The pace is leisurely, but there's lots to do

Special to The Times

For the most part, the 9,000 or so residents of Leisure World Seal Beach find that their daily routines reflect this gated community's serene name. Populated by seniors 55 and older, the community of about 1 square mile has amenities, clubs, round-the-clock security and healthcare. Its single-story attached units are surrounded by acres of greenbelt and trees.

* Drawing card The community offers an 84-degree swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, a nine-hole, par-three golf course, a 2,500-seat amphitheater, six clubhouses, a carwash, wood shops, numerous clubs and a community garden for those with green thumbs. All of it is free to residents paying the monthly owners' fees.

There is a full-service clinic staffed with doctors Monday through Friday and a nurse on duty 24 hours a day.


* Insider's view

Many Leisure World residents spend their time attending the various clubs. There are clubs for several nationalities, playing cards, dancing, religious groups, political groups, writing and arts and crafts.

The community has churches, a library, a post office, its own newspaper and an area where residents can plant their own gardens. The farm has more than 100 plots and a waiting list of up to three years.

Frank Tripoli, a resident involved in a number of clubs, also farms his own garden plot.

"We grow whatever we want," Tripoli said, "from eggplant to carrots. Tomatoes, beans, zucchini, two kinds of cucumbers, yellow squash, red and green bell peppers, Italian leaf lettuce. Each year I get to be a better farmer. It's a lot of work, but it's enjoyable. When something starts growing out of that ground, it's really a joy."

*

On the market

By Southland standards, the homes remain a pretty reasonable buy, said Hank Barto, the owner and broker of Leisure Living Resales, which specializes in Leisure World sales.

"Right now we don't have a lot of buyers," said Barto, who has been living and working in the community for 11 years. "But usually everyone wants a corner and a greenbelt or one bedroom and a greenbelt."

Single-bedroom units range from $124,000 to $159,000. Two-bedrooms start at $175,000 and go up to $350,000, depending on location and whether the unit has been expanded, Barto said. About 60 homes are currently for sale in Leisure World, according to the Multiple Listing Service.

*

Stock report


Built in 1960 with funding from the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, the community has a little more than 8,000 units, most of which are wood-framed with beige stucco exteriors and brick facades.

The units are attached and lined in rows along the greenbelts. "They were built over 40 years ago," said Barto, who is known around the community as Mr. Hank. "But remarkably, the bathrooms and kitchens are still nice. Many people buy the units and completely remodel them."

The floor plan for one-bedroom units has 609 square feet, with 200 square feet of patio. The two-bedrooms have slightly more than 760 square feet, with 400-square-foot patios. Each residence has 3 feet of yard in front.

"The rest is common area. We own the land," Barto said, referring to the 16 mutual corporations that make up the community. The properties are either cooperative units, in which the owner owns one share of stock in a mutual corporation, or condominiums, in which the owner has a deed to an apartment and an interest in the mutual corporation's assets. The corporation maintains the grounds, at an average cost to homeowners of $300 a month.

At least one person occupying a unit must be 55 to qualify for occupancy. Co-occupants must be at least 45 except for a spouse or medical or financial care provider.

*

Good news, bad news

Although Leisure World enjoys a moderate coastal climate, it is close to Long Beach Airport and in the path for low incoming flights. In addition, the community has had its share of controversy — from the extermination of excess rabbits, which made local headlines, to vocal protests by some residents who believe the Leisure World administration needs to open its books for public inspection.

But by and large, things are quiet. Tripoli said he finds everything he wants at Leisure World.

"The peacefulness, the serenity, the security and all the amenities," he said. "You feel secure here. Everybody watches out for each other."


* Historical values Single-family detached resales for the entire 90740 ZIP Code:

Year...Median Price 1990...$365,500

1995...$300,000

2000...$400,000

2003...$615,000

2004*...$747,500

*Year to date *


Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Leisure World Seal Beach, http://www.lwsb.com ; real estate broker Hank Barto, http://www.leisurelivingresales.com/LLR/Contact.cfm .

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