The Street Seen: Widening Main Street
Main Street from Hollister to City limits
All of the buildings on the west side of Main St, from Hollister south to the City limits (3,000 feet), are demolished in 1926 to allow the widening of Main Street to 80 feet. If you see an old building on the west side of Main St, you can be fairly certain that it was built in 1926 or 1927.1
Ocean Park’s street layout results from the somewhat uncoordinated subdivisions of the Lucas Ranch. Main Street has its origins as Lucas Ave in 1887; which is renamed 2nd St in 1895, and then Main St in 1905.
In 1926, Main St, from Pico to Hollister, is 80 ft wide (property line to property line). From Hollister to Hill, the width is 50 ft; from Hill to Pier, 45 ft; and from Pier to the City south limits, 40 ft.
The need to widen Main St has long been discussed. An enabling factor is the former Santa Fe railroad right-of-way that is parallel to and west of Main St.2 In 1915, Mayor T.H. Dudley appoints a committee to come up with plans to widen Main St.
While there is widespread support, the question is how to pay for it - or more pointedly who is to pay for it. In 1922, a $1.20 MM street bond election, in a spirited campaign, fails to get the required 2/3rd majority.3
In 1923, the City Council4 adopts an ordinance to widen Main St to 80 ft and create an assessment district to pay for it. The plan calls for the City to (i) condemn the properties on the west side of Main St from Hollister to the City’s south limits; (ii) buy part of the railroad right-of-way behind Main St; and (iii) then sell that railroad property back to the Main St property owners to make them whole. For example, from Hollister to Hill, where Main Street is 50 ft wide - chop 30 ft off the front of each property to add to the widened Main St, and then replace that with 30 ft of railroad property to the rear. The result is the revised property map (with ghost markings of the old property lines) below.
In 1924, the assessment district property owners raise $129,000 - “Ocean Park People Buy Own Street” - Evening Vanguard, 11 July 1924. Actually, the money assessed is only the cost to acquire the railroad property - and is only 1/4 of the estimated total cost ($450,000) of the widening project. It seems that taxpayers are to make up the difference.
If you are looking at old photographs of Main St - pre-1926, the power / telephone poles are on the west side of the street. As part of the street widening, the poles are moved to the right of way behind the new buildings. The Ocean Park Loop line rails down Main St from Pico to Hill are removed in 1910.
The Santa Fe Rail Road right-of-way dates from an 1891 donation of land by Kinney & Ryan. Santa Fe sells the right-of-way to Los Angeles Pacific Railway Co (LAP) in 1902. The Venice Short Line opens on Trolley Way in 1902.
Some consideration is given to not widening Main St, but instead, putting vehicular traffic on a new road along the railroad right-of-way - this is the solution later used for Trolley Way / Neilson. This is not favored by Main St businesses at it by-passes Main St.
In order to make the street bond more appealing Citywide, some north side street improvements are added. In the end, there are 27 items, and the bill adds up to $1.20 MM. The Citywide vote is 3,076 for and 1,696 against the bond issue, and falls 150 votes short of the required 2/3rds majority.
From 1915 to 1946, the City Council consists of three elected Commissioners - one responsible for each department: Public Safety, Public Works and Finance. The Commissioner of Public Safety is the ex officio Mayor.
The 1926 widening also extends Pier Ave east across Main to 2nd St to allow the building of the BPOE elks club.
One of the arguments against widening Main St (“Connecting Santa Monica to Venice”) is what will happen at the Venice border. Up to 1926, Venice is a separate city and cannot afford to widen the street. It is not until 1937 - now absorbed by the City of Los Angeles - that the widening of Main St is extended into Venice.