Courtland Paul, 75; Landscape Architect Helped Change Face of Southern California

Times Staff Writer

Courtland Paul, a landscape architect whose work graced communities, golf courses and theme parks in Southern California and throughout the world, has died. He was 75.

Paul died Jan. 28 of congestive heart failure at his home in San Juan Capistrano.

More than 50 years ago, after quitting a job at a small Pasadena nursery, Paul founded a landscape architecture firm now called the Peridian Group. Based in Newport Beach, the company has a roster of projects including golf courses and hotels from Marina del Rey to Malaysia and theme parks such as Euro Disney.


A natty dresser who always wore saddle shoes and a bow tie, Paul landscaped parts of several master-planned communities in Orange County, including Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo and Irvine.

His creative approach to hillside development while designing Newport Beach’s Harbor Ridge community in the late 1970s prompted most California cities, including Los Angeles, to revise their grading ordinances.

“Court ... had a profound influence on literally thousands of young architects and landscape architects during his illustrious career,” Eli Broad said in a statement last week. Broad, chairman of AIG SunAmerica Inc. and a prominent Southern California builder and philanthropist, worked with Paul for 30 years.

Paul’s son said his father’s ability to sculpt beauty in any setting made him unique.

“My father could look at a piece of dirt and immediately have a vision of what would be beautiful,” said Sanford Paul of Tustin. “He could see like an artist.”

Born and raised in Pasadena, Courtland Paul graduated from Cal Poly San Dimas -- then a southern campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- with a degree in ornamental horticulture. In 1954, he became one of the state’s first licensed landscape architects.

A year later, at 27, he was a founding member of the American Institute of Landscape Architects and served as its director for five years. He was later appointed to a four-year term on the state’s Board of Landscape Architects and was also president of the California Council of Landscape Architects.

The only thing that overrode his love for work was his devotion to family, said Sanford Paul.

Despite failing health, Paul flew to Illinois in December for the wedding of one of his granddaughters.

During the reception he led Nadine, his wife of 55 years, to the floor for the anniversary dance as “Through the Years” by Kenny Rogers played. Being married the longest, the couple was the last to leave the floor. By the time the song ended, Paul was weeping.

“Anything involving family had the ability to touch him like nothing else could,” said Sanford Paul.

A celebration of Paul’s life, including the planting of a California live oak in his memory, will be held Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. at Irvine Regional Park in Orange. He has requested that attendees wear bow ties.

In addition to his wife and son, Paul is survived by daughters Pamela Burns of Aurora, Ill., Robyn Cueva of Champaign, Ill., and Kimberly Paul of Anaheim; nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Another son, Scott, died 11 years ago in a plane crash.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the Courtland Paul Scholarship Fund, administered by the Landscape Architecture Foundation of the American Society of Landscape Architects. Checks should be sent to LAF, Attention: Ron Figura, 818 18th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20006.