Before it was paradise, the little strip of L.A. between the marina and the sea was just a sand bar full of oil rigs


The Silver Strand was a south Venice oilfield  in the 1930s Photo by Marina del Rey Historical Society

The Silver Strand was a south Venice oilfield
in the 1930s
Photo by Marina del Rey Historical Society

By Elliot Stiller

Believe it or not, the beautiful Silver Strand — the idyllic residential enclave lining the grand canal from Washington Boulevard to the mouth of Marina del Rey harbor — was once an ecological disaster.

At the dawn of the 20th century, when what’s now Marina del Rey was a saltwater swamp, the Silver Strand was just a group of sand bars on the southern tip of Venice.

Then came the oil men.

Deposits of oil and gas were discovered at the tail end of the Roaring ‘20s, and soon the area that would become the Silver Strand was a gritty, grimy Depression Era oilfield.

The oil ran out a few decades later, but the shoring up of the land and the roads built to access all those mineral riches laid the groundwork for a thriving neighborhood once Marina del Rey began to take off.

One of the earliest developers to understand the Silver Strand’s true potential was Albert Corey, who built the homes on Topsail Street that remain today.

Corey, now 90, built his home on Pacific Avenue in 1955. During construction, he discovered a 3’-by-3’ abutment for an oil derrick about 10 feet down, which he removed with the blessing of the city’s Department of Building and Safety.

It was anchored pretty solid: “My friend said ‘Holy cow, my tractor can’t even move it!’” Corey recalled.

Other remnants of the post-oil construction boom remain, including a 16-home English country village with thatched rooftops built by workers flown in from Britain, said Peter Bergman, who has been selling homes in the Silver Strand for more than 25 years.

“The Silver Strand offers a style of living that I think most people would aspire to — to live by the beach and have all the comforts of modern living makes it a very special place,” Bergman said.

Today the Silver Strand is known not for steel oil rigs, but for verdant gardens and trees with an ocean view. There are about 350 homes in the Silver Strand, many of them measuring about 4,000 square feet, Bergman said. As of late the neighborhood has become more family-oriented, he said, and now teems with children.

The Silver Strand is technically organized into two neighborhoods: Silver Strand Marina Homeowners Inc. to the north and the Del Rey Tract of the Silver Strand to the south, according to the Silver Strand News. In 1979, the northern group banded together to raise $4.5 million to build sewers, street lighting and other infrastructure. The Del Rey Tract was built by the city.

The life of the neighborhood is also vibrant, said Sandie West, president of the Marina Peninsula Council, which boasts frequent block parties, an active neighborhood watch and even a community newsletter.

“It’s a homeowner’s association that really grew.  It’s a cool model. They are a lively group,” West said.