Deal for South Laguna Community Garden Park falls through

South Laguna Beach Community Garden
(Spencer Grant)

A deal to purchase the South Laguna Community Garden Park property has fallen through, according to representatives of those seeking to buy the parcel.

An agreement to acquire the land located at 31610 Coast Highway for $2 million had been reached last month, beginning a 30-day period to close escrow. Due diligence done during that period led to questions about the legitimacy of the purported seller.

“We’re still trying to pursue our options to purchase, and we’re working on it,” said Ann Christoph, a landscape architect and advocate for the community gathering space. “We fervently want to buy it, and we want it to be a fair price because our donors expect that.”


The lot, which is roughly a quarter of an acre in size, has been put to use by volunteers as a community garden since 2009. More than 400 gardeners have tended to over 50 plant beds in that time.

As news broke of a deal for the community garden land, the Laguna Beach City Council renewed its commitment to allocate $500,000 toward its acquisition. Approximately $1 million were raised in private donations, with the funding gap set to be filled by a philanthropic loan.

“Our desire to purchase the Garden Park land for a permanent garden for the community and for future generations remains,” Greg O’Loughlin, president of the South Laguna Civic Assn. said in a statement.

Organizers working to facilitate the community acquisition of the garden park said the money raised for the purchase has been preserved.

“What we always wanted and always insisted on is that we have title insurance that would cover us should there be any fraud or mishandling of the transaction,” said Tom Davis, co-chair and trustee of the Laguna Beach Community Foundation. “It got to the point where the title company said, ‘We’re not going to insure title because there’s some discrepancies here that we can’t insure around.’

“We really weren’t ever at risk. The funds are in good shape, and they’re in the Laguna Beach Community Foundation’s accounts and waiting for, hopefully, a transaction that might take place if the real owners want to sell.”

Davis described himself as a middleman in the effort to acquire the garden park. He said that more than 100 donors have made contributions in support of the cause. Those donations totaled more than $950,000. As of Wednesday afternoon, two donors had asked for a refund of their contributions.

“It’s just been so amazing to watch the generosity of this town and the importance of this garden to this town,” Davis added.