Santa Monica, a thriving coastal community on the western edge of Los Angeles County, is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north, east, and south by the city of Los Angeles. Santa Monica occupies less than 8.5 square miles of land. Still, with its spectacular beaches and mild Mediterranean climate, the tiny city boasts a highly educated population of more than 90,000.
Once a sleepy seaside town of summer cottages and storefronts, Santa Monica has been transformed--especially in recent years--by a development boom. Although much of the boom has been generated by new high-end hotels, office buildings, and film studios, the overwhelming bulk of new construction has been in the residential sector, with condominiums and apartment buildings often taking over land that was formerly occupied by retail business. As a result, Santa Monica has become one of the most densely populated and traffic-clogged cities in Southern California. Indeed, the city has significantly more residents and housing units per square mile that its neighboring behemoth, Los Angeles.
Santa Monica's diverse economy generates about $8.4 billion in gross annual income, more than a quarter of which comes from the retail sector. The city's other significant industries include hospitality, health services, high tech, entertainment, and scientific research. Santa Monica is the headquarters of the prestigious Rand Corporation, which settled there in the 1950s. The first nonprofit think tank of its kind, the Rand Corporation focuses its research and analysis efforts on military and national security issues, as well as other public policy matters related to health, housing, and education. Other major employers in Santa Monica include the City of Santa Monica, Santa Monica College, Saint John's Hospital Medical Center, Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital, MTV Networks, and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.
Santa Monica Pier: Built in 1909, the Santa Monica Pier has long been one of the city's most popular destinations. Covering an expanse of 9 acres and drawing more than 3 million visitors each year, the pier offers a wide range of dining and shopping options amidst a lively atmosphere of street performers and local artists. The pier also features Pacific Park, a full-scale amusement park; the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, where visitors can see and learn about the ecology of Santa Monica Bay; and the Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome, whose historic carousel still operates.
Third Street Promenade: This bustling outdoor pedestrian walkway is the heart and soul of downtown Santa Monica. The Promenade features myriad shops and restaurants, as well as movie theaters, nightclubs, and a nonstop parade of people-watching opportunities.
Walking Tours: The Santa Monica Conservancy offers docent-guided walking tours of downtown Santa Monica, featuring many of the city's historical landmarks and most impressive architecture, including the 1875 Rapp Saloon, the Majestic Theatre (later the Mayfair), the Bay Cities Guaranty Building, and others.
Santa Monica Civic Auditorium: The "Civic" is home to the acclaimed Santa Monica Symphony. The venue also hosts many other musical concerts throughout the year, as well as awards shows (including the Academy Awards from 1961-68), trade shows, sporting events, conventions, and banquets.
Bergamot Station: This sprawling 8-acre complex houses the Santa Monica Museum of Art, as well as numerous contemporary art galleries. It is the largest cultural center of its kind in Southern California.
California Heritage Museum: Located on Main Street in Santa Monica, the Heritage Museum houses a permanent collection of furniture, pottery, and tile from various significant periods of California's history. The museum also offers a range of temporary exhibits devoted to various aspects and eras of California arts and crafts. Past exhibits have included Depression-era glass, Mexican pottery, and even surfboards.
Santa Monica International Film Festival: Founded by a local nonprofit organization, the film festival offers a screening venue for emerging filmmakers from around the world.
Taste of Santa Monica : Hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, this annual food festival is designed to showcase the most delectable offerings from Santa Monica's many excellent restaurants.
Southern California has a wealth of colleges and universities, including the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); the University of Southern California (USC); and the California Institute of the Arts. Santa Monica itself is home to Santa Monica College, a public, 2-year institution that enrolls 30,000 students annually. Santa Monica College is also home to award-winning public radio station KCRW (89.9 FM).
Santa Monica sports fans have a range of Los Angeles-based professional teams to cheer for:
The athletic pride of the city is the nationally known Santa Monica Rugby Club, also called the Dolphins. Established in 1972, the team now plays in the National Rugby Super League, the highest level of club rugby in the U.S.