In the beginning, there was mud.
That is until Los Angeles County carved out the largest man-made small-craft harbor in the world from tidal flats near the mouth of Ballona Creek.
They called it Marina del Rey.
In the winter of 1962-63, while it was still under construction, devastating storms sent waves crashing into the new harbor, prompting construction of a massive breakwater.
The marina was completed in April, 1965, a dozen years after the Board of Supervisors received an initial $2-million loan from the state to purchase the property.
Altogether, $36 million in local, state and federal funds were invested in building the marina channel, jetties, breakwater, boat basins and road system.
Today, the entire 804-acre area is publicly owned, but the hotels, apartments, condominiums, restaurants, shops, offices and boat slips were developed privately.
Businesses there operate on long-term, mostly 60-year leases, that can be bought and sold like traditional real estate. The county receives basic rent plus a percentage of the gross receipts. Altogether, the marina contributed $16.4 million to the county treasury last year.
The marina's largest leaseholder is Abraham M. Lurie and his new partners, a secretive group of Middle Eastern investors. Together, they control 16% of the marina acreage, including three hotels, two apartment complexes, restaurants, shops, offices and more than 1,000 boat slips.