Renaissance In Redondo
Everyone loves a makeover. Whether it’s a person or a place, those dramatic “before” and “after” images can be inspiring examples of transformation.
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Like most waterfront property, King Harbor has a history rich with the politics of commerce, a cast of players championing for improvements, and the soul of the land itself to consider. King Harbor is unique because it provides such a broad array of offerings to the community: a working waterfront with fishing and fresh seafood, hotels and dining, retail and office space, residences, parks and recreation, a pier, and four marinas. It is treasured for its relaxed pace, distance from freeways and family appeal.
Yet it is burdened by empty and boarded-up buildings that are weathered from neglect and a lack of substantial parking. If King Harbor is to survive—and thrive—it needs to reinvent itself.
Evolution of a Landmark
King Harbor has had many lives. Its original settlers were the Native American tribe Chowingas, a peaceful people who lived near a small salt lake (current location of the AES power plant). When the first Spanish settlers arrived in 1535, they moved the Chowingas to the San Gabriel Mission, where they languished and eventually became extinct due to their inability to fight European diseases. The Spanish gradually claimed the land, and the descendants of their families literally mapped the area with their territories. These Rancho families included the clans named Dominguez, Sepulveda and Del Amo.
During the late 1800s, new developers began to make their mark on the land. In 1887, the Redondo Development Company purchased 400 beachfront acres from the Dominguez estate, paving the way for a formal Redondo community to flourish. Later that same year, J.C. Ainsworth and R.E. Thompson purchased the Redondo Development Company. The two men were sea captains who became entrepreneurs of their day with involvement in the shipping industry and the development of railroads.
Redondo soon had a pier, wharfs and a railroad stop. While Redondo enjoyed 35% of the Los Angeles shipping business, it lost a bid to San Pedro to be the official port of Los Angeles. Although Redondo did not get a chance to build a shipping industry, thanks to Henry Huntington, who took over the Ainsworth-Thompson interest, it had become a thriving tourist spot.
Huntington built the Redondo Hotel in 1890, along with an amusement park, dance pavilion and pier. Up until the 1920s when the wharfs came down and the last of the red cars stopped running, Redondo was one of the most popular resort destinations in California. Attempts to create a protected harbor began in 1917, and King Harbor was finally built in 1958. Shortly thereafter, the federal government financed the breakwater.
1988 was a dark year in Redondo history, as fierce storms ravaged King Harbor, destroying the breakwater. And there was further damage from an electrical fire that managed to melt concrete along the pier. The breakwater was repaired and eventually the properties recovered, but members of the community and the city council have been rallying to revitalize the area ever since. Because the city has to deal with different leaseholders and consider a myriad of public interests, it took time for the necessary pieces of its makeover to fall into place.