Avalon, California: Wikis


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City of Avalon
—  City  —
Avalon Harbor

Location of Avalon in California
Coordinates: 33°20′27″N 118°19′40″W / 33.34083°N 118.32778°W / 33.34083; -118.32778Coordinates: 33°20′27″N 118°19′40″W / 33.34083°N 118.32778°W / 33.34083; -118.32778
Country United States
State California
County Los Angeles
Incorporated (city) June 26, 1913 [1]
 - Type Council-Manager
 - Mayor Bob Kennedy [2]
 - City Manager Steve Hoefs
 - Total 3.15 sq mi (8.15 km2)
 - Land 2.81 sq mi (7.28 km2)
 - Water 0.33 sq mi (0.87 km2)  10.63%
Elevation 30 ft (9 m)
Population (2000)[3]
 - Total 3,127
 Density 1,112.4/sq mi (429.5/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP Code 90704 [4]
Area code(s) 310
FIPS code 06-03274
GNIS feature ID 1660283
Website cityofavalon.com

Avalon, or Avalon Bay, is the only incorporated city on Santa Catalina Island of the California Channel Islands. Besides Avalon, the only other center of population on the island is the small unincorporated town of Two Harbors.

Avalon was first settled in pre-modern times by members of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, several different developers tried to develop Avalon into a resort destination community, but most went bankrupt. In 1919, William Wrigley, Jr. gained control of Avalon. Wrigley oversaw much of the development of Avalon, including the construction of the landmark Catalina Casino.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Avalon remains primarily a resort community. Most of the waterfront is dominated by tourism-oriented businesses. The older parts of the town on the valley floor consists primarily of small houses and two and three-story buildings in various traditional architectural styles. There are also several large apartment complexes nestled in the hills on either side of the valley, so that they are not obvious in most postcard photos of Avalon.




Pre-European settlement

Prior to the modern era, Avalon Bay was inhabited by people of the Gabrielino/Tongva tribe. In addition to Catalina Island, the Tongva occupied present-day Los Angeles County, northern Orange County, and San Clemente Island. The island was a major source of soapstone to the Tongva, who used the material to make stone vessels for cooking.[5] The Tongva called the island Pimu or Pimugna and referred to themselves as the Pimugnans.[6] The Pimugnans had settlements all over the island at one time or another. Their biggest villages, most likely, were located at Avalon Bay, as well as at the Isthmus and Emerald Bay.[citation needed] By the 1830s, the entire island's native population had either died off, or had migrated to the mainland to work in the missions or as ranch hands for the many private land owners.[7]

Early developers

In the 1840s, the Mexican governor Pio Pico gave the island of Catalina as a grant to Don Jose Corruvias of Santa Barbara. The island traded hands dozens of times in the ensuing years. During the Civil War, in 1864 it was occupied by Union troops, who built and occupied Camp Santa Catalina Island for most of 1864. Federal commanders planned to use it as an Indian reservation for the tribes they were fighting in northwestern California and as a coastal fortification. It was finally acquired, in the 1860s by James Lick, whose estate maintained control of the island for approximately the next 25 years.[8]

The first owner to try to develop Avalon Bay into a resort destination was George Shatto, a real estate speculator from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Shatto purchased the island for $200,000 from the Lick estate of at the height of a real estate boom in Southern California in 1887. Shatto created the settlement that would become Avalon, and can be credited with building the town's first hotel, the original Hotel Metropole, and pier.[9] His sister-in-law Etta Whitney came up with the name Avalon, which was pulled as a reference from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem "Idylls of the King," about the legend of King Arthur.

Mr. and Mrs. Shatto and myself were looking for a name for the new town, which in its significance should be appropriate to the place, and the names which I was looking up were 'Avon' and 'Avondale,' and I found the name 'Avalon,' the meaning of which, as given in Webster's unabridged, was 'Bright gem of the ocean,' or Beautiful isle of the blest.'[8]
—Etta Whitney

Shatto laid out Avalon's streets, and introduced it as a vacation destination to the general public. He did this by hosting a real estate auction in Avalon in 1887, and purchasing a steamer ship for daily access to the island. In the summer of 1888, the small pioneer village kicked off its opening season as a booming little resort town. Despite Shatto's efforts, in a few years he had to default on his loan and the island went back to the Lick estate.[citation needed]

