Exploring the Unique Architecture of Manhattan Beach: From Tall-Skinnies to Timeless Styles

Manhattan Beach boasts a captivating blend of architectural styles that contribute to its charm and allure. In this blog post, we'll delve into the iconic tall-skinnies, explore other common architectural motifs, and examine the fascinating juxtaposition of old and new in this coastal gem.

Manhattan Beach's Unique Look

Nestled along the stunning coastline of Southern California, Manhattan Beach exudes a distinctive aesthetic that sets it apart from neighboring communities. Its architectural landscape is characterized by a harmonious blend of modern sophistication and timeless elegance, creating an atmosphere that's both inviting and inspiring.

The Rise of Tall-Skinnies

Tall-skinnies, also known as narrow-lot homes or vertical living spaces, have become increasingly prevalent in the sand section of Manhattan Beach due to the area's limited land availability and high demand for housing. These sleek and slender residences maximize vertical space, offering modern amenities and stunning views while fitting seamlessly into the neighborhood's architectural fabric.

Other Common Architectural Styles

In addition to tall-skinnies, Manhattan Beach showcases a diverse array of architectural styles that reflect its rich history and vibrant culture. From classic Cape Cod cottages to contemporary beachfront estates, residents and visitors alike are treated to a visual feast of design inspiration at every turn. Spanish Revival, Mediterranean, Craftsman, and Mid-Century Modern are just a few of the styles that grace the streets of Manhattan Beach, each contributing to the area's unique character....

Shootouts, Drug Cartels, & The Inspiration for “BLOW.” The “Old” Manhattan Beach

Image of Police Officer in Manhattan Beach

In the early 1960’s, the Detective Bureau and Administration staff of police departments throughout the country saw an increase in homicides, robberies and narcotics. In 1963, here in Manhattan Beach, crime was escalating, and the police department was faced with its first bank robbery. Narcotics and hallucinatory pills had become alarmingly prevalent and law enforcement was doing all it could to make the community aware of the dangers of drug use.

Drug raids were carried out by the Manhattan Beach Police Department, resulting in hundreds of both local and outsider arrests. One such raid where thousands of dollars worth of drugs were seized, involved the El Segundo Police Department, along with the Federal Narcotics Bureau. However, it would be the case of George Jung that brought the community into the national limelight.

Inspiration for "BLOW" by Bruce Porter

During the summer of 1967, 25-year-old George Jung arrived in Manhattan Beach. On the surface, this seaside city might have appeared to many as a quiet, low profile community, for officers however, it was labeled as the reigning party town of California’s southern coast. It was a little wonder that this drug taking young man thought he had found paradise. George wanted wealth, and in the temper of the times, what better way than to get into the distribution of drugs. To George, Manhattan Beach was the place: close to the Los Angeles International Airport and close to the Mexican border.

The Manhattan Beach Police Department had only one narcotics officer, 31 year old Fred McKewen, who had no budget for launching undercover operations. Being easily recognized...

Grandma's Laundering Drug Money In Manhattan Beach?

Manhattan Beach Police Department Booth

The 1980’s were a decade of complaints, law suits, and general negativism for the Manhattan Beach Police Department, however the majority of the community thought the force was doing an excellent job. It was felt that officers were truly dedicated and professional when it came to enforcing state criminal statutes and traffic laws, exercising courtesy, and exhibiting friendliness when patrolling the city streets.

In-house, however, there was a great deal of controversy. In the fall of 1986, a Manhattan Beach officer was arrested on suspicion of raping a 23-year old female prisoner while she was incarcerated in the Manhattan Beach jail. The charges against him followed several weeks of investigation by a special task force of the district attorney’s office, which found enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. After all was said and done the officer plead no contest and resigned from the Manhattan Beach Police Department.

Budget cuts during the same time frame were another cause of concern for citizens in Manhattan Beach. Contract negotiations with the city over both pay and benefits found the 49-member Police Association frustrated and angry. There had also been a no-confidence vote of the new Police Chief. On September 20, 1988, more than two-dozen association members picketed outside City Hall as council members and city staff arrived for a city council meeting. The “angry blue line” announced a wide range of job actions, one of which included no ticket writing.

To offset the frustration of the department, promotional posters were produced to put across a positive profile of the men and women law enforcement officers. Slogans such as “A...

Manhattan Beach's High Juvenile Crime Rate...In The 50's?

Manhattan Beach's SWAT team with their k-9's

Pictured above is Manhattan Beach’s SWAT team with their k-9’s. The officers are in full gear. At the time, they trained with MP-5 sub machine guns, beanbag shotguns, AR-15 rifles, pepperballs and gas launchers. 

Throughout the 1960's and 70's, the Manhattan Beach Police Department detectives were inundated with the drug scene in town as well as the juvenile crime rate that was steadily growing.

