of the plant, as they still serve as a crucial component of the South Bay’s power grid.

SCE’s cost for the proposed removal of the Redondo towers is prohibitive, with the project of moving them underground estimated to run as much as $7.9 million. At those prices, removal of the much longer Torrance segment of giant towers seems unlikely in the near future.

Looking west from Prospect Avenue and Anita St. toward the power plant in Redondo Beach, illuminated by lights, one can see rows of powerlines that obstruct the ocean view. February 2000 photo. (Daily Breeze staff file photo)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

“Do High Voltage Power Lines Cause Cancer?”, by Steven Salzberg, Forbes magazine, Sept. 1, 2014.

Easy Reader archives.

“Electric and Magnetic Fields from Power Lines,” Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website, updated June 2, 2021.

“EMF Researcher Faked Data,” by Dan Vergano,” Science magazine website, June 30, 1999.

Los Angeles Times files.

“Southern California Edison Company Substations, Monumental Type,” Historic American Engineering Record #CA-2318, National Park Service, Jan. 2, 2014.

Torrance Press-Herald archives.

In this 1954 cover from SCE’s in-house magazine, workers upgrade an electrical tower near the La Fresa substation in Torrance.

Stephen M. White’s sterling reputation tainted by stand on Chinese Exclusion Act

The statue of Stephen M. White originally placed on the grounds of the downtown L.A. courthouse currently stands on a traffic island at the intersection of Stephen M. White Drive (rear) and Oliver Vickery Circle Way (right) at the entrance to Cabrillo Beach in San Pedro. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Stephen M. White excelled at everything he did. His stints as a successful lawyer and supremely effective politician brought him wide recognition in the late 1800s.

He was so highly regarded by colleagues, the public and the press that, within five days of his death in 1901, a fund to erect a statue of him in Los Angeles already had $3,700 in its coffers, the equivalent of $120,000 in 2021 dollars.

Stephen M. White. (Credit: USC Digital Library)

White was born on Jan. 19, 1853, in San Francisco to Francis and William F. White. White was a prosperous merchant who later became active in California state government. His son attended Bay Area private schools, then graduated from Santa Clara College in 1874. Studying with lawyers in the Santa Cruz area, he passed the state bar later that year.

He immediately moved to Los Angeles to set up his law practice. Working mostly as a defense attorney, he earned a strong legal reputation. He became a charter member of the Los Angeles County Bar Association in 1882.

Undated handbill circa 1882 touts passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act. (Credit: History Commons website).

He also began dabbling in politics during those years, losing races for Los Angeles County District Attorney in 1875 and 1879 before being elected to the post in 1882. 

It was his campaign for D.A.  in 1879 that would tarnish his reputation some 140 years later.

White associated himself with the Workingman’s Party of California, running on their ticket for the office.

San Franciscan Denis Kearney had founded the party a year earlier as a vehicle to promote his anti-Chinese views. The Chinese who had come to California to help build the railroads had begun settling in its cities, much to the consternation of Kearney and others of his ilk.

The Workingman’s Party and its backers worked tirelessly to pass the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first U.S. law to bar a specific ethnic group from coming to its shores. They succeeded in pushing the bill through in 1882, and the racist law stood until 1943.

The association didn’t hurt White’s career. After his stint as D.A., he won election to the California State Senate in 1887. For most of his four-year term, he served as the state’s lieutenant governor.

Cartoon taken from the Sonoma County voting slate for the Workingman’s Party of California, 1879, expresses anti-Chinese sentiment, including the party’s slogan, “The Chinese Must Go”. (Credit: Courtesy Sonoma County Library)

But his greatest triumph, the one that forever endeared him to the city of Los Angeles, came after he was elected to the United States Senate in 1893. White’s tenure in the Senate came at the time of the political battle to determine whether Santa Monica or San Pedro would become the official Port of Los Angeles.

Otis Chandler and the Los Angeles Times favored San Pedro, while Southern Pacific railroad  magnate Collis P. Huntington wanted Santa Monica.

White took the side of San Pedro, advocating for it during a three-day debate with Sen. William Frye of Maine, who supported Santa Monica. He won the day, managing to wrangle the passage of an  appropriations bill for the new port. That cleared the way for San Pedro’s final approval as official port, which came in 1897.

Two years later, San Pedro celebrated, holding the Free Harbor Jubilee, which attracted thousands on April 26, 1899. They saw the first load of rock for the port’s new breakwater get dumped into the harbor.

White’s Senate term ended in 1899, and he didn’t run for re-election. Two years later, on Feb. 21, 1901, he died following a severe stomach hemorrhage related to his gastric ulcers.

The Stephen M. White statue adorns the lawn in front of the red sandstone Los Angeles County Courthouse and Hall of Records in this undated postcard circa 1908-1933. Mown letters in front of it read “County Court House.” (Credit: William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University)

The outpouring of public affection and high regard for White filled the pages of the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Herald and San Pedro News Pilot for days following his death.

The money was raised for the statue honoring him, and it was installed prominently in front of the old red sandstone county courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. It was moved several times after that, first to the Hall of Records, then back to the new courthouse when it opened in 1958.

San Pedro began lobbying to have the statue moved to the Harbor Area at least as early as 1924. Community leaders renewed the proposal to move the statue upon the dedication of Stephen M. White Drive in San Pedro in 1932. The new road connected Pacific Ave. to Cabrillo Beach.

The Stephen M. White statue, previously located on the corner of Temple and Broadway on the lawn of the Hall of Records. stands in its new location on the corner of 1st and Hill outside the new L.A. county courthouse, located at 1945 S. Hill St. Oct. 30, 1958, photo. (Credit: Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection)

In addition to the roadway, the U.S. Maritime Commission named one of its Liberty ships the  Stephen M. White in 1942. Fifteen years later, Stephen M. White Middle School opened to students on Figueroa Ave. in what would become the city of Carson.

In 1989, the city of Los Angeles relented, and agreed to move the statue of White to its present location on Stephen M. White Drive at the entrance to Cabrillo Beach. In 1995, the Port of Los Angeles christened one of its new pilot boats the Stephen M. White.

Now, some activists and historians are calling for the removal of the statue from Cabrillo Beach and the renaming of the Carson middle school, citing White’s involvement with promoting the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that has sullied his once impeccable reputation. In June 2020, protestors doused his statue with red paint.

So far, no plans to remove the statute or rename the school have been announced.

Stephen M. White Middle School on Figueroa St. in Carson opened in 1957. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

Sources:

Daily Breeze archives.

“Looking at Statues: Public Protest or Vandalizing?”, by Brad Nixon, Under Western Skies blog, June 25, 2020.

Los Angeles Herald archives.

Los Angeles Times archives.

“Reckoning with the racist legacy of our Founding Fathers,” by Terelle Jerricks, Random Lengths, June 10, 2021.

San Pedro: A Pictorial History, by Henry P. Silka, San Pedro Bay Historical Society, 1993.

San Pedro News Pilot archives.

“The Two Sides of Los Angeles lawyer Stephen M. White,” by Michael L. Stern, Los Angeles Daily Journal, April 24, 2019.

Wikipedia.

San Pedro street sign for Stephen M. White Drive. (August 2021 photo by Sam Gnerre)

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