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El Cerrito museum set for demolition to make way for housing

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Its final play date is set for September 3

One of many miniatures found at Playland-Not-at-the-Beach.
Photo by Thomas Hawk

The owners of Playland-Not-at-the-Beach have announced that the El Cerrito-based museum, which is based off the 1920s seaside amusement park that once graced San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, is closing.

Opened in 2008, the East Bay amusement park boasts arcades, carnival games, and other fair fare, including “artifacts from the Sutro Baths and Playland in San Francisco.” This Playland was a non-profit with the aim to “celebrate the magic and history of America’s bygone amusements,” according to the museum.

An announcement on the museum’s site reads in part:

“After 10 years of fun and merriment, Playland-Not-At-the-Beach is closing. Unfortunately, like the original Playland at the Beach, we will be making room for housing. [...] In another eerily similar repeat of history we are closing on Labor Day, as did our namesake park.”

This place is pretty amazing. #playlandnotatthebeach

A post shared by Julia Cohen (@julespigeon) on

The East Bay Times reported in March that the Playland building had new landlords who intended to demolish it in favor of housing.

Playland co-owner Frank Biafore told the East Bay Times that he’d like to find a new home for the collection, but “it looks pretty iffy” given the price of renting in the Bay Area.

Now it appears that prize has eluded him, and Playland-Not-At-the-Beach’s collection of “circus nostalgia and prized memorabilia from 20th century American amusement parks,” will go up for auction on September 15.

The original San Francisco Playland began as an Ocean Beach amusement park dubbed Chutes at the Beach, growing from a single carousel installed in 1914.

The longtime owners eventually sold Playland in the early 1960s, but thanks to a series of mishaps and resales, the park stayed open until 1972 before suffering final demolition.

Bits and pieces of Playland memorabilia remain on display all over the state, including several at Fisherman’s Wharf, but the El Cerrito Playland was the largest and most ambitious attempt at keeping the playland name alive more than 45 years later.