Laguna Beach, California

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Laguna Beach, California
Images from top, left to right: Laguna Beach coastline, Lifeguard Tower, view from Heisler Park, Festival of the Arts, and statue of Town Greeter Eiler Larsen.
Images from top, left to right: Laguna Beach coastline, Lifeguard Tower, view from Heisler Park, Festival of the Arts, and statue of Town Greeter Eiler Larsen.
Official seal of Laguna Beach, California
Location within California and Orange County
Location within California and Orange County
Coordinates: 33°31′53″N 117°46′9″W / 33.53139°N 117.76917°W / 33.53139; -117.76917Coordinates: 33°31′53″N 117°46′9″W / 33.53139°N 117.76917°W / 33.53139; -117.76917
Country United States
State California
County Orange
(post office)
June 29, 1927[1]
 • Type Council-manager[2]
 • Total 9.821 sq mi (25.435 km2)
 • Land 8.850 sq mi (22.921 km2)
 • Water 0.971 sq mi (2.515 km2)  9.89%
Elevation[4] 20 ft (6 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)[5]
 • Total 22,723
 • Estimate (2013)[5] 23,250
 • Density 2,300/sq mi (890/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 92651, 92652
Area code 949
FIPS code 06-39178
GNIS feature IDs 1660874, 2411595

Laguna Beach is a seaside resort city located in southern Orange County, California, United States. It is known for its mild year-round climate, scenic beaches, coves, artist community and the dedicated greenbelt and protected bluebelt that surround this historic village. The population in the 2010 census was 22,723.

Historically a territory of paleoindians, the Tongva people and then Mexico, the location became part of the United States following the Mexican–American War. Laguna Beach was settled in the 1870s, officially founded in 1887 and, in 1927 its current government was incorporated as a city. In 1944, the city adopted a council-manager form for its government. The city has remained relatively isolated from urban encroachment by its surrounding hills, limited highway access, and a dedicated greenbelt. 5.88 miles (9.46 km) of the Laguna Beach coastline are protected by a state marine reserve and an additional 1.21 miles (1.95 km) are designated as a state conservation area.[6]

Tourism is the primary industry with an estimated three million people visiting the community annually.[7] Annual large events include the Pageant of the Masters, Festival of the Arts, Sawdust Art Festival, Art-A-Fair, Bluewater Music Festival, and Kelpfest.


Laguna Beach was the habitation site of a prehistoric paleoindian civilization.[8] In 1933, the first fossilized skull of a paleoindian found in California was uncovered during construction on St. Ann's Drive.[9] Known as "Laguna Woman", the skull originally was radiocarbon dated to more than 17,000 BP, however, revised measurements suggest it originated during the Holocene era 11,700 years before present.[10] Subsequent research has found several prehistoric encampment sites in the area.[11]

Historically, the indigenous people of the Laguna Beach area were the Tongva. Aliso Creek served as a territorial boundary between Gabrieleno and Acjachemen groups, or Juanenos, named by Spanish missionaries who first encountered them in the 1500s.[12][13] The area of Laguna Canyon was named on an 1841 Mexican land grant map as, Cañada de las Lagunas (English:Glen of the Lagoons).[14] After the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, the area of Alta California was ceded to the United States. The treaty provided that Mexican land grants be honored and Rancho San Joaquin, which included north Laguna Beach, was granted to José Antonio Andres Sepúlveda. Following a drought in 1864, Sepúlveda sold the property to James Irvine.[15] The majority of Laguna Beach was one of the few parcels of coastal land in Southern California that never was included in any Mexican land grant.[15]

Pre-1917 postcard of Joseph Yoch's original Hotel Laguna -- built in 1888 and replaced in 1930
View of the Main Beach ca. 1915

Settlers arrived after the American Civil War. They were encouraged by the Homestead Act and Timber Culture Act, which granted up to 160 acres of land to a homesteader who would plant at least 40 acres of trees. In Laguna Beach, settlers planted groves of eucalyptus trees.[16] In 1871, the first permanent homestead in the area was occupied by the George and Sarah Thurston family of Utah on 152 acres of Aliso Creek Canyon.[17][18] In 1876, the brothers William and Lorenzo Nathan "Nate" Brooks purchased tracts of land in Bluebird Canyon at present-day Diamond Street. They subdivided their land, built homes and initiated the small community of Arch Beach.[19] In his book, History of Orange County, California (1921), Samuel Armor cited permanent homestead of Nate Brooks as the beginning of the modern day town and described Brooks as the "Father of Laguna Beach."[20]

The community in Laguna Canyon and around the main beach expanded during the 1880s. The city officially founded a post office in 1887 under the name Lagona (sic), but the postmaster in 1904, Nicholas Isch, successfully petitioned for a name correction to Laguna Beach.[21] By then Laguna Beach already had developed into a tourist destination.[22] Hubbard Goff built a large hotel at Arch Beach in 1886, which later was moved and added to Joseph Yoch's Laguna Beach Hotel built in 1888 on the main beach.[23] Visitors from local cities pitched tents on the beaches for vacation during the warm summers.[24]

