A google search of the phrase "South Bay" returns more than 72 million results which begs the question: What, then, makes ours (Los Angeles) so special?
It could be that ours was namedropped in various Beach Boys' songs or can be seen in hundreds of Hollywood productions including the "The O.C.", "Point Break", "Beverly Hills 90210", "Jerry Maguire" and "C.S.I. Miami". Or, maybe because ours is the birthplace of pro beach volleyball, the training grounds for the World Champion Lakers, a Mecca to surfers and a haven for horseback riding and biking. Or perhaps it's our winning combination of fantastic weather, natural beauty, cultural diversity and urban convenience.
We're sure those other South Bays have their own list of positives, but we'd be lying if we didn't say we think ours is the best. Sure we're biased but that doesn't mean we're wrong. Decide for yourselves but here's some more information on the cities that make up our South Bay.
El Segundo: This area was also part of the 1822 Spanish land grand that created the giant Rancho Sausal Redondo, a name when roughly translated means Ranch of the Round Clump Willows. It was home to wheat and barely fields that provided grazing grounds for cattle and sheep. In 1911, the Standard Oil Company sent five men to survey the expanse to eventually become the site for their next refinery. It was adjacent to the seashore for tanker access, undeveloped land was cheaper, and it was close enough to populated areas to find employees. They bought 840 acres in June and opened in 6 months to become the cities' major industry, which was responsible for the city's name, El Segundo that stuck when it was incorporated in 1917.
Locals coined an unofficial motto, "El Segundo a nada" or "second to none". Today, El Segundo is home to 12 Fortune 500 companies and won an Eddy to being the most business friendly city in LA County.
Manhattan Beach: The first known inhabitants of the area were Engnovangas Ranchiera Indians who regularly trekked three miles to harvest the salt flats, which would occupy roughly 120,000 square yards around Herondo Street and North Harbor Drive. In 1781, the original Pueblo de Los Angeles was established and a one-lane dirt road was cleared to connect it with the profitable and useful flats. Aviation Blvd. runs almost directly atop the old street. The area was broken into ranchos for migrant workers by the Spanish government in 1784 and eventually sold to a high bidder, Antonia Ygnacio Avila who snatched up the 22,500-acre Rancho Sausal Redondo, that's present day Manhattan Beach, to raise sheep. The land changed hands several times over the next 6 decades. The Pacific Railway's Red Cars started rolling through in 1903 along what is now the beachfront bike path, remaining active until 1940.
In the late 1800's, three developers owned large portions of the area. George Peck called his northern section Shore Acres; John Merrill named the southern section Manhattan after his New York hometown. Frank Daugherty had 20 acres from Marine Avenue to 15th Street. They agreed the areas should be given a single name but couldn't settle on one so they flipped a half dollar. We're assuming you can guess who won.
Hermosa Beach: In the beginning, it would have been easy to see how Hermosa Beach earned its complimentary name. It was one vast sweep of hills covered in barley and littered with grazing sheep and a few barns. Beyond that, there were miles of untouched fine white sand dunes and the gradual slope into the seemingly endless blue Pacific Ocean. Most of the land was owned by A.E. Pomroy and in 1990 he sold Sherman and Clark, who organized and controlled the HB Land and Water Company, 1,500 acres for $35 per acre. This may have been considered the sale of the century considering that a mere square foot of HB property averaged $547 in 2005.
The town was incorporated in 1907 and the Santa Fe Railway provided transportation in and out of HB but it wasn't until 1926 that the city received a proper passenger depot with Western Union telegraph services. The city grew throughout the 20th century from a single train stop to what is frequently named as one of the best places to live, a tourist destination and a thriving economy.
Redondo Beach: Modern history dates to when Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the sweeping Santa Monica Bay in 1542. However, the area remained mostly undeveloped until the late 1880's, like HB and Manhattan Beach, this land was also divided into massive farming parcels by the Spanish and Mexican governments. The area's heritage is closely tied to the Dominguez clan - Juan Jose Dominguez, a member of the 1769 expedition to Alta California was given the first Spanish land grant in California known as Rancho San Pedro in 1784 as a reward for his service to Spain's king.
