Once upon a time, they literally had to give away the inaccessible hillside lots of Arch Beach Heights — a pretty inauspicious beginning for what is now a pricey Laguna Beach community of desirable multilevel ocean-view homes.
When it was subdivided in 1911, Arch Beach Heights was largely ignored. It was in a remote location with difficult access. The steep neighborhood remained undesirable through the 1920s, when 2,500-square-foot lots couldn't fetch even $50. Prospective buyers rode trains down from Los Angeles to Laguna Beach and stayed at Ye Arch Beach Tavern, the official headquarters for lot sales in Arch Beach Heights.
Some buyers were lured by free encyclopedia sets, and even the Los Angeles Times gave away lots as a promotional tool to sell annual subscriptions to the newspaper.
But once a paved road was put in, things changed, and interest in the subdivision rose. Arch Beach Heights became one of Laguna Beach's earliest hillside communities.
What it's about
Arch Beach Heights offers panoramic ocean views and is set in a rustic Laguna Beach canyon. With relatively low home prices compared with other seaside properties, Arch Beach Heights attracts newcomers to Laguna Beach.
"In Arch Beach Heights, you tend to get a little more house for the price than anywhere else in town. The views here are pretty substantial," said John Stanaland, a broker with Laguna Seaside Realty.
Arch Beach Heights' custom-built homes date from the 1960s to the present. Architectural styles include Craftsman, Mediterranean and contemporary.
Homes built on single lots are 1,200 to 4,000 square feet. Many are three or more stories tall. Most have decks to take advantage of views of the coastline, city lights and mountains.
On the market now is a 1,189-square-foot, two-story Craftsman-style home on Miramar Street. Built in 1963, it has a master wing with French doors opening onto a wraparound deck, two additional bedrooms, 2 1/2 bathrooms and a small ocean view from its upper bedroom. It is listed at $1,095,000.
A 3,200-square-foot, four-story contemporary-style home on Baja Street is listed at $2.9 million. Built in 1995, it has three bedrooms; 3 1/2 bathrooms; unobstructed, panoramic views of the ocean and city lights; floor-to-ceiling windows; a deck; and a built-in barbecue.
On Capistrano Avenue, a 10,000-square-foot contemporary rests on four lots and is listed at $4.85 million. Built in 2005, it has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, views of the ocean and city lights, and an outdoor patio.
Ask residents and they will tell you that Arch Beach Heights is all about the view. Locals enjoy watching sunsets and stargazing from balconies. On clear days and nights, they can see Catalina Island.
Moving from Carlsbad, Calif., to Laguna Beach a year and a half ago, Carole Charles was drawn to her contemporary Arch Beach Heights home for its — what else? — "spectacular view."
In addition to its setting, Charles values the area's close-knit atmosphere. "I like the neighbors," Charles said. "Arch Beach Heights is a really friendly neighborhood."
John Vasquez, who moved from Aspen, Colo., to Laguna Beach four years ago, was drawn to Arch Beach Heights' setting and the "artful flair" of the Laguna Beach community. The owner of two properties in Arch Beach Heights, Vasquez likes to compare his oceanfront views to the coastal backdrop of St-Tropez. "The views here look so much like what you see in the French Riviera," Vasquez said.
Good news, bad news
The densely packed homes pose potential fire hazards. With narrow and steep streets, parking can also be tight. Although individual lot space is limited, walking trails and the proximity of Moulton Meadows Park help to offset the homes' small yards.
Arch Beach Heights is served by the Laguna Beach Unified School District. Children from kindergarten through fifth grade attend Top of the World Elementary, which scored 892 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2005 Academic Performance Index Base Report. Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School scored 827 and 804, respectively.
*Year to date
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