The Annenberg Community Beach House throws itself an activity-filled fifth anniversary fiesta

By Michael Aushenker

Kids play in the pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House, which this weekend celebrates its fifth anniversary as a public recreation and cultural programming destination

Kids play in the pool at the Annenberg Community Beach House, which this weekend celebrates its fifth anniversary as a public recreation and cultural programming destination

It’s a five-year anniversary so big it will take a whole weekend to celebrate properly.

The Annenberg Community Beach House, which opened in 2009, is throwing open its doors for two full days of festivities that include ballroom dancing, synchronized swimmers, live music, architecture lectures, yoga, kid-friendly beach games, a screening of a silent film staring original occupant Marion Davies, paddleboard lessons, a kite-flying workshop, a beach picnic and, of course, an open swim.

“We created these activities as a way to introduce people to the Beach House for the first time or have [regulars] experience the Beach House in another way,” Annenberg Community Beach House Manager Nan Friedman said.

The beach house and swimming pool are the vestiges of what was once a five-acre estate established by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst for, Davies his mistress. The original site included a 100-room mansion that saw decadent parties featuring guests such as Charlie Chaplin and Marlene Dietrich, according to the Annenberg Foundation’s website.

A developer who bought the property in 1946 razed the mansion but saved the guest house, pool and cabanas while building the Hotel Oceanside. The state acquired the property by 1959 and leased the site to the Sand and Sea Club until 1989, when the city of Santa Monica purchased it.

Following damage from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, the city’s plans to repurpose the site for public use were in flux until 2004, when philanthropist Wallis Annenberg provided a $27.5 million grant to refurbish and reopen the site.

Over the past five years, the beach house has staged a variety of arts and culture activities.

The city’s “Beach=Culture” series “transforms the Beach House into a place where you can see a local choreographer working out a new dance, listen to a quirky accordionist experiment with electronics and voice, get a sense of the process that a film composer goes through to score a scene, view a collection of sculpture, painting and photography brought together by a local curator, or experience a Pulitzer Prize winner read from their work,” beach house curator Isa Naomi Okuyama, the city’s cultural affairs supervisor, said.

“The Beach House gives back to the community in a very real way,” Okuyama said. “As the nation’s only public beach club, it brings together all sorts of different communities for a shared experience at the Santa Monica Beach.”

Beyond the party, Friedman said the Beach House will continue to “look at some new ways we can engage the public” and add to current popular programming such as summer picnics and bird walks.

“We want to continue to be a great destination year-round, where people can come to have wonderful experiences and make memories,” Friedman said.

Anniversary celebration activities happen from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Annenberg Community Beach House, 415 Pacific Coast Hwy., Santa Monica. Call (310) 458-4904 or see a detailed schedule of events at

Saturday and Sunday
9 a.m. – yoga on the beach
9:30 a.m. – paddleboard lessons, $15
10 a.m. – architecture and history tours

12:45 p.m. – synchronized swimmers
Noon – ballroom dance showcase
1 to 4 p.m. – open swim and beach games
1:30 p.m. – ballroom dance lessons
3:30 p.m. – open dancing
4 p.m. – bubble-making
5:30 p.m. – beach picnic
6:15 p.m. – Prohibition-era music by Doozy
7:45 p.m. – screening of “Show People,” staring Marion Davies

9 a.m. – bubble-making
10 a.m. – volleyball clinic
11 a.m. – deejays and dance contest
Noon to 4 p.m. – open swim and beach games
12:30 to 2 p.m. – beach picnic