Avalon Bay around 1910, before the construction of the casino

The sons of Phineas Banning bought the island in 1891 from the Lick estate and established the Santa Catalina Island Company to develop it as a resort. The Banning brothers fulfilled Shatto's dream of making Avalon a resort community. They built a dance pavilion in the center of town, made additions to the Hotel Metropole and steamer-wharf, built an aquarium, created the Pilgrim Club (a gambling club for men only). They also improved the standard of Avalon's beach by erecting a sea-wall and adding "spoonholders" or covered benches, building a bath house. For additional habitation, the Bannings erected close to one hundred tents throughout Avalon's canyon (often called "tent cities"). These tents were created so that if the expense of a hotel was too much, a visitor could rent out a tent for the bargain price of $7.50 per week. To this day, many homes in Avalon are still in possession of the same tents that stood in that spot over a century ago.[citation needed]

Just as the Bannings were anticipating the construction of a new, Hotel Saint Catherine, their efforts were set back on November 29, 1915, when a fire burned half of Avalon's buildings, including six hotels and several clubs.[citation needed] The Bannings refused to sell the island in hopes of rebuilding the town, starting with the Hotel Saint Catherine. The hotel would be located on Sugarloaf Point, the unique, picturesque, cliff bound peninsula at the north end of Avalon's harbor. It was blasted away to begin the construction of the hotel with its annex being in Descanso Canyon. These plans failed due to lack of funding and, in the end, the hotel was built in Descanso Canyon. Due to debt related to the 1915 fire and a decline in tourism due to World War I, the Bannings were forced to sell the island in 1919 in shares.[7]

Wrigley ownership

William Wrigley, Jr. took control of Avalon in 1919

In February 1919, Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley Jr bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island and its associated properties from the Banning Brothers.[10] Before his purchase, he had traveled to Catalina with his wife, Ada, and son, Philip, and immediately fell in love with the island.[7] Wrigley devoted himself to preserving and promoting it, investing millions in needed infrastructure and attractions. When Wrigley bought the island, the Hermosa II and the S.S. Cabrillo were the only steamships that provided access to the island. In order to encourage growth, Wrigley purchased an additional steamship, the S.S. Virginia. With some adjustments, it was renamed the S.S. Avalon. He also foresaw the design of another steamship, the S.S. Catalina which was launched on the morning of May 3, 1924. These steamships would deliver passengers to Catalina for many years.[citation needed]

In the 1920s, in an effort to generate tourism in Avalon, Wrigley tried to convince Gertrude Ederle, who had just become famous as first woman to swim across the English Channel, to swim from Catalina to the mainland. She declined, so he launched the 1927 Wrigley Ocean Marathon: offering $25,000 to the first person to cross the channel and $15,000 for the first finisher of "the fair sex." Out of a field of 102, only one man completed the swim, Canadian swimmer George Young, who finished 15 hours and 44 minutes after the start. The two women who came the closest were awarded $2,500 each.[11] Wrigley also brought attention to the town of Avalon by having his Chicago Cubs use the island for the team's spring training from 1921-1951, absent the war years of 1942-45.[7] In 1929, Wrigley built the Catalina Casino over the site of a previous dance hall known as the Sugarloaf Casino. Throughout the 1930s the Casino Ballroom hosted many of the biggest names in entertainment, including Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Woody Herman, and Gene Autry.[12] Following the death of William Wrigley Jr. in 1932, Wrigley's son, Philip K. Wrigley took over control of the Santa Catalina Island Company. Philip further continued his fathers work in the improvement of the infrastructure of the City of Avalon.[citation needed]

During World War II, the island was closed to tourists and used for military training facilities.[13] Catalina's steamships were expropriated for use as troop transports, the U.S. Maritime Service set up a training facility in Avalon, the Coast Guard had training at Two Harbors, the Army Signal Corp maintained a radar station in the interior, and the Office of Strategic Services (a precursor to the CIA) did training at Toyon Bay.[7]

In September 1972, 26 members of the Brown Berets, a group of Chicano activists, travelled to Catalina and planted a Mexican flag, claiming the island for all Chicanos. They asserted that the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty between Mexico and the USA did not specifically mention the Channel Islands. The group camped outside of Avalon and were viewed as a new tourist attraction. Local Mexican-Americans provided them with food after they used up their own supplies. After 24 days a municipal judge visited the camp to ask them to leave. They departed peaceably on the tourist boat, just as they had arrived.[14]