The scenic beauty of the isolated coastline and hills attracted plein-air painters in the early 1900s. William Wendt, Frank Cuprien, and Edgar Payne among others settled there and formed the Laguna Beach Art Association. The first art gallery opened in 1918 and later became the Laguna Beach Art Museum.[25] Precursors to The Festival of the Arts and the Pageant of the Masters began in 1921, and eventually were established in their present day form by Roy Ropp in 1936.[26] Due to its proximity to Hollywood, Laguna also became a favorite filming location. Starting in 1913, dozens of silent films were made at local coves with Harold Lloyd, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., and others. Actors and film crews stayed during long production shoots at the Arch Beach Tavern on the hillside above Moss Street.[27]

The arrival of painters, photographers, filmmakers, and writers established Laguna Beach as a noted artist community.[24] Although there only were approximately 300 residents in 1920, a large proportion of them worked in creative fields.[28] The small town remained isolated until 1926 because the long winding Laguna Canyon road served as the only access.[28] With the completion of the Pacific Coast Highway in 1926, a population boom was expected. In order to protect the small town atmosphere of the art colony, residents who called themselves "Lagunatics" pushed for incorporation.[28] The municipal government for Laguna Beach incorporated as a city on June 29, 1927.[29] The city experienced steady population growth since that time, rising from 1900 residents in 1927 to more than 10,000 in 1962, and becoming four times larger in area.[28]

Many creative, bohemian, and wealthy people have made Laguna Beach their home. They have added to the local culture by providing a theme for the small town. The adventurer Richard Halliburton built his Hangover House on the slopes of South Laguna. Hildegarde Hawthorne, granddaughter of the novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne, described Laguna "as a child of that deathless search, particularly by persons who devote their lives to painting or writing, or for some place where beauty and cheapness and a trifle of remoteness hobnob together in a delightful companionship."[30]

Laguna Beach was the southern California epicenter of 'alternative' culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[31] In early 1967, John Griggs and other founding members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love relocated from Modjeska Canyon to the Woodland Drive neighborhood of Laguna Beach, which they later re-christened "Dodge City".[31] Timothy Leary lived in a beach house on Gaviota Drive.[32]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city of Laguna Beach has a total area of 25.4 km2 (9.8 sq mi), of which 22.9 km2 (8.8 sq mi) is land and 2.5 km2 (0.97 sq mi). Its coastline is 7 mi (11 km) long and includes 27 beaches and coves.[33] 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.[34] Because of its hilly topography and surrounding parklands, there are few roads into or out of town; only the 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.

The natural landscape of beaches, rocky bluffs and craggy canyons have been noted as sources of inspiration for Plein air painters who have settled in the Laguna Beach since the early 1900s.[35][36] The hills also are known internationally for mountain biking.[37] Laguna Coast Wilderness Park[38] is a 7,000-acre (2,800 ha) wilderness area in the hills surrounding Laguna Beach. This park features coastal canyons, ridgeline views and the only natural lakes in Orange County.

South Laguna Beach


Laguna Beach has a mild Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine all year. The average daily high temperature ranges from 68 °F in January to 80 °F in August. Mean annual precipitation is relatively low at 13.56 inches. The average ocean water temperatures range from about 59 °F in February to 68 °F in August; with early to mid-September water temperatures often peaking at about 72 °F.[39] However, the ocean surface temperatures along the beaches of Laguna Beach may vary by several degrees from the average, dependent upon offshore winds, air temperature, and sunshine.[39]

Climate data for Laguna Beach, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 89
Average high °F (°C) 68
Average low °F (°C) 44
Record low °F (°C) 21
Average precipitation inches (mm) 2.75
Source: The Weather Channel[40]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 1,981
1940 4,460 125.1%
1950 6,661 49.3%
1960 9,288 39.4%
1970 14,550 56.7%
1980 17,858 22.7%
1990 23,170 29.7%
2000 23,727 2.4%
2010 22,723 −4.2%
Est. 2014 23,341 [41] 2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[42]


The 2010 United States Census[43] reported that 22,723 people, 10,821 households, and 5,791 families resided in the city. The population density was 2,313.8 people per square mile (893.4/km²). There were 12,923 housing units at an average density of 1,315.9 per square mile (508.1/km²). The racial makeup of Laguna Beach was 90.9% White (85.7% Non-Hispanic White), 0.8% African American, 0.3% Native American, 3.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.5% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races.[44] 7.3% of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.[44]

The Census reported that 99.6% of the population lived in households and 0.4% lived in non-institutionalized group quarters. There were 10,821 households out of which 20.1% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 43.6% were opposite-sex married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 3.6% had a male householder with no wife present. 5.2% of households were unmarried opposite-sex partnerships and 2.8% were same-sex married couples or partnerships. 35.2% of households were made up of individuals and 10.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09. The average family size was 2.72.

