Category Archives: Laguna Beach Real Estate

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Laguna Ocean Front Pocket Listing

I’ve an Ocean/Bluff front pocket listing in South Laguna that overlooks the beautiful Tablerock beach.

This house is 4 bdm, 4.5 bath, 3,853 sqft and an 8,165 sqft lot.

If you have a friend looking for something on the water please let them know about this since it’s not in the mls. These are not professional pictures. Please let me know if you’d like to see it.

It’s one of three house behind a gated entrance.

Priced around $6m.


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Laguna’s Bluebird Canyon is Home to a 1932 ‘Olympic Village’


    If you like a canyon rural setting with curvy dead end streets and houses that have a unique history to them, the ‘Olympic Village’ section of Bluebird is for you. After the 1932 LA Olympics, the cheaply built two-room cottages that housed the athletes were bought by the Laguna Heights Land Co. and moved to small lots in Bluebird Canyon and still exist today, albeit many  are remodeled, in the quaint ‘Olympic Village’

Click here to see the location in the map

    Street names such as Didrikson and Crabbe could give away the origins of the heights of Blue Bird Canyon. After all, track phenomenon Babe (Mildred) Didrikson and swimmer Buster Crabbe were the winners of their events in the 1932 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles.

In 1932, a village of two-room cottages with walls made of Celotex and roofs made from tar paper was built in Los Angeles for the Olympic contestants. These little huts were built as cheaply as possible, since they were intended to serve for the games only. Afterward, the cottages were put up for sale at very low prices.
The Laguna Heights Land Co. of Los Angeles bought them and brought the majority of them to Blue Bird Canyon in Laguna Beach, where they were put on land owned by B.O. Miller of the Hollingsworth Co. of Los Angeles. This little tract of small lots and streets as narrow as alleys named its passageways after track star William Carr, hurdler George Saling, divers Harold Smith and Georgia Coleman, swimmer Helene Madison and decathlete James Bausch. This gave credence to the name its brokers gave it, “Olympic Village.”
Houses sold at bargain prices, and the Taylor Brothers of Laguna Beach fitted the cabins to the lots. Fred Leech was broker for the sale of the properties and used one of the cottages as his office in the 1300 block of South Coast Highway.
Many of the homes remain on the original lots but are so remodeled that their origins are hard to ascertain. “Only the board-and-batten corners can be seen hidden in the trees” is how fourth-generation Laguna resident and artist Karen Wilson Turnbull put it. The Olympic cottage at 168 Mountain Road is today the most unaltered of those that still stand.


Starting at Cress Street as it enters Bluebird Canyon, September 10, 1948. More and more people were buying property in “Olympic Village”, now Bluebird Canyon, and it became necessary to cut a more direct route between this booming area and “the village”. Getting that job done were Carl Mansur, Johnny Verdugo, Doug Perrin, Cliff Hennings.
The little house up on the upper left hand corner belonged to Guy Skidmore. It still stands in the same spot, but across from it now is a charming little “Bluebird Park”.
Photo’s from the Carolyn Hobert Fisch collection.


A little 450 sq. ft. cottage in Hidden Valley, Laguna Beach. It was originally part of an Olympic village in L.A. in 1932.


The 1932 summer Olympic games held in Los Angeles offered a chance for athletes traveling from around the world to experience the very first Olympic Village since the ancient Greeks pitched their tents on the plain of Elis. Located in Baldwin Hills at the end of W. Vernon Place and west of Crenshaw Blvd, the Village consisted of 550 portable houses were designed and built by H.O. Davis, each measuring 24 by 10 feet. Each house contained two 10 by 10-foot rooms with a connecting shower. Each room housed two athletes, with two beds, two chairs, a dresser, and a lavatory bowl.

After the Olympics were over, the houses were sold for as little as $140. They were shipped around the world: Japan, Hawaii, one to Denmark, the U.S., and a few to Laguna Beach. In the neighborhood where these cabins were moved, the streets were named after some of the Gold Medal Winners. They all have been heavily modified, in some cases 2 were combined to make a larger residence.