Post-Wrigley era

The Catalina Casino, 2007

In 1975, Philip Wrigley deeded the Wrigley shares in the Santa Catalina Island Company to the Catalina Island Conservancy that he had helped create. The Conservancy now stewards 88 percent of the island, primarily outside of the City of Avalon. The mission of the Catalina Island Conservancy is to be a responsible steward of its lands through a balance of conservation, education and recreation.[citation needed] So far, the successes include the opening of California's first permanent desalination plant in 1991.[citation needed] The Santa Catalina Island Company maintains control of much of its resort properties and operations within the City of Avalon. It still owns and operates many of the main tourist draws to Avalon, including the Catalina Visitors Country Club, Catalina Island Golf Course, Descanso Beach Club and the Casino Ballroom.[15]

In May 2007, the Island Fire ripped through 4,750 acres (19.2 km2) of land just outside of Avalon's City Limits. Over 200 fire fighting recruits were brought over by Marine hovercraft and helicopter to protect the city. Ultimately, only one residence and six commercial structures were destroyed.[16][17]

Geography and climate

Avalon is located on Santa Catalina Island, approximately 22 miles (35 km) south-by-southwest of the Los Angeles Harbor breakwater.[18] It is the only incorporated city to be located on one of the eight Channel Islands of California. Due to its location on Catalina Island, it is the southern-most city in Los Angeles County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3 sq mi (8 km2), 2.8 sq mi (7 km2) on land and .3 sq mi (1 km2) on water.[citation needed]

Avalon has a very mild subtropical climate with warm temperatures year-round. The National Weather Service maintained a cooperative station at the Avalon Pleasure Pier from 1909 through 1988. Based on those records, average January temperatures are a maximum of 61.9 °F (16.6 °C) and a minimum of 46.6 °F (8.1 °C) and average July temperatures are a maximum of 72.1 °F (22.3 °C) and a minimum of 60.3 °F (15.7 °C). The temperature reaches 90 °F (32 °C) or higher on an average of only 1.0 day and drops to 32 °F (0 °C) or lower on an average of only 0.1 day annually. The highest recorded temperature was 104 °F (40 °C) on September 28, 1963, and the lowest recorded temperature was 29 °F (−2 °C) on January 2, 1973.[19]

Annual average precipitation is 11.9 inches (30 cm) and there are 34 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1983 with 34.54 inches (87.7 cm) and the driest year was 1953 with 4.10 inches (10.4 cm) inches. The most rainfall in one month was 11.68 inches (29.7 cm) in May 1921. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 6.75 inches (17.1 cm) on October 22, 1941. Weather records are still maintained at the Santa Catalina airport.[19]

Climate data for Avalon, CA
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 61.9
Average low °F (°C) 46.6
Precipitation inches (mm) 2.65
Source: Western Regional Climate Center[19] 1948-1988


Avalon harbor, 2004

The City of Avalon is oriented around Avalon Bay. Being a resort community, much of the city infrastructure is oriented toward a tourist-based economy. The harbor and beaches form the center of the town's activity. The Cabrillo Mole, located on the south end of the harbor acts both as a breakwater and the main docks for the cross-channel passenger boats.[citation needed] Many of the commercial businesses dedicated to serving visitors are located along the Crescent Street pedestrian mall, which runs just behind the three main beaches of Avalon Bay. The pedestrian walkway is adorned throughout with decorative pavers, fountains, palm trees, and a decorative serpentine seawall. Many of these features were introduced to Avalon during an extensive re-design undertaken by Philip K. Wrigley in 1934.[7] Extending out into the center of the harbor is the green Pleasure Pier. The north end of the harbor is dominated by the Catalina Casino. Built in a style described as a cross between Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival, the Casino serves as Avalon's most distinctive landmark.[citation needed]

Outside of the bay and just north of the Casino is Descanso Beach, a private beach run by the Santa Catalina Island Company. At the farthest north end of town are the Hamilton Cove condominums, a gated community consisting mostly of second homes. South of the bay is Lovers Cove dive park, a marine reserve frequented by both snorkelers and the classic glass-bottom boat tours. Further south still is Pebbly Beach, an industrial area home to the heliport and Pebbly Beach Generating Station where Avalon gets its power.[citation needed]

Most of the residential units in Avalon are tucked away off of the beachfront, either in the flat lands further back into the canyon or on the hills the constitute the sides of Avalon Valley. Many of the major municipal amenities are located even further into the canyon, including City Hall, the fire station, the Catalina Island Medical Center, and Avalon Schools. The Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens are located at the farthest end of town away from the bay[20]. The Memorial prominently features native Catalina Island building materials, including the famous pottery and tile that were made on the island from 1927 through 1937.[21]