The population was spread out with 16.1% under the age of 18, 4.8% aged 18 to 24, 23.4% aged 25 to 44, 37.4% aged 45 to 64, and 18.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48.3 years. For every 100 females there were 100.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.8 males.

There were 12,923 housing units of which 60.0% were owner-occupied and 40.0% were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.7%. 64.6% of the population lived in owner-occupied housing units and 35.0% lived in rental housing units.

During 2009–2013, Laguna Beach had a median household income of $94,325, with 6.3% of the population living below the federal poverty line.[45]


Emerald Bay
Condominiums line the beach.

As of the census[46] 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.[47] 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.

Arts, music, and culture[edit]

The Laguna Art Museum is rooted in the development of Laguna Beach as an art community with the creation of the Laguna Beach Art Association in 1918.[48] Located beside the main beach, the museum focuses on the art of California. The Pageant of the Masters, founded in 1935, is held annually during the summer months. The unique show presents recreations of famous artworks using real people as models. Community organizations also host several long-running art festivals during the summer season.[49]

Entrance to the Festival of the Arts and Pageant of the Masters

The Festival of Arts, originated in the 1930s and showcases juried works by local artists. The Sawdust Art Festival was founded in 1965 as a counterculture alternative to the Festival of the Arts. It exhibits non-juried crafts and arts on a dedicated three-acre site. The Art-A-Fair began in 1966, built an exhibition site in 1977 and exhibits juried works of 125 artists from outside the area.[50]

The Laguna Playhouse, founded in 1920, is noted as the "oldest continuously running theatre on the west coast".[51] The playhouse provides professional stage productions in its 420-seat Moulton Theater, as well as performances by the Laguna Playhouse Youth Theatre program. The Irvine Bowl is a 2600-seat amphitheater used for the Pageant of the Masters program and for occasional concerts.

The Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational is held annually in October.[52] Some of North America's plein air landscape painters are invited to participate in the week-long events including public paint outs, artist meet and greets, and educational activities.

The Laguna Beach Arts Commission sponsors a weekly Summer Concert in the Park series at Bluebird Park and Heisler Park. The Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society holds an annual chamber music festival during the winter season. Laguna is also home to the annual Bluewater Music Festival, and Kelpfest held on Earth Day, to raise awareness of the importance that kelp plays in ocean habitat.[53]

Surf culture and sports[edit]

Laguna has a rich surf history. The Brooks Street Surfing Classic is the oldest continuing surf contest in the world.[54] Begun in 1955, the competition is held only when peak swell conditions occur during a four-month-long window in the summer. Participation is open only to Laguna Beach residents.[55] Notable participants have included surfing greats such as Hobie Alter, Mickey Munoz, and Tom Morey, to name a few.

Started in 1976, the 'Vic' Skimboarding World Championship is held at Aliso Beach in Laguna Beach, and is the longest running skim boarding contest on the pro circuit.[56]

The Laguna Open Volleyball Tournament first started in 1956 and is the second oldest volleyball tournament in the U.S. Local players such as Dain Blanton have gone on to become world champion players and Olympians.

Laguna's foothill trails are known internationally for mountain biking.[37] Mountain bike hall of fame legend, Hans Rey makes his home in Laguna Beach, as do the Rads,[57] pioneers of mountain biking going back to the 70s.

The U.S. Open for Lawnbowling is held annually, at the lawn bowling field at Heisler Park.[58]


Laguna Beach was first settled in the 1870s, but was founded officially in 1887 and, in 1927 it incorporated as a city. Beginning in 1944, a council-manager form of government was adopted.[2] Residents of Laguna Beach elect five non-partisan council members who serve four-year staggered terms, with elections occurring every two years. The position of mayor is non-elected and chosen annually among the members of the city council. The council serves to pass ordinances, approve a budget, and hire the city manager and city attorney. The city manager oversees administrative operations and the appointment of department heads. In 2011, John Pietig was hired as city manager following the retirement of his boss, Ken Frank who, after 31 years, was one of the longest-serving city managers in Orange County history.