A battle began in the late 1950's to motivate a strong advocacy for young people, who were being picked-up by the police officers at an increasing rate, from possession of drugs, sexual delinquency and municipal code violations. At this time the department had but one juvenile officer, who was the first female to be assigned the position. Up to this date the only duties women could hold in the Manhattan Beach Police Department were office staff and any female officers were refereed to as policewomen. In 1972, the classification was changed from policewomen to police officer.

In 1966, Betty Anderson, graduated from the Police Academy in LosAngeles and became the second policewoman to serve as the Juvenile Division Officer. By the end of the year, the department was experiencing an average of 700 juveniles a year with narcotics violations on the increase.

Betty quoted in an interview with "The Daily Breeze" newspaper, “we feel if we can help just one or two of them, it's worth it. We can' t change the world" she said, "but we can try to make it a little better place in which to live.” The hiring of Policewoman, Betty Andrews, opened the door for other women to be a part of the Police Department (Learn more about woman on the...

Pioneering Residential And Commercial Development In Manhattan Beach

An Image of a Howard Sadler Developed Home

In 1913, Mr. A. Howard Sadler a realtor/developer arrived in Manhattan Beach from Pasadena. Taking advantage of the rail system, he brought prospective land and home buyers to the shore, showing them the value of investing in the Manhattan Beach community. The town site had been promoted in the past as a unique place in the South Bay, but it was Sadler who brought it to a new height. With his 1913 promotional piece, “Manhattan the Beach Worth While, Where the Pacific Ebbs & Flows,” he elaborated on this splendid town of the future.

An excerpt from the pamphlet reads: “Every safeguard is being thrown around Manhattan to make it a city of home, “A Home City” in all that the term implies. There can be no saloons within its borders, no resorts or vice, and all features of rowdyism will be effectually eliminated."

Sadler built a home at 452 Maine Avenue for himself and took great pride in creating other bungalow style homes in the area. He was once quoted as saying, “Manhattan is the coming beach of the South Bay…” and that he wanted to be strongly with its progress.

In 1914, two of the areas Sadler developed were in the vicinity of 21st Street, Marine Avenue, and Grandview Avenue, as well as in the Manor Manhattan Tract. The Tract was a restricted sub-division proclaimed to be one of the most desirable residential sections in the city. Sadler’s homes were described as the most beautiful in the district.

This charming section in Manahttan Beach is now known as the “Gas Light District,” which was created in the 1960’s. It is bordered on the south by 21st street, on the North by 24th...

Changes in Manhattan Beach Architecture

Manhattan Beach Architecture

While the Manhattan Beach Park System was expanding, the face of the city was changing. During this period traditional architecture for homes in Manhattan Beach began to change – the community was introduced to a new type of home – the condominium. Manhattan Beach had always had apartment rental units, however it was the desirability of some to own a residence with less up keep. The popularity brought a new look to the low architecture profile of neighborhoods where the zoning allowed. It was also an advantage to the builder, who could realize more income from a small lot.

An excellent example was the construction on the condominiums located in the 400 block of Marine Avenue in Manhattan Beach. Not only was the architecture not compatible to the area, but it was feared that with the demolition of five small Historical Sadler built homes, it would bring more traffic and density to this charming single family area known as the “Gas Light District.” (Howard A. Sadler took great pride in creating and building the bungalow style home).

With more condominiums being built and the maximizing of square footage on lots, little room was left for yards. In the late 1980s and into the year 2000, the architectural styles in Manhattan Beach were being replaced by Modern Hi-Tech design.

Beginning in 1985, the consulting firm of Cotton/Beland Associates had been working with the Community Development and later turned their findings over to the City Council, for the purpose of constructing a comprehensive General Plan. With the General Plan updated not only did architectural designs begin to change rapidly, but the community began to see larger and larger buildings, referred to as “Minimansions.”...

Manhattan Beach's Historical Separation from Los Angeles County

Gould Lane, Manhattan Beach

How did, Arteria Boulevard, this community's southerly boundary come to be? On March 13, 1883, an Act of the California Legislature entitled "An act to provide for the organization, incorporation and government of municipal corporations," gave the voters the right to petition to become a city.

In September of 1912, after the necessary signatures were obtained, approximately 85 qualified residents presented a petition to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for incorporation. At another hearing in October of the same year, the petition was declared to be in order with the inhabitants residing within the boundaries verified to be six hundred. The

Supervisors also established the boundaries of the proposed municipal corporation. November 25, 1912 was the date set for an election within the proposed boundaries, and to determine whether the town should be incorporated.

On December 2, 1912, returns were counted and the County Board of Supervisors, with a unanimous aye, ordered that all the territory situated in the county of Los Angeles, State of California, and within the boundaries so described, was a duly Incorporated Municipal Corporation of the sixth class, under the name and style of "City of Manhattan Beach."

