Our Laguna: Beautiful properties honored

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder — and Laguna has some very dedicated beholders.

Laguna Beach Beautification Council members scour the city for homes and businesses that add visual charm to the city for all to enjoy. Winners selected by the council are awarded certificates of merit.

The 2013 awards were presented recently at the Laguna Art Museum, following a brunch at Las Brisas.

Council Vice Chairwoman Eleanor Henry picked the business winners. Scott Allen and Chloe Echternacht chose the residential winners. Echternacht and Barbara Ring photographed the residences.

Commercial winners:

Bank of America — for its rose garden

Hotel Seven4one — for contemporary esthetic

580 Broadway, owned by Jane and Joe Hanauer, for the recent remodel

Foster Karicofe — for the plants that brighten Laguna Canyon Road opposite the ACT V Parking Lot.

Laguna Beach County Water District — for the "Water-wise and Fire Safe Garden" in front of the offices on Third Street

City of Laguna Beach — for its mini parks

Mayor Kelly Boyd and Councilwoman Toni Iseman attended on behalf of the city.

Residential winners:

The Peter Halper home, High Drive

David C. Mercer, Ledroit Street

Craig and Cindy, Pfent, Dunnegan Place

Lynn and Melissa Stanton, Weymouth Place

Sunset Ridge LLC, Sunset Ridge

Henry gave a "Black Thumb Award" to a blue gum eucalyptus on the corner of Agate and Glennerye Streets, for its poorly done maintenance.

"Given all the issues with views, this is how not to get one through a eucalyptus," Henry said. "You don't chop it apart.

"If you want to see good examples, look at the eucalyptus at the Sawdust Festival. Wouldn't it be nice if they put the whole grove on the Heritage Tree list?"

A first-ever Harry Lawrence Star of Excellence Award, named for the council founder, was presented to Montage Laguna Beach, "in appreciation for its stellar example of Laguna beauty and landscape/tree maintenance."

The council was the twin of Lawrence's passion for the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and Civic Assn. — parent to the council until the relationship was severed last year.

Lawrence called the group a council to differentiate it from any bureaucratic agency, according to a 20-year-old newspaper commentary attributed to Lawrence by Joanne Sutch, council secretary.

Lawrence viewed the council as a city-wide enterprise.

"Making Laguna beautiful is everybody's business and good business for Laguna by creating pride in our community," Lawrence wrote.

The council began with a small neighborhood project in 1950, shortly after the end of World War II.

Louise DuSoe, a Rockledge resident along with Lawrence, suggested sprucing up the neighborhood with a small park on Coast Highway.

"Soon, other people started challenging us to do the same for their areas," Lawrence wrote.

The council was formally created in 1952 by DuSoe, Nita Carmen and revered landscape architect Fred Lang, both of whom have parks named for them; Dr. Berryman Greene and Harry Willats, owner of the Laguna Riviera Hotel, who joined with Lawrence and Cottage Restaurant owner, Harry Moon, as the "'Orrible 'Arries," to "harry" the city into beautification projects.

Their first project was to clean up the highway and Laguna Canyon Road — with the help of U.S. Marines and Laguna Rotary.

When finished with that project, the group joined forces with the city employee Clyde Sweetser to landscape the old library on Park Avenue.

Since then, the council has completed hundreds of projects, such as the planting of trees along the highway and all the major streets downtown.

Members of the council were also instrumental in the creation of Main Beach and Bluebird parks, city mini-parks and street-end view sites, not to mention "sparking" the first sign ordinance, which led to the prohibition of outdoor neon in town, according to Lawrence, They also were involved with the Heritage Tree Ordinance, currently under attack by folks who don't want any trees in Laguna immune to a proposed law that gives views precedence.

Lawrence also cited a virtual Who's Who in Laguna's history as contributors: Helen Keely, Alberto Tevino, Lloyd Milne, Pat Peacock, Joy Dickerson, Dr.Lawrence White, James Dilley, Roy Holm, Georgina Sullender, Virginia Wineinger, Kay Whitaker, Howard Dawson, Jack Eschbach, Jessee Riddle, Sandy O'Sullivan, Don Rose, Betty Meyers, Ben Blount, Charlton Boyd, Grand McCombs, Kay Courtney, Mickey Hanna and Betty Heckel.

Lawrence also cited former Asst. City Manager Terry Brandt, who provided support in the early years.

Brandt's successor, Public Works Director Steve May, attends meetings to update council members on city projects that might interest them and to hear their notions of what the city should be doing.

"We've got a good relationship," May said. "For example, we included a member of the council on the committee that reviewed species of trees for the downtown."

Besides Sutch and Henry, the current board includes President Ruben Flores, owner of Laguna Nursery; Recording Secretary Max Brown and fourth-generation Lagunan Liza Stewart.

The council celebrated its 60th anniversary and what would have been Lawrence's 99th birthday on Oct. 1, 2012, rededicating its mission "to maintain and enhance the natural beauty and cleanliness of all areas within Laguna Beach and to specifically encourage and promote beautification projects pertaining to streets, parks, the shoreline, residential and commercial buildings."

In March, Sutch and Flores presented a $2,500 check to the city for the renovation in 2012 of the garden at the foot of Nyes Place, partially destroyed when three cars plowed into it.

Council members worked with city Parks Manager Vic Hillstead and May to restore the garden, based on a plan unearthed from the 1970s, but more drought-tolerant.

"The money we are presenting to the city came to us from a grant by the water district. We did some stuff and we get to give (back) some money," Flores said.

And everyone benefits, just as Lawrence envisioned more than a half century ago.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4608 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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