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Santa Monica Names New Sports Field After Once-Thriving Black Neighborhood
 

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By Jorge Casuso

August 28, 2020 -- The new sports field complex at the Santa Monica Civic Center has been named after a Black neighborhood that once occupied the site before City leaders razed it some 75 years ago.

The City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to name the 3.5-acre multipurpose complex adjacent to the Civic Auditorium "Historic Belmar Park."

The nearly completed complex sits on what was once part of the Belmar Triangle that was the heart of Santa Monica's Black community in the first half of the 20th century.

Belmar house burning
City officials watch over the burning of a house in Belmar Triangle neighborhood. (Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Public Library Image Archive)

In the 1950's, City leaders, hoping to boost tourism, condemned and destroyed the black-owned homes and businesses to build the Civic Auditorium, which became home to the Academy Awards and hosted legendary rock concerts before being closed in 2013.

The field space -- which parents had been campaigning for for 12 years -- will open on the site of the Civic Center's old surface lot once construction is complete and the California Coastal Commission approves its opening, City officials said.

“We look forward to welcoming local youth to our community’s newest space for recreation and historical reflection – Historic Belmar Park,” said Community Services Director Andy Agle.

An artwork and interpretive panel design by artist April Banks and historian Dr. Alison Rose Jefferson was unveiled on the site earlier this summer as part of the Belmar History + Art project.

The project will be expanded to commemorate Bay Street Beach, a stretch of beach at the end of Pico Boulevard that was a popular destination for Black Angelenos during the Jim Crow era.

The 55-acre site, once derogatorily known as "The Inkwell, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2019.

The Council chose the name for the park after the California Coastal Commission -- following Jefferson's suggestion -- made commemorating the lost community a condition for approval in March 2019.

As part of the Belmar History + Art process, a survey was posted on the Belmar website to collect suggested names for the site, City staff said in its report to the Council.

"A Resurrection in Four Stanzas" by April Banks

"Community members submitted 14 suggestions for names, the majority of which include the word Belmar," staff wrote.

In June, the City's Recreation and Parks approved a motion to recommend Belmar Park as the name for the Field, and, on Tuesday, the Council added the word "historic" to the name.

Left: "A Resurrection in Four Stanzas" by April Banks (Rendering courtesy of the City)

The sculpture Banks designed for the site -- titled "A Resurrection in Four Stanzas" -- outlines four of the features that characterized the shotgun houses the former residents occupied.

“Art has the power to connect communities, illuminate cultures, and reanimate histories that society has tried to erase," Agle said.

"We look forward to creatively coming together in a virtual celebration showcasing 'A Resurrection in Four Stanzas.'”


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