Avalon City Hall

The municipal government of the City of Avalon is of the council-manager type. The Mayor is elected to serve a two-year term while the City Councilors are elected to four-year terms. The City Manager is the executive officer of the city and is appointed directly by the City Council. The new City Hall was completed June 8, 2004. It contains local government offices as well as the council chambers.[2] In the state legislature, Avalon is located in the 27th Senate District, represented by Democrat Alan Lowenthal, and in the 54th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Bonnie Lowenthal. Federally, Avalon is located in California's 46th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +6[22] and is represented by Republican Dana Rohrabacher.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (LASD) operates the Avalon Station in Avalon.[23] A few deputies are stationed on the island full-time with additional units brought from the mainland on an as-needed and seasonal basis. The city has its own full-time and volunteer fire departments for incidents within the city limits, while the Los Angeles County Fire Department serves the rest of the island.[2] [24] The Los Angeles County Department of Health Services operates the Torrance Health Center in Harbor Gateway, Los Angeles, near Torrance and serving Avalon.[25]

The United States Postal Service Avalon Post Office is located at 118 Metropole Street.[26]


Historical Population
Census Pop.  %±
1920 586
1930 1,897 223.7%
1940 1,037 −45.3%
1950 1,506 45.2%
1960 1,536 2.0%
1970 1,520 −1.0%
1980 2,022 33.0%
1990 2,918 44.3%
2000 3,127 7.2%
Est. 2008 3,101 −0.8%

As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 3,127 people, 1,158 households, and 719 families residing in the city. The population density was 429.7/km2 (1,112.4/mi2). There were 1,839 housing units at an average density of 252.7/km2 (654.2/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.63% White, 0.74% Black, 1.02% Native American, 0.61% Asian, 0.22% Pacific Islander, 20.37% from other races, and 5.40% from two or more races. 45.95% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.[3]

There were 1,158 households out of which 38.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 44.0% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.9% were non-families. 31.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.65 and the average family size was 3.38.[3]

In the city the population was spread out with 30.3% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 30.2% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 99.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.[3]

The median income for a household in the city was $39,327, and the median income for a family was $46,406. Males had a median income of $30,789 versus $24,643 for females. The per capita income for the city was $21,032. About 9.2% of families and 10.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.5% of those under age 18 and 4.6% of those age 65 or over.[3]


The Lancer, Avalon Schools' mascot

There are two preschools within the City of Avalon, Catalina Kid Ventures and Pre-School Learning for Avalon Youth (P.L.A.Y.). Kid Ventures is located next to City Hall and is funded through the city support, tuition payments, and charitable donations.[28] P.L.A.Y. is a cooperative preschool that is tucked further back into the canyon at 4 Bird Park Canyon Road. It is located at the site of the former Bird Park, which itself was built from materials left over from the demolition of the original Sugarloaf Casino.[29]

For K-12 education, children attend Avalon Schools. Avalon Schools falls within the jurisdiction of the Long Beach Unified School District. It is divided into an elementary, middle, and high school, but a single principal administers all three levels of education.[30] The campus is composed of three Mission Style buildings, a gymnasium, four secondary bungalows, and sixteen elementary bungalows.[30] For high school sports, Avalon is a member of the CIF Southern Section.[31] The school mascot is the Lancer. The teams are referred to either as the "Avalon Lancers" or "Lancers". Home games are played in Avalon, and visiting teams must travel by boat to the island in order to make the games. In turn, the Lancers travel to the mainland for away games.[32]

Children in Avalon have two other options for elementary education. LBUSD has a one-room school, Two Harbors Elementary School, at Two Harbors in unincorporated Los Angeles County. Children may also study at the private Avalon Christian School, located on 346 Catalina Avenue.[33] Students from both these schools attend Avalon Schools for junior high and high school education.



