Tongva Park, Santa Monica

Tongva Park is an innovative public space in the city of Santa Monica, just north of Venice Beach. Barely more than two years old, it was designed by some of the same people who did the High Line in New York City.


I was able to convince the family to walk from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market up to Tongva Park (not very far), so we could have a look.


Tongva Park was built on a six acre paved parking lot that lay across the street from the city hall.


Curving paths wander through a sculpted topography of hills and ravines. This topography, along with hidden niches, make the park seem much bigger than it is.


There’s a playground with slides and rocks for climbing.


I enjoyed the combination of grasses and succulents, creating a landscape of spikes mixed with soft, finely textured mounds.


A fine spot for running a little bit wild.


An interesting feature of the park is how the surrounding city appears and disappears as you wander around. That’s Danny taking it all in.


At the western edge of the park there is an overlook from which you can see the beach and Pacific Ocean.


More mixing of shaggy and soft, clean and spiky. I have to say that this palette of plants really does maintain its beauty in the California winter, despite the lack of blooms. The park includes a mix of California natives and other plants from Mediterranean climates.


I know lots of gardens purport to have winter interest, but I usually find winter interest to be kind of boring. The interesting succulent here is Aloe marlothii, according to Jane of Mulch Maid and Loree of Danger Garden, and they should know.


I didn’t realize that many of the succulents turn red in the cooler weather. What we have here is most likely an Agave, an Aloe, or a  Ground Squid coming up for air, tentacles first.


I liked the look of this grass or sedge against the stone.


Some of the water features had been turned off in the cause of conservation, but this very fine waterfall was softly burbling away.

Tongva Park has won quite a few awards from urban planning, land use, and parks groups – and I can see why. It’s a popular public space that evokes the natural lands that once could be found here, all on a former parking lot.

47 Comments on “Tongva Park, Santa Monica”

  1. I love the High Line in New York. It’s quite an experience to walk high between buildings. People flock to the High Line, and it seems that they to this sister park, too. As Fernwood noted above, so much better than pavement.

  2. I like the curves and love the ground squid but other aspects of this park, not so much. The view from the bridge looking down on the alternating grasses and spiky succulents looks overly regimented to me. Like someone commented above, I wish I could grow more spiky, dangerous-looking plants but they won’t survive my winters. Oh, well…

  3. What a fabulous addition to Santa Monica. I grew up visiting my Great Aunt and Uncle in Santa Monica and still have 2nd and 3rd cousins there. I have sadly been there a couple too many times to go to funerals. Your pictures are wonderful and now I am so very homesick : ) Good to see So Cal embracing its Mediterranean climate. I love the Aloe marlothii! I enjoyed your post on Palos Verdes peninsula too. We used to go there too to visit a dear friend of my Mothers. I was so fortunate to grow up in San Diego in the 60’s and 70’s it was not so crowded and just full of wonderful places to visit. I still dream of going back and living in Laguna Beach!

  4. It is a fine example of urban reuse. I can see why it has won all those awards. I know you mention winter garden interest as boring, but it is completely different in snow country. Those mounds and even spikes come alive in their tawny winter wear draped in new fallen snow, not to mention all the conifers made for that weather. I look forward to good garden design that addresses all seasons. Sculpture in the garden takes on an interesting and different appeal in winter too. Lighting helps a winter landscape. It is challenging, but design accounts for where those Chistmas go lights too. Lovely park, even in winter.

  5. I’ve never really much liked it when midwestern gardens contain the odd cold-hardy tropical style plant. There’s one that’s very popular just now (I can’t remember it’s name), and I just don’t think it fits into our landscape. However, I love the different textures created here with the grasses and succulents. I especially like that first photo, where the grasses look a bit shaggy, giving the paths a slightly wilder, but not neglected, look. There’s something very soothing about that combination, making a walk in that park look very appealing.

  6. It’s hard to believe it’s only two years old! I can see similarities to the High Line, and get how the city can disappear and reappear. I noticed that on the High Line too. What a fantastic place…..I bet the locals simply love it.
    I love that pic of Danny, what a lovely looking boy you have!xxx

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