Leisure World Getting Used to New Name

Times Staff Writer

Days after Leisure World residents voted overwhelmingly to change the name that their Laguna Woods retirement community had borne for 40 years, most seemed happy with the choice.

But not necessarily for the reasons advertised.

“It was my pick,” Star Warford, 79, said of Laguna Woods Village, the new moniker approved by 42.5% of the more than 6,000 residents who cast their ballots Friday. “I think it would have been pretentious to call it ‘Estates,’ or ‘Manor’ or ‘Resort.’ Laguna Woods, after all, isn’t a big city, so why not call this a village?”

Warford said she was unimpressed, however, by the arguments of some that the new name would create a more fitting image for the 18,000-strong 55-and-over community, where many still work and pursue active lives. “I love sitting around, playing croquet and singing barbershop,” she said. “I don’t think the name will make any difference. It’s a lovely place to live.”


In fact, there were other, more pressing reasons the community’s leaders put the change to a vote.

Heidi Cortese, daughter of Leisure World’s developer and the owner of its trademark, sued to prevent commercial use of the name in website or cable TV advertising unless the community paid her an annual fee of as much as $18,000. To avoid that burden, members of the Leisure World name-change committee pared 1,257 suggestions down to five finalists. Besides the winner, they were Laguna Woods Estates, Laguna Woods Resort, Saddleback Woods and Laguna Manors.

Not everyone was pleased with the process.

Ming Chang, 62, said he boycotted Friday’s vote because he didn’t think it was necessary. The community’s board of directors “should have worked with Heidi to get it solved rather than just change the name,” said Chang, who has lived in the community for 4 1/2 years. “This is a retirement community. Leisure World is a good name. I don’t think they took the right route.”

Ray Maiorano, 74, a seven-year resident who works as a Leisure World security patrolman, said he also opposed any change. “Anyplace you go,” he said, “everyone knows what Leisure World is. Now [the name] is going to disappear.”

Board member Mark Stein, 70, acknowledged that “there were many people saddened” by the change, but “when the two parties can’t get together,” he said, “you got to do what you got to do. It got to the point where we had to divorce ourselves from the name. But what’s in a name? It’s the people that make a community.”

Indeed, that seemed to be the consensus among about a dozen residents hanging out at the community center late Monday afternoon.

“I think it’s fine,” Nelson P. Nelson, 88, said of the new name. “As long as it can’t be Leisure World, I didn’t think it should be an ‘Estates.’ That sounds too much like mobile homes.”

And Libby Marks, 88, described the name change as a practical solution to a vexing problem. Keeping the old name, she said, “would have cost us lots of money that could be better spent on other things. It’s no big deal to me. Whatever we call ourselves, this is still the greatest place in the world to live.”

Marty Rhodes, chairman of the name-change committee, estimated that it would cost about $50,000 to redesign the community’s logo, change signs and update the website. The new name, he said, will become official as soon as it’s certified by the U.S. Patent Office, which could take up to six months.

In the meantime, said Peter Enyingi, 79, the change certainly won’t hurt the community’s public image. “This is a better name than Leisure World,” he said. “People always called it Seizure World.”