About El Porto, California
El Porto, California is a fourteen-block by three-block beachside residential and commercial district within Los Angeles County, California, unincorporated until 1980 when it was annexed and absorbed by the city of Manhattan Beach. The El Porto neighborhood overlooks El Porto Beach, one of Los Angeles County's most reliable waves and most popular surf spots.
Founded in 1911 by developer George Peck, El Porto existed as a seaside "municipal island" with no local police or city services for over sixty years, falling only under the jurisdiction of the Los Angeles County Sheriff. As such, El Porto became the home of speakeasies and rum runners during 1920's prohibition. According to legend, Pancho's restaurant in the middle of town (then serving Chinese food) was once both a speakeasy, and a casino! With the post WWII boom, and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) just 11 minutes away, El Porto became a hot spot for stewardesses, pilots, and tourists - and also for marijuana smugglers, evolving with the times into the cocaine smuggling of the 70's and 80's - most notably documented in the movie Blow starring Johnny Depp, recounting local drug-runner George Jung's rise as America's #1 kingpin starting at a Highland Avenue hair salon.
According to magazine and newspaper articles, the lawlessness of El Porto was celebrated by residents, surfers, and beachgoers in its local bar scene, which often remained opened as late as customers would stay, sometimes ending in brawls on the street with no police to interfere.
Adding Hollywood allure to its badboy image, El Porto's neighborhood bars, which have since become Fishbar, OBs, and Baja Sharkeez, are said to have been owned and frequented by the Smothers Brothers and Clint Eastwood, and played home to performances by Ike and Tina Turner. In their hey-day, Los Angeles Raiders Owner Al Davis, along with players and cheerleaders, were neighborhood regulars. Behind El Tarasco's takeout counter, autographed photos of Lakers players and coaches - along with signed photos of television and movie stars - tell just part of the story of the neighborhood's more recent celebrity residents and visitors.
Since 1980, the neighborhood of El Porto and its approximate 2000 residents have fallen under the jursidiction of Manhattan Beach. In 2008, the Manhattan Beach City Council's local Business Improvement District voted to rename the area "North Manhattan Beach" effectively removing El Porto from the map. El Porto Surf Shop proudly keeps the El Porto name and spirit alive for all locals, surfers, and visitors to enjoy.