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Residents throw one last pool party for one of LA's doomed midcentury stalwarts

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Saying goodbye to the “Melrose Place of the marina”

For decades, Marina Del Rey has been one of the finest representatives of LA’s midcentury pluck. The short version of the community's origin story is that in the early sixties, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers converted 800 acres of Los Angeles marshland into a seaside community with a population of nearly 9,000.

Now, Marina del Rey is in the midst of a longterm reimagining. In 2014, the Los Angeles County supervisors approved a massive plan to restructure the Marina, improving pedestrian access and making way for 200,000 square feet of retail space, 940 new hotel rooms, and new, denser housing developments. Developers are actively looking into gobbling up midcentury Marina stalwarts to convert them into new, higher priced mixed-users.

August 26 was the eviction date for one of the Marina’s most celebrated communities, the Neptune Marina. The local newspaper, The Argonaut, published a sad tale of Neptune residents stopping by for one last pool party at the "Melrose Place of the marina" before it’s demolished to make way for a sleeker multifamily project.

The mood was jubilant as residents present and former gathered poolside to reminisce about Neptune’s glory days. Using markers, several residents even tagged their front doors, a simple act of harmless defiance in the face of homogenized development.

The Neptune and its residents represent a different era in American history, one where neighbors were on a first name basis and locking the front door was not a necessity. Officially opened in 1965, the Neptune was one of the first housing developments in the newly developed Marina Del Rey. (As early as 1963, it housed many of the U.S. Army Corps engineers working on the project).

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A photo posted by Eduardo Inhauser Soriano (@dudusoriano) on

Over the decades, the residents of Neptune Marina came to embrace the lack of privacy built into their townhouse development. Each unit overlooked a communal lawn or pool, both of which were often the setting for community gatherings. At nighttime, kids were put to bed while the "swinging singles" scene came alive. Barhopping boaters would float up to the dock, then head to nearby Donkin’s Inn to party with the locals.

Not only was the community welcoming in spirit, it also eschewed the high costs usually associated with oceanside living, with residents long enjoying the approachable price point of the aging housing complex. Before the evictions, two bedrooms at the Neptune were going for just $2,600 a month, and many longtime residents weren’t even paying that much. Comparatively, two-bedrooms elsewhere in the Marina are going for a median rental price of $4,150 a month, according to the Argonaut, which used data from ApartmentList.com.

The development firm Legacy Partners took over the Neptune Marina in 2004 and has slowly been waiting out the resident’s leases, opting to not invest in several repairs requested by residents. Neptune residents have complained about leaky roofs, an unheated pool, and a gas line rupture that took away their laundry facilities altogether. For their troubles, Legacy offered a $50 discount in rent.

Plans for the new Neptune Marina call for a midcentury look, albeit a much denser one than the development that preceded it. The two-story townhomes of the old Neptune Marina will be replaced by four multistory buildings, 511,655 square feet in all, featuring 526 apartments, 81 one them affordable housing. The new Neptune Marina is scheduled for completion in summer 2018, according to Architect magazine.

Prices for units at the new Neptune Marina have not yet been released, but at Mariner’s Bay, Legacy’s other new development nearby, studio apartments are renting for $2,575 a month.

Former Neptune resident Jesse Gros is skeptical that Neptune’s former sense of community can be ever be replicated in the high priced development set to replace it. "Everything new is designed around privacy and luxury," Gros told the Argonaut, "these were designed for a lack of privacy, and didn’t give a shit about luxury."


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