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Toast of the Town Along the Coast : Residents, Visitors Fete Marina del Rey's 25th Anniversary

October 11, 1987|LORI GRANGE | Times Staff Writer

They're calling her 25, but the books don't lie. She's 30. Either way, she's doing well: attractive, wealthy, charming and desirable--at last count she had more than 10,000 suitors. No wonder they're throwing her a three-day party.

Happy anniversary, Marina del Rey.

Weekend tourists--up to 30,000 a day during the summer--and love-struck residents are toasting this coastal community through today in honor of her 25th anniversary as the world's largest man-made recreational small boat harbor (actually, the marina's skeleton was completed in 1957, but businesses and local operations didn't begin until five years later).

At Burton Chace Park on Saturday, small crowds gathered to watch the crews of UCLA and Loyola-Marymount race 8-man boats, view antique schooners and visit booths set up by community and county agencies. A Marina Cruise Line vessel carrying about 60 sightseers chugged up the main Marina channel, with a six-man team from the KaiNalu Outrigger Canoe Club in hot pursuit.

While representatives from WATER, Los Angeles County's Water Awareness Training Education and Recruitment program, offered free boating lessons, actress Patricia McPherson and her husband, naturalist James Garrett, explained the abundant wildlife around the 804 acres of land and water. The activities promoted the essence of Marina del Rey: recreation in a comfortable, scenic community of controlled development.

"I don't think there's a very clearly defined mission for this community other than just what it is today--a financially successful, unified place to live and play," said Jim Cole, chief of special services for the Los Angeles County Beaches and Harbors Department.

The community is touted as the county's greatest asset, boosting its budget by $16 million a year--not including taxes. The average household income is more than $32,000, and about 50% of its more than 10,000 residents are college graduates. With high rents and an emphasis on the expensive sport of boating, Marina del Rey has become a haven for rising professionals and retired well-to-dos.

'Quaint, New, Clean'

"It's quaint, new, clean, fast-moving . . . kind of nouveau, " said Judith Baxter, a newcomer to the community.

Baxter, 25, is an associate at a prestigious Los Angeles law firm and a tenant at Mariner's Village, a 1,000-unit complex that boasts ocean views and luxurious living. After spending two years in Ohio as a law school student, she explained, she wanted to try living comfortably. "This is a quaint area; expensive, but very nice," she said.

Marina del Rey has not always been a haven for the young and affluent, however. It began as a quiet harbor for boaters and beach-lovers, many of whom resent the gradual takeover of the area by development. In particular, there have been continuing hassles over rising boat slip fees.

"The popular belief amongst the public is that everybody who owns a boat down here is a millionaire," said Lenny Price, who has lived in his 35-foot sloop in the marina for 23 years. "These big shots come in here with 150-foot yachts and become commanders of the yacht clubs. Me, I pay $465 a month just to float in the Pacific, and all I get is a nice hole in the float."

But Price, 74, saids he is willing to pay for the pleasures of residing in the community. "You can't beat living next to the ocean. Down here, you see, the ocean doesn't change a whole lot."

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