With the election and incorporation, Gould Lane (now known as Gould Avenue), became the official southern boundary line for the City, this corridor was also the northern boundary line of Hermosa Beach. The center line of Gould Avenue went east from Sepulveda to Dewey Avenue, which became Aviation Boulevard.

However, it would not be until 1934, when the State of California provided employment to local workmen to improve Gould, one of the original roads in the area.

Many events...

Manhattan Beach: Reflect on the Past, Give Meaning to the Future

Manhattan Beach Past And Future

The City of Manhattan Beach recently hosted a fun event called “Reflect on the Past, Give Meaning to the Future: Continuing the Conversation.” The event was centered on learning about Manhattan Beach’s rich historical past as well as planning for the bright future of the city.

Manhattan Beach hosted the event for the first time in 2012 in order to give residents a forum to discuss city topics and issues they found interesting. Thanks to an outpouring of interest from the community, the city organized a second event this year in order to further the conversation about the future of Manhattan Beach. By discussing the historical journey of the city, residents are able to have a much better perspective of its growth and how they’d like the city to grow in the coming years. 

There were several distinguished speakers at the event. Our very own Jan Dennis, ManhattanBeachHomes.com contributor, gave a keynote presentation on the history of Manhattan Beach. Jan is very involved within the city. Being a former Mayor, she has an unmatched love and passion for the city and its growth. Dr. Gary Hartzell also spoke at the event. Gary is a Manhattan Beach native that currently lives in the original home his parents built back in 1950. Gary’s a nationally recognized expert on school libraries. He’s currently Manhattan Beach’s Library Commissioner.

Nancy Hersman, Esq., Russ Lesser, Steve Napolitano, John Shelton...

Manhattan Beach's Growth During The Depression

Manhattan Beach CA Construction During The Depression

During the great depression, financial problems were not the only trouble the Manhattan Beach community faced. The gravity of the Depression was dramatized more by such events as the suicide of Charles Avey, who was the agent for the Manhattan Beach Development Company and one of the city's leading citizens. The fortune of the development company had begun to decline even before the stock market crash. His suicide was attributed to financial difficulties and domestic troubles. Avey's death may have been one of the earliest Depression-related suicides in the city but it was by no means the only one. Means of self-destruction ranged from ant poison to jumping off the pier.

While the Depression was being felt in many different ways throughout the city, road construction was probably least affected by the Depression. The American people's love affair with the automobile in the 1920's had stirred a broad-based demand both nationally and at the state level for better roads.

The largest project in Manhattan Beach at this time was the paving of Sepulveda Boulevard, formerly rough, eucalyptus-lined Camino Real. In 1930, work moved rapidly on the sub-grading. Three steam shovels began cutting through the hill at the intersection of Sepulveda and the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. Bulldozers moved huge quantities of dirt to raise the level of the grade separation at the tracks. Prior to the grade separation the road went across the railroad tracks.

Cement piers which supported the bridge over the tracks near Valley Drive and Sepulveda, were built by the State of California. On October 29th, bids for the remaining work were opened by the City and awarded to a local-construction company the "Kuhn...

A Decade of Progress in Manhattan Beach

Rosecrans and Sepulveda Blvd in Manhattan Beach Circa 1966

One of the largest decisions made by the City Council during the "Decade of Progress" was the closing of the walk-streets. Some 4,700 signatures had been collected in a three-week campaign to keep Manhattan Beach walk-streets closed to vehicular traffic. It was the desire of the residents to maintain the unique personality of the neighborhoods. In 1962, an ordinance was endorsed by the Council, even though the City Attorney felt the ordinance was worthless. The walk-streets were to stay closed permanently.

Another decision made in 1962 was the renewal of the Manhattan Beach International Paddleboard Race, which had been abandon in 1961. It had been held annually, since 1955, with one exception; in 1959, when its finish line, the City Pier, was undergoing repairs; and in 1961, due to rough seas, which made holding the race unsafe. The events thrilled thousands of residents and visitors alike, bringing media attention to Manhattan Beach.  

By the year 1966, the City was primarily residential, with a population of 36,078 a 6.3% change from 1960, with a median income of $8,289 and median age of 29. The dynamic capital improvement programs truly were a testimony to its "Decade of Progress." Nearly every phase of Manhattan Beach’s operations had been vastly upgraded and groundwork had been laid for more spectacular improvements in the years to come. Capital developments during the past decade had been achieved without resorting to bonded indebtedness.

In 1967, there were many specialty projects: more and more property owners requested lot splits, gas lighting assessment districts were requested, one being at 31st street between Bell and Laurel Avenues, and the lettering, "Manhattan Beach...