Sunday, February 5, 2012

Santa Monica Pier

If you ask someone what the essential image of the California Dream is, you will most likely get a response that involves "sunny beaches". To this end, the Santa Monica Pier seems like the quintessential place for the California Dream. As a public space, the pier has done much to be inviting to the general populace as is evident by its history.

The pier was first opened to the public in 1909. Since its inception, the pier has undergone various transformations, such as the addition of an amusement park in 1916 and a yacht harbor in 1933 (for more information about the various additions / transformations, click here). What's interesting is that the property on which the pier was located was owned privately until it was sold to the city in the early 1970's. When the pier was in threat of being destroyed in favor of building a man-made island resort, the public responded with discontent, eventually causing the plans to be scrapped.

What I find interesting about this bit of history of Santa Monica Pier is the fact that the public felt so strongly about the issue of the resort that they were able to prevent the change from happening. Furthermore, it seems that the Pier has always striven to attract a wide range of people. That is, there doesn't appear to be discrimination against any specific ethnic group or class. From firsthand experience, as well as some reviews which I believe confirm my observation, I believe the pier is truly a public space - that it does not try to exclude any one group of people.

My opinions on the beach as a public space will change as I research more, but for now I would like to ask to any readers your opinions of Santa Monica Pier as a public space. Do you believe the space is truly welcoming to all? If not, why? Any sort of firsthand experiences of visiting the pier would also be appreciated!


  1. I've been to the Santa Monica Pier a few times in the past two months and I'd say that it can be considered a public space, but not necessarily to everyone. Every time I've been there I've noticed several homeless people on the benches and on the grassy areas (above the pier closer to the streets/promenade area) which contrasts significantly from the types of people I usually see walking, running, or shopping (middle/upper class, usually older, predominately white). Without making any generalizations I'd argue that there's definitely some class tension in the area surrounding the pier, but the pier itself is usually very representative of the city in terms of diversity and openness. My only complaint would be that as a public space it can get relatively cramped and pricey certain times during the year (i.e. the summer months during prime tourist season).

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      Thanks for your comment! I certainly agree with your complaint that as a public space Santa Monica Pier can at times become pretty crowded and pricey. Although these won't stop someone from visiting the Pier if he/she wanted to (regardless of class), it definitely appeals more to those in the middle class or higher.

      Referring to your statement on class tension, although I do believe that there is some tension in the area, I don't think it is to a high degree. At least from my observations, people from all classes seem for the most part content being in the area.