Santa Monica’s Newest Park Honors The Tongva Tribe

Saturday, 14 Sep 2013, 8:28:00 AM

Brenton Garen

Tongva Park opened Tuesday as a family friendly destination with plenty of child friendly play spaces.
Photos by Brenton Garen
Tongva Park opened Tuesday as a family friendly destination with plenty of child friendly play spaces.

A community celebration is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19 from 11 am to 4 pm for Santa Monica’s newest park – Tongva Park.

The fences came down around the park Tuesday morning, marking the completion of the 6.2 acre project across from Santa Monica City Hall.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations, Tongva Park is located on the former Rand Corporation headquarters site at 1615 Ocean Avenue.

The park was named in honor of a group of Santa Monica’s earliest inhabitants, the Tongva tribe.


Tongva people lived in the Santa Monica area hundreds of years ago,

well before the first non-indigenous inhabitants occupied the area about

250 years ago.

According to the City Hall, about 1,500 people currently identify themselves as Tongva people.

Santa Monica Community and Cultural Services Director Karen Ginsberg said Tongva Park was designed to recollect an arroyo.

“If you think about an arroyo with a source of water and native and indigenous grasses and topography – that’s kind of the essence of the park,” Ginsberg said.

The park is divided into four areas:

• Garden Hill is defined by a series of seating alcoves and intimate display gardens that showcase a seasonally dynamic, native, and appropriately adapted Southern California plant palette;

• Discovery Hill is a play space for children, offering a range of discovery experiences and settings with hill slides, a music wall, play elements, water feature, and forts embedded into a lush and shaded landscape;

• Observation Hill reaches a height of 18 feet, offering the best views of the ocean and neighboring vicinity, and includes overlooks, a bridge, and public restroom tucked under the hill;

• Gathering Hill provides open space for congregation and relaxation including a large multi-purpose lawn, seating terraces, and an informal picnic area.

Among the most unique features in the park are shell-like overlooks along Ocean Avenue that are perched on top of the tallest of the park’s hills to frame iconic views and vistas of Santa Monica and the ocean.

Another is a sculpture named Weather Field No. 1. Created by artist Inigo Manglano-Ovalle, it is a grid of tall stainless poles with weather vanes and anemometers located on a berm of meadow grasses.

The total cost for design and construction of Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square (still under construction directly in front of City Hall) was $42.3 million – coming in under the allotted budget of $49 million.

James Corner described the project as “creating a new heart for Santa Monica – a new destination and gathering place of great social, ecological, and symbolic value.”

“We have sculpted a dramatic topography of hills and hollows and incorporated a very large number of native plant species to create a spectacular horticultural garden, replete with generous furnishing, water fountains, play elements, and activity areas,” Corner said.

Tongva Park is located at 1615 Ocean Avenue, diagonally across from the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier. It will be open to the public daily from 6 am to 11 pm.

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