The land was passed on to relatives until 1825 when Don Manuel Dominguez and his brothers inherited 43,000 acres, which he eventually bought out his siblings. After his death in 1882, his daughters sold it off in chunks and the family's importance is memorialized in city, college, park and street names throughout the South Bay. Redondo Beach was incorporated in 1892 and it is believed it's name, Spanish for round, refers to the half-round street pattern of the original town site.
In 1889, the coastal tract of 433 acres was sold for $12,000 to Robert Thompson and John Anisworth's Redondo Beach Improvement Company and they quickly developed, promoted and sold the property. In 1890, the $250,000 Hotel Redondo opened with tennis courts, golf course and 225 luxury rooms, luring more people to the sunny shores. If prices were too steep at the resort, one could book space in the nearby Tent City. The piers offered great fishing, games and rides - The Plunge billed as the largest indoor salt water heated pool in the world, and the 12-acre Carnation Gardens. RB's popularity declined as shippers began to favor San Pedro Harbor, the railroad pulled out in 1926 and the glamorous Hotel Redondo closed it's doors in 1925 thanks to Prohibition and was sold for scrap lumber worth $300.
Palos Verdes: When Portuguese explorer, Juan Cabrillo landed on the Palos Verdes Peninsula in 1542, he found a well-established community of Indians. For almost three centuries, PVP remained the exclusive domain of the Tongva (sometimes referred to as Gabrielino) tribe who spoke a Shoshone language. As they had no written language, their myths and superb knowledge of their environment were passed down through storytelling. By the early 1800's, the dramatic views, open land and gorgeous weather started attracting settlers.
As they moved in with their cattle, horses, and new crops, the native animals and plants that the Tongva survived on began to disappear. In 1827, Don Jose Dolores Sepulveda procured a slice of the original 1784 Rancho San Pedro land grant from Manuel Dominguez to use as a cattle ranch, calling it "Rancho de los Palos Verdes" or "range of green tree". By 1882, ownership of the land passed from the Sepulveda family through various mortgage holders to Jotham Bixby of Rancho Los Cerritos who leased it to Japanese farmers.
In 1913, son George Bixb y decided to sell 16,000 acres to Walter Fundenburg for $1.5 million. When he was unable to raise the funds, the deal fell through and eventually Bixby foreclosed on the mortgage and the land was sold to a consortium of New York investors who marketed the land for small horse ranch ranches and residential communities. The PVP's founding father, Frank Vanderlip, an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under President McKinley and president of the National City Bank of New York, had big plans for the property including several elaborate private residences, a magnificent golf club and an Italian hillside village for craftsmen to live, work and sell their wares.
The biggest building boom was in the late '50's and early "60's, PVP was eventually divided into four cities: Palos Verdes Estates, Rolling Hills, Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes.
Torrance: As industry and population grew rapidly in the early 190's, South Bay development turned inward and Torrance was born. Jared Sidney Torrance and Associates, who purchased 2,791 acres from the Dominguez Estate Company for $976,850 and 730 acres from Susana Dominguez del Amo for $350 per acre, founded in May 1911. At it's inception, this planned industrial town provided housing for 500 people but by incorporation in 1921, has risen to 1,800.
Construction innovator Torrance wanted Torrance to be a model city that proved that when housing and business districts were separated and a worker was given a decent house on his own plot of land, his work contentment and efficiency would increase. Torrance gave the individual home site a minimum width of forty feet and depth of 100 hundred forty feet, which was much larger than home sites on the East Coast. Like El Segundo, oil encouraged the city's initial development and population explosion. Black gold was discovered and the first well was dug in 1921 and by 1925, 582 gushers were within city limits. But the wells began to dry out in the late '50's and when production slowed to 5 barrels a day, a 1961 city edict required the wooden derricks be removed - the last came down in 1963.