Today, Marina del Rey is home to some of Southern California’s most sought after residential and commercial real estate, but it hasn’t alway been that way. In the early 1930’s, just as the country was facing the worst depression that the nation had ever seen, developers were finding liquid gold under the Marina del Rey land.
At the time, most of the area residents were making an income from Venice’s amusement industry, but as disposable income dissipated with the Great Depression, there was very little money left to spend on Venice Beach amusement. The discovery of oil at the beginning of the Depression brought the possibilities of unimaginable wealth for the community.
On December 18, 1929, the Ohio Oil Company brought in a wildcat well on county property just east of the Grand Canal at Avenue 35 (now Eastwind on the Marina Peninsula), only two blocks from the ocean. Californians were shocked to find out that the oil rig produced 3000 barrels of deep sand oil from a depth of 6199 feet. This led the company to ask for a permit to drill for oil within the city limits on the Venice Peninsula.
As the rest of the country faced a devastating depression, Marina del Rey was experiencing oil fever. Parcels of land and mineral rights were sold over and over again, giving residents more money than even imaginable. Residents talked of nothing but oil and the money that could be made by having an oil well in one’s backyard.
On January 9, 1930 a nearly 2000 residents met with city officials at the old City Hall and demanded re-zoning to allow oil drilling. Nearly 95% of the county residents were in favor of the change. Unfortunately, Ocean Park residents weren’t so lucky since Santa Monica was against drilling.
Los Angeles city planners lifted the ban on January 28, 1930, but were cautious and only allowed drilling south of Leona (Washington Street). They set up rules allowing a maximum of two wells per city block, then issued 15 permits. Two weeks later the city rubber stamped the permits.
By 1932, Venice canal south of Washington Street was lined with oil wells.
Today, there is little evidence of the oil boom that kept food on the tables of many residents during the Great Depression, but this rich history is engrained deep in the Marina del Rey soil.