How Channel Islands Beaches Became Part of Oxnard

How Channel Islands Beaches Became Part of Oxnard

  • 09/24/23

Channel Islands Beach is a paradise. Enjoy a view of California's most picture-perfect waves, walk along the sandy beaches, and relax under the swaying palm trees along the Pacific Ocean. As you explore the architectural marvels across the island communities, you'll also catch glimpses of the exciting history behind today's luxury homes. You'll find homes that perfectly capture the Spanish Colonial Revival style, the backdrop to iconic scenes in Douglas Fairbanks's "Bound in Morocco," and other hints of Channel Islands Beach's storied past. Learn the story behind the formation of these beachside neighborhoods and how they became part of Oxnard. Then, explore the Channel Islands Beach real estate for yourself with Eric Swartz as your guide.

The simple answer of incorporation and annexation

The Channel Islands are home to four stunning beach communities: Hollywood Beach, Hollywood by the Sea, Silver Strand Beach, and Mandalay Shores. The heart of Oxnard sits approximately five miles away from the coastline along the western edge of Oxnard Plain. Originally incorporated in 1903, the southern California city expanded west, growing to include beaches, coastal enclaves, and the Channel Islands Harbor.

Hollywood By the Sea, one of Channel Islands' beautiful residential communities that had 967 lots for homes, was the first Channel Island to become part of Oxnard. Because of annexation laws established in the area long ago, incorporated cities could annex developments within three miles of their borders. Oxnard claimed Hollywood By the Sea as its first beachfront community. Then, as Oxnard continued to expand, it went on to annex Hollywood Beach and Silver Strand Beach. Today, the Channel Islands are a firm part of Oxnard.

A deeper history that spans the Mexican-American War and the classic age of silent Hollywood

Hollywood By the Sea is known today as a more affordable — but just as picturesque — Malibu that offers world-class surfing and relaxation. But the community really got its start as the background of popular Hollywood films. Before even that, it was part of the evolving boundaries between the United States and Mexico.

When the land was bought

Long ago, before Oxnard was a popular city in Ventura County, it was agricultural land called Rancho Santa Clara. In 1852, as the land became part of the United States following the end of the war with Mexico, it was sold as promising farmland that had rich black soil full of minerals. In just 16 years, the land was primarily owned by two parties: Thomas Bard and the Camarillo family. Bard purchased over 21,000 acres for $150,000 — an astoundingly good price. Even in today's dollars, that $150,000 price tag would be $3,229,130.28. Over time, the land would be broken into smaller lots for farming and ranching.

One of the most important lots would come to belong to painter Leon Lehmann, who operated his 80-acre lot as a ranch in the 1910s and 1920s.

The area starred in some of Hollywood's big early blockbusters

The start of the twentieth century aligned with the beginning of Hollywood's golden age of silent films. The famous silent film "Bound in Morocco" was filmed along Channel Island Beach. In fact, the sand dunes in the movie were on Leon Lehmann's property on the beach. Just a few years later, the same sand dunes — along with paper mache trees — would be in "The Sheik," another famous film starring Rudolph Valentino.

With all the buzz surrounding the movies and the sandy beaches, developers quickly built up the area. Hollywood Beach became a residential oasis in 1924, filling the area north of Lehmann's ranch property with custom estates. Silverstrand, or "silver screen," quickly followed to the south of his ranch in 1925.

By 1938, the lighthouse and wharf at the south end were replaced with the deep water harbor at Hueneme, currently known as the Port of Hueneme. Three streets were also taken out in the construction of the harbor: Del Rey, Ocean Park, and Venice.

Then, with demand for homes mounting in the area, a developer bought Lehmann's ranch and turned its 80 acres into one hundred new lots and called the neighborhood Hollywood By the Sea.

How Hollywood By the Sea changed over the decades

The developer who purchased what would become Hollywood By the Sea, Fred J. Cutting, started by transforming the area into a resort-style landscape. He leveled the dunes to create the foundation for its individual lots. Then, he built a five-acre lake to add even more waterfront options. As the community began to build up, he created a street grid that still exists today. Back when Cutting was just beginning to develop the area, he sold the lots for $100, with $10 down.

By 1927, Hollywood By the Sea was a popular vacation destination, and thousands of vacation homeowners and traveling tourists celebrated the Fourth of July on its shores. Even though movie producers began to turn elsewhere for desert-scapes and sandy dunes for their films, Hollywood By the Sea maintained its "Hollywood" aura. Famous stars were spotted vacationing along the shore, and big names like Rudolph Valentino and Clark Gable allegedly bought homes in the area.

Over the following decades, Hollywood By the Beach became an iconic beach community filled with Hollywood references, coastal California charm, surfing, and more. The streets picked up island-inspired names like Santa Rosa and Catalina. The vacant lots became in-demand homes, and the area built up. In the 1960s, Hollywood By the Sea split in two when developers built up the Channel Islands Harbor with a new waterway.

The Channel Island Beaches Today

Today, the Channel Island Beach communities are a modern oasis. The climate is mild and Mediterranean all year round. Residents have homes built in a wide range of traditional, Spanish Revival, and mid-century styles that reflect the evolving architectural norms of the area's history. The area is well-known as a vibrant surfer community, is extremely walkable, and offers peaceful, resort-style living with easy access to local shopping, eateries, and entertainment.

You can find beautiful beachfront homes that have been customized with modern amenities and features, historic homes that capture the timeless charm of the area, sprawling estates, and chic condos that put you in the heart of the Channel Islands.

Find your own island paradise with Eric Swartz

Explore everything Oxnard has to offer with expert Oxnard real estate agent Eric Swartz. Start your homebuying journey with a customized home search and insights from a local real estate team that is familiar with the Channel Islands, the greater Ventura area, and other beachside communities across southern California. It all starts with a conversation about your ideal lifestyle and property wishlist. Reach out today to get started and have a curated tour of Channel Islands Beach.

Work With Eric

There are a lot of nuances to be aware of when buying or selling a home and I take pride in being well versed in the finer points of CC&Rs, sewer line liability, mello roos, seawall maintenance, short term rentals laws, and more. Contact me today to discuss all your real estate needs!

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