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Leucadia hangs onto its ‘60s vibe

Surfers enjoy Leucadia’s tucked away beaches. Oceanfront development may change the area’s funky ambience.
(Christine Cotter / LAT)
Special to The Times

Leucadia is, well, funky. Once a hippie mecca, remnants of the ‘60s remain in this coastal north San Diego County community. But it’s not all tie-dye, love beads and surfboard mailboxes: Residents are trying to preserve their lifestyle in the face of change.

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Beginnings

Settled by English spiritualists in 1870, Leucadia was named after a Greek island. Its streets are named after mythological figures.

At one time, Leucadia was agricultural. Today, many of the wholesale flower-growing businesses are gone, replaced by homes.

Leucadia runs along North Coast Highway 101, and its history is an integral part of the rambling highway’s culture and lore, harking back to the unspoiled beach towns that predated World War II. It is one of five communities incorporated in 1986 into the city of Encinitas.

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What it’s about

Eclectic shops, restaurants, yoga studios and art galleries line the commercial zone along the coast highway. The district has a “natural, homeopathic feel to it,” said Peder Norby, director of the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Assn. “The challenge will be to maintain that in the face of upcoming revitalization.”

Some local favorite hangouts include Pannikin Coffee & Tea, housed in a train station built in the 1880s and favored by the arts crowd; Lou’s Records, with a collection of new and used CDs and records; Calypso Cafe, built in an old house and offering a beach-vibe music scene (Eagles songwriter Jack Tempchin is a regular performer).

Leucadia’s beaches may be the last true hide-outs of the Southern California surf scene. Very much off the beaten path, there are three popular spots — Grandview, Beacon’s and Stone Steps — that are hidden gems, tucked away at the bottom of steep staircases.

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Insiders’ view

“The best thing that ever happened to Leucadia is that nothing ever happened to it,” Norby said. But the winds of change are blowing. The Leucadia 101 Main Street Assn. was formed to protect the area’s character, in particular the preservation of North Coast Highway 101’s classic roadside architecture.

Yet other residents feel that change cannot come quickly enough. John Portilla owns Fulano’s Café: “The powers that be would like to keep Leucadia junky…. Hopefully, some of the new growth that is coming will help it change.”

Despite the debate, change is under way. Small improvements (new sidewalks, landscaping, parking) have community support. Locals cite the Gold Coast Plaza, an old courtyard motel converted to boutique shops and a spa, as a good example of sensitive redevelopment. The most controversial project — a 130-room luxury condominium-hotel to be built on the ocean bluffs at Leucadia’s northern edge — is moving forward. The hotel will be built by KSL Resorts, which owns the La Costa Resort and the Hotel del Coronado.

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On the market

Leucadia has several distinct neighborhoods, said Gita Gendloff of Realty Executives. The area west of Highway 101 is the priciest and attracts those who can afford to live by the ocean. Between the 101 and Interstate 5 is a mix of condos, older cottages, remodeled and new homes; many lots are roomy — 10,000 square feet or so — and some of the charm of avocado groves is present. East of Interstate 5 is a mixed bag, with a few homes dating to the ‘40s and the rest built from the 1970s to the present.

There is also a wide variety of landscaping, said Margaret Hokkanen of Hokkanen Real Estate — manicured lawns and immaculate gardens as well as homes with chickens running around the yard.

At the end of July there were 64 single-family properties on the market. At the low end was a 608-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath home for $530,000.

For $6.5 million, there was a 5,000-square-foot, four-bedroom, 3 1/2 -bath house with ocean views listed.

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Report card

Leucadia students attend one of two elementary schools in the Encinitas Union School District: Paul Ecke Central or Capri. Out of a possible 1,000, their scores on the state’s 2005 Academic Performance Index Base Report are 793 and 779, respectively. From there, students attend the San Dieguito Union High School District, where Diegueno Middle School scored 873 and Oak Crest Middle School scored 851. La Costa Canyon High School scored 782.

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Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$229,000

1995...$188,000

2000...$305,000

2005...$615,000

*2006...$676,250

*Year to date

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Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; leucadia101.com; encinitaschamber.com;

gitagendloff.com; surftheturf.com; California Department of

Education, cde.ca.gov.


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