Laguna Beach is a seaside resort and artist community located in southern Orange County, California, approximately 24 miles (39 km) southeast of the county seat of Santa Ana. Its population was 23,727 at the 2000 census. It is known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in southern California. The city has good hotels, unique shops and restaurants, world famous art galleries and art festivals. Many movies and TV shows have been filmed there.
The community of Laguna Beach is the second oldest city in Southern Orange County -- only San Juan Capistrano is older—and it exists for one simple reason. The area where Laguna is situated was considered to be so worthless that none of the large ranchos surrounding it cared to claim it during the land grab which ensued after California was wrested away from Mexico.
Settlers arriving after the Civil War found scarce amounts of land available for homesteading, and one such tract, known then simply as "the public lands" was the coastal strip from Laguna Canyon to Three Arch Bay. One family, the Thurstons, claimed the land in Aliso Canyon and during the 1870s built a house about a mile from the beach. Soon a small community, named Arch Beach, had been started just north of there at the mouth of Bluebird Canyon. By the early 1880s most of the land around its small Post Office and general store had been subdivided. At about the time that Orange County separated from Los Angeles County and became independent in 1889, the little community was caught in an economic downturn and failed.
When the economy renewed itself, the decision was made to relocate the town to the mouth of Laguna Canyon. This was possible because a dispute with the Irvine ranch over the public right to traverse Laguna Canyon had been resolved in the courts, allowing an additional means of access to the coast.
By 1900 Laguna Beach was occupied by five families of homesteaders struggling to farm land not well-suited to sustain them. They soon found an additional source of income by renting sections of the beaches to farmers from Tustin, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Riverside, and other inland communities who were eager to escape the summer heat. Thus began the tourist industry which is still a mainstay of the local economy.
In the early 1920s the area was discovered by a group of landscape painters who laid the foundation of the art community which is still thriving to this day. Subsequently, various groups have "discovered" Laguna Beach and added incrementally to the town's diversity. Show business people from Hollywood, retirees, gays, hippies, yuppies, and most lately the very-well-to-do have made Laguna Beach their home and added to the local culture.
The region was originally known to the Spanish as "La Cañada de Las Lagunas" which means "The Canyon of the Small Lakes", in reference to two lakes found near the head of Laguna Canyon. However, in confusion with the word "Lagoon", Laguna Beach was nearly misnamed "Lagoona" by the State of California. While it was still an unincorporated community, the Postmaster, Nicholas Isch, journeyed to Sacramento to rectify the mistake, and the original Spanish spelling was retained.
[ Information above collected by T.C. Gibian from Margaret Isch Hamm, born in Laguna Beach in 1901, and from several books written by early settlers, including "Early Days in Laguna" by Joe Thurston. ]
Laguna Beach was the point of origin and base of operations for the Brotherhood of Eternal Love (The Laguna Brotherhood) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Timothy Leary lived with and acted as a spiritual guide to the Brotherhood, until his arrest for possession of marijuana. Leary was 'busted' by Laguna Beach police officer Neal Purcell on Dec 26, 1968 on Woodland Drive, just south of the intersection with the Roosevelt Drive footpath.[ - WA, Aug 2008, Jan 2009, May 2009, July 2009]
Laguna Beach is located at Coordinates: .
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 25.2 km2 (9.7 sq mi). 22.9 km2 (8.8 sq mi) of it is land and 2.3 km2 (0.89 sq mi) of it is water. The total area is 9.24% water.
It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the southwest, Crystal Cove State Park on the northwest, Laguna Woods on the northeast, Aliso Viejo and Laguna Niguel on the east, and Dana Point on the southeast.
The land in and around Laguna Beach rises quickly from the shoreline into the hills and canyons of the San Joaquin Hills. The town's highest point, at an elevation of 1,007 feet (307 m), is Temple Hill in the Top of the World neighborhood. Because of its hilly topography and surrounding parklands, there are few roads into or out of town; only the Pacific Coast Highway connecting to Newport Beach to the northwest and to Dana Point to the south, and State Route 133 crossing the hills in a northeastern direction through Laguna Canyon. Parts of Laguna Beach border the Aliso/Wood Canyons Regional Park.
In 1979, Laguna Beach was described as "a paradise, an inexhaustible source of inspiration" by artist Marco Sassone, one of the many artists who made the "idyllic" town home since the 1920s.
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,727 people, 11,511 households, and 5,778 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,035.1 /km2 (3,000 /sq mi). There were 12,965 housing units at an average density of 565.6 /km2 (1,000 /sq mi). The racial makeup of the city was 91.99% White, 0.80% African American, 0.36% Native American, 2.08% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 2.21% from other races, and 2.47% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.62% of the population.
There were 11,511 households out of which 18.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.9% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.8% were non-families. 36.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.05 and the average family size was 2.69.
In the city the population was spread out with 15.8% under the age of 18, 4.2% from 18 to 24, 32.9% from 25 to 44, 33.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.0 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $90,017, and the median income for a family was $146,562. Males had a median income of $66,221 versus $46,138 for females. The per capita income for the city was $58,732. About 2.8% of families and 5.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.7% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
In the early history of Laguna Beach, many artists and counterculture activists moved from nearby Los Angeles and settled in the charming cottages along the Laguna hillsides. Today few artists remain, as the town is one of the wealthiest places in North America. Most artists in the community now live in Laguna Canyon.
Of the 18,806 registered voters in 2009, 7,246 (38.5%) were Democrats and 6,768 (36%) were Republicans. In the 2008 presidential election, Democratic candidate Barack Obama received 62% of the city’s vote, while Republican candidate John McCain received 35% of the vote. Laguna Beach was one of only four cities in Orange County to vote against Proposition 8, which amended the California Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.
Jane Egly serves as Laguna Beach's mayor and Cheryl Kinsman as Mayor Pro Tem. The other three city council members are Toni Iseman, Kelly Boyd, and Elizabeth Schneider. In 2008, Verna Rollinger was elected to replace Cheryl Kinsman, and Kelly Boyd was selected as Mayor.
Laguna Beach has long embraced the environmentalist movement. In February 2007, its city council unanimously voted to join the U.S. Mayors Climate Initiative.
In the state legislature Laguna Beach is located in the 35th Senate District, represented by Republican Tom Harman, and in the 70th Assembly District, represented by Republican Chuck DeVore. Federally, Laguna Beach is located in California's 48th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +8 and is represented by Republican John Campbell.