Catalina Express leaving Long Beach for Avalon, 2008

The city is served by several high-speed passenger boats with regular daily service to Newport Beach, San Pedro, Long Beach, Marina del Rey, and Dana Point. Most of these cross-channel carriers dock at the Cabrillo Mole, located at the south end of the bay.[citation needed] Private vessels that come to Avalon Harbor are assigned a mooring by the Avalon Harbor Patrol on a first-come, first-serve basis. Boaters can get from their vessels to shore either by mooring their dinghies at one of the dinghy docks, or by getting catching a ride on a private shoreboat.[34] Catalina Airport (FAA Identifier: AVX), also known as Airport-in-the-Sky, was built in 1946 and is located at (NAD83 rounded from FAA-provided coordinates): 33°24′17″N 118°24′59″W / 33.40472°N 118.41639°W / 33.40472; -118.41639, 7 miles (11 km) northwest of Avalon. The 3,250 feet (990 m) runway sits on a mountaintop, 1,602 feet (488 m) above sea level. Until the time of the airport's construction, the only air service to the island was provided by seaplanes. Fixed-wing flights pay a $25 landing fee as of January 1, 2009.[citation needed] Several helicopter companies serve the city, with the most landing at the Pebbly Beach Heliport, located south of Avalon Bay.[citation needed]


Two examples of "autoettes" in Avalon, a Mini and a golf cart

The main method of transportation in Avalon is by small gasoline or electric powered motorcars referred to as "autoettes." These include numerous golf carts and similarly sized vehicles. Vehicles under 55 inches (140 cm) wide, 120 inches (300 cm) long, and less than 1,800 pounds (820 kg) may qualify as an autoette. Any resident may acquire an autoette permit with the restriction of one permit per household. It is very difficult for a private citizen to get a permit to have a full-size vehicle in Avalon. The permit is issued to the individual as opposed to a specific vehicle, is surrendered when residency on the island ends, and is not transferable except through petition before the city council. Only one new vehicle permit is issued for every two permits that become ineligible to be renewed or are voluntarily surrendered. For purposes of vehicle registration, Catalina Island is divided into two classifications: within Avalon and "Interior" (areas outside the city limits). The city has its own strict permit program with which local vehicle owners must comply, in addition to the usual requirements imposed by the California Department of Motor Vehicles.[35]

Visitors to Avalon can walk, rent a bicycle, rent a golf cart, ride a shuttle bus, or hire one of several private taxis. On the ocean, visitors also have a number of options for recreational transportation. They may rent paddle boards, pedal boats, kayaks, or personal outboard motorboats. Rental kayaks and motorboats may also be used for travel outside of Avalon Harbor.[citation needed]


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  24. ^ "LA County Fire Helicopters: Firehawks and Hueys". KCBS-TV. http://cbs2.com/amelia/LA.County.Fire.2.1133683.html. Retrieved August 29, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Torrance Health Center." Los Angeles County Department of Health Services. Retrieved on March 18, 2010.
  26. ^ "Post Office Location - Avalon". United States Postal Service. http://usps.whitepages.com/service/post_office/3791?p=1&s=CA&service_name=post_office&z=Avalon. Retrieved August 30, 2009. 
  27. ^ Census years 1930 through 2008 are as follows
  28. ^ "Catalina Kid Ventures Open House Celebrating 20 years". eCatalina.com. http://www.ecatalina.com/news-article-1295.html. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  29. ^ Pedersen, Jeannine. "Catalina Island's Bird Park". eCatalina.com. http://www.ecatalina.com/catalina-history-bird-park.html. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  30. ^ a b "Avalon Schools Home Page". Avalon Schools. 2009. http://lbavalon.schoolloop.com/. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  31. ^ "CIF Southern Section Home Page". CIF Southern Section. http://www.cifss.org/. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  32. ^ Wride, Nancy (October 25, 2002). "Keeping Football Season Afloat; Catalina Island team travels for hours by boat and bus to reach its away games.". Los Angeles Times: pp. B.1. http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/223411231.html?dids=223411231:223411231&FMT=ABS&FMTS=ABS:FT&type=current&date=Oct+25%2C+2002&author=Nancy+Wride&pub=Los+Angeles+Times&edition=&startpage=B.1&desc=Keeping+Football+Season+Afloat%3B+Catalina+Island+team+travels+for+hours+by+boat+and+bus+to+reach+its+away+games.. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  33. ^ "Avalon Community Organizations". eCatalina.com. http://www.ecatalina.com/catalina-organizations.html. Retrieved September 4, 2009. 
  34. ^ "Welcome to Avalon". City of Avalon. July 1, 2008. http://www.cityofavalon.com/filestorage/2542/2566/2572/Brochure_July_2008.pdf. Retrieved September 3, 2009. 
  35. ^ "F.A.Q.". City of Avalon. http://www.cityofavalon.com/content/2542/2582/2586/default.aspx. Retrieved August 29, 2009. 

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