The city clerk and city treasurer are elected by popular vote and serve four-year terms.[59][60]

County, state, and federal representation[edit]

Laguna Beach is located in the fifth district of the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

In the California State Legislature, the city is in the 37th Senate District, represented by Republican John Moorlach, and in the 74th Assembly District, represented by Republican Matthew Harper.[61]

In the United States House of Representatives, Laguna Beach is in California's 48th congressional district, represented by Republican Dana Rohrabacher.[62]

Conservation and environment[edit]

Beachgoers at Main Beach in Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach has a history of environmental stewardship and historic preservation. Laguna Beach is the only Orange County city protected by a dedicated greenbelt inland and bluebelt seaward. In 1968, local conservationists founded Laguna Greenbelt and began a drive to conserve a horseshoe of hills and canyons surrounding Laguna Beach.[63] As of 2011, more than 20,000 contiguous acres of wildlands constituted The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Jim Dilley Preserve, Crystal Cove State Park, and the Aliso-Wood Canyons Wilderness Park.[64]

The creation of the 7,000-acre Laguna Coast Wilderness Park as a protected area began in the late 1980s and early 1990s when local artists, activists and politicians rallied to preserve Laguna Canyon. With the environmentally focused Laguna Canyon Project and its photographic mural, "The Tell,"[65] as backdrop and stimulus, Laguna citizens forged a partnership to prevent construction of a 3,200-acre housing project in the canyon. An exhibition on the Laguna Canyon Project, titled "The Canyon Project: Artivism," was held at Laguna Art Museum in 2015-16.,.[66][67] Today the Wilderness Park and Laguna Canyon within it are designated as open space into perpetuity.[38]

The Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve (LBSMR), which extends from Irvine Cove to Treasure Island Beach, was established in 2012, to make most of the coastal area a no-take zone.[68] Docents of the Laguna Ocean Foundation provide monitoring and education at tidepools within the LBSMR.[68] In addition, the 3.2 mile long Crystal Cove State Park abuts the northern border of Laguna Beach.

American Craftsman Bungalows from the early 1900s dot the downtown and South Laguna areas. Between 1980 and 1981, the city conducted the Laguna Beach Historic Survey, a city-wide block-by-block study which noted the location of pre-1940 buildings and determined which had historic significance.[69] 706 homes and structures in Laguna Beach were classified as historically significant.[70]

Laguna Beach is the tenth official Transition Town in the U.S. In February 2007, Laguna's city council unanimously voted to join the U.S. Mayors Climate Initiative, and in April, 2013 became the first Orange County city to request formally that the San Onofre Nuclear Reactor not be restarted after its January 2012 shut down. The Aliso Creek Water Reclamation Facility went into operation in 2014. It removes polluted runoff in Aliso Creek, improves ocean water quality, and creates local recycled water.[71] With a grant from Cal Trans, the city is undertaking a transition plan to implement Complete Streets for all users. A North-South bicycle route with signs and sharrows was completed through town in 2014. Laguna Beach passed a city-wide 'Idaho Stop'[72] for cyclist, a no plastic bag ordinance and a no plastic bottle purchasing policy for its government.


Primary and Secondary[edit]

The Laguna Beach Unified School District manages public education for city residents. The district includes one high school (Laguna Beach High School), one middle school (Thurston Middle School), and two elementary schools (El Morro Elementary School and Top of the World Elementary School). One private elementary school, St. Catherine of Siena Parish School, is overseen by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.

Higher education[edit]

The Laguna College of Art & Design (LCAD) is a small private college located in Laguna Canyon. It was founded in 1961 by the Festival of Arts and Laguna Art Museum as the Laguna Beach School of Art. LCAD offers bachelor of arts degrees in drawing and painting, illustration, animation, graphic design, and game art, and master of fine arts degrees in painting and drawing. In 2013, enrollment was approximately 450 students.[73]

Notable people[edit]

Broadcasting and media[edit]

In 2004, MTV created a reality television show entitled Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, which aired on MTV for three seasons. The show follows the lives of several young Laguna Beach residents as they finish high school and begin the next chapter of their lives. It had a very successful first two seasons and became the second highest rated MTV show. Its success elevated the central figures on the show, Stephen Colletti, Kristin Cavallari, Lo Bosworth, and Lauren Conrad to celebrity status. The show later became a spin-off now known as The Hills.

Laguna Beach has its own FM community radio station, KX 93.5.[74]

The community is served by two weekly local newspapers: the Laguna Beach Independent and the The Coastline Pilot, a subsidiary of the Los Angeles Times.


Fire protection in Laguna Beach is provided by the Laguna Beach Fire Department, and law enforcement by the Laguna Beach Police Department. Laguna Beach also has been using goats as part of its fuel reduction and vegetation management program since the early 1990s.[75] Marine safety services are provided jointly by Laguna Beach City Lifeguards in north Laguna Beach and by U.S. Ocean Safety Lifeguards in south Laguna Beach.

1993 fire[edit]

A fire in Laguna Beach in October 1993 destroyed or damaged 441 homes and burned more than 14,000 acres (5,700 ha). The National Fire Protection Association listed it as the seventh largest-loss wildland fire in the United States.[76]

Sister Cities[edit]

Laguna Beach has 3 sister cities:

See also[edit]


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  45. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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