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Historic building may get makeover

The past may be catching up with one of Laguna’s best-known buildings.

Property owner Sam Goldstein has requested recommendations from the city’s Heritage Committee for modifications to the Heisler Building at 400 So. Coast Highway, a top-rated structure on the city’s Historical Register and home to the Jolly Roger restaurant for more than 50 years. The hearing is scheduled for Monday.

“It is an old building and in terrible shape,” said Goldstein, who bought the property last year. “And it looks nothing like it did in early photographs.”

An early picture of the building is displayed on the Hotel Laguna’s wall of historic photographs.


Recommendations are being sought about exterior alterations, including windows, doors, shutters, railings and materials.

“I think he is just looking for input from the committee,” said city Senior Planner Nancy Csira, staff liaison to the committee. “No formal application has been submitted.”

The committee makes recommendations on proposed projects that affect the exterior of structures on the register, but they do not have the final say on a project, according to Ann Larson, Community Development Department planning administrator.

According to information in the register, the building was constructed in 1931 in the provincial revival-style for H.G. Heisler, an early Laguna real estate entrepreneur.


Heisler and I.C. McKnight acquired and developed what now comprises most of North Laguna and developed it under the name of Laguna Cliffs. Heisler donated the land for the park that bears his name.

The Heisler Building — with its distinctive mansard roof and modified turret on the corner of Laguna Avenue and South Coast Highway — was designed to house two commercial units below and two apartments above.

In 1935, Rason’s Drug Store occupied the corner, later taken over by the Jolly Roger. About the same time as the drug store was operating, an osteopath established a practice in the building.

Goldstein said he is thinking of converting the first floor to retail sales, with a restaurant upstairs. The Laguna Beach Brewing Co. was the most recent establishment on the upper story. Before that, it was occupied by the Sail Loft.

The property also includes a retail shop adjacent to the defunct Jolly Roger, which closed abruptly in October, about two months after Goldstein purchased the building.

Tenant Richard Sang, who operated the Jolly Roger and the Brewing Co., told the Coastline Pilot at the time that the restaurants were closed because his liquor license had been canceled, which Goldstein disputed.

“Sang didn’t adhere to the terms of the lease,” Goldstein alleged. “He was supposed to have put almost $500,000 into tenant improvements, and he didn’t.”

Goldstein said Sang was repeatedly warned about the violations.


“He just decided he didn’t want to spend the money,” Goldstein said.

Projects in downtown are reviewed for design and use by the city’s Planning Commission. No project nor application for a conditional-use permit for the property has yet been submitted to the city, Larson said.