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The Santa Monica Offshore Causeway Never Built

Updated on August 21, 2013

Had the Santa Monica Causeway highway project been completed, it would have looked similar to that of Clearwater, Florida, today, except bigger. Clearwater is 10 miles west of Tampa, it sits smack on the Gulf of Mexico with its 80-degree water. The town, itself, is not large, but it is connected by a causeway over the Tampa Bay. Beaches line the coastal road once off the causeway and the boardwalk goes on for miles and miles of white sand beaches.

Back in 1961 or so, there was a plan proposed by some in Santa Monica and supported by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1963, to build a series of man-made islands connected by a causeway to link downtown Santa Monica. The Interstate 10 was relatively new and took direct aim towards the city. The city was eager to have a new highway to carry dense auto traffic, even then, and even paid $50,000 for feasibility plans. Located 4,000 feet from shore, the 30,000-foot long causeway would run parallel to the coastline from Santa Monica beach all the way north. In the middle of this artificial island complex would stretch a 200-foot wide freeway called “Sunset Seaway.” The plan would also provide an additional 2.5 million square feet of public beach facing the ocean that could accompany 50,000. The causeway itself would span a six-mile strip of land atop the Pacific Ocean.

However, Santa Monica, was only worth 21 million then, and could not afford it without help. That is where Los Angeles County joined in. Los Angeles County had an assessed value of $13 billion in 1963. Against this figure, the County could acquire bonds totaling $670 million. Santa Monica needed only a fraction of that amount. LA was eager about the project. So, funding seemed to have been resolved.

The causeway would have been made a mile from the current shoreline, hopping over a series of man-made islands. It would have ran from the Santa Monica Pier to just north of Topanga Canyon and enclose 3200 acres. To get the rock and landfill, rock would come from the Santa Monica Mountains to create a protective reef. Once in place, the initial landfill for the causeway would come from terracing the mountains.

The islands created would be 65% residential and would have been the largest earth moving project in the world, at that time. The Corps' estimated that over 200 million cubic yards of earth would need to be moved to create the islands at a cost of $90,000,000. This is in addition to the 2.5 tons of rock for the reef. Los Angeles was also in support, however, by 1965, Jerry Brown's father, Gov. Pat Brown, vetoed the whole plan when over 10,000 local resident signatures opposing it reached Sacramento.

This could be said it was the first environmental opposition by young activists, surfers, movie stars and local residents.


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