Photo of Olympic Village being built. *Info copied from Kirk Juan







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Come join the Laguna Friends of Architecture (LFA) sponsored architectural tour of the historical Rockledge House

Come join the Laguna Friends of Architecture (LFA) sponsored architectural tour of the historical Rockledge House


Saturday, July 19th 10:00 to 12:00(come any time you like) – Take a free tour of Laguna famous 12 bedroom, 11 bath Rockledge compound. It been totally redone and is on the market for $30 million.  Go to to see the cliff hanging pictures of the estate.  It was built in the 1920’s and has a great history to it.
Villa Rockledge, originally known as Mariona, was built by Frank Miller, the famed developer of the Mission Inn in Riverside, CA. Begun in 1918, the major portion of Villa Rockledge was designed by architect Arthur Benson, who worked closely with Miller on both this building and the Mission Inn.

Miller brought the same architect, crews and artistic ideas that he had used on the Mission Inn to Laguna Beach, where he built his summer home in the then growing coastal resort and art colony. A one unit addition on the northern wing was designed by Laguna Beach architect Thomas Harper in 1929. Miller spent the years 1918 until his death in 1935 developing and evolving Villa Rockledge in much the same way that he had with the Mission Inn.

Roger Jones and his wife Sherill bought Villa Rockledge in 1973 and have meticulously restored the property to its original grandeur. Mr. Jones, a noted author and historian, is the author of the The History of Villa Rockledge: A National Treasure in Laguna Beach, as well as Laguna Beach: An Illustrated, Narrative History, and California: from the Conquistadores to the Legends of Laguna. In 1984, Villa Rockledge, then known as Mariona, was added to the National Registry of Historic Places by the State of California and the U.S. National Park Service.

Villa Rockledge is located in Laguna Beach on a 25,000 square foot oceanfront lot. It has panoramic ocean views from almost every room, including some closets and bathrooms. Villa Rockledge is one of the only homes in Laguna Beach with a private beach, which spans 120 feet. This estate also includes a saltwater pool that is easily accessible from the home. The compound has 12 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms and private parking for twelve cars. The main home consists of 5 bedrooms and 5 baths over 5,000 square feet. Including the accompanying six villas, the estate totals 8,064 square feet.

Location: 2549 South Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach
Parking: Parking is on the Coast Hwy and very limited so use your well-honed Laguna parking skills or take a trolley



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Sean McCracken: Helping to get people together


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

If you have any interest in architecture, or you are simply looking for a group to mingle with, realtor Sean McCracken has one for you: Laguna Friends of Architecture.  In two years the group McCracken started has grown to over 1,000 members.  With meetings twice monthly that have anywhere from 60 to 120 people in attendance, it’s clear this was an idea whose time had come.  

“The original members of the group were really dedicated to architecture.  Now people are coming for the community and learning about architecture,” explains Sean.


The basketball courts at Main Beach are a draw

An east coast transplant, Sean received his MBA from USC.  Finding Los Angeles to be “too smoggy”, he looked up and down the coast, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, for a place to settle.  The year was 1978 and he chose Laguna Beach.  The 6’5” McCracken remembers, “Laguna was the best place I’d seen.  I saw those basketball courts and I really like to play basketball…”  Having chosen his home he now had to find a way to make a living. 

 “Coming from the east coast, prep-school world, I didn’t understand the real estate economy.  At ‘SC everyone’s father seemed to be involved in real estate, but I went into software technology, real estate software.  It was a lot of planes, trains and automobiles.  Then 9/11 happened.  And the software business isn’t really much of a relationship business.  I liked hanging in town so in 2006 I went into residential real estate. It allowed me to do more of the kind of projects that I like to do,” he explains.

A career change allows for more community involvement

With his business travel over, Sean unleashed his civic involvement with a vengeance.  Tapping into his environmental interests he organized the first toxic waste pick up, then the first city-wide “green” shopping bag (the “Laguna bag”) and followed that with the first water-wise expo.  

Finding these events to be “all one shot deals” (although the toxic clean up and the water expo are still going in different formats), Sean came to realize that “what gets people excited is being introduced to people with the same passions.  People feel disconnected.  As a realtor, when I talk to people about why they’re moving they say they have troublemaking friends here.  You drive up your hill, shut your garage and you’re shut out from what’s going on.  I came up with this concept of getting people out of the cyber-world and bringing them together for a common interest.”  

From this, Transition Laguna was born.

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 Apple trees and strawberries at Bluebird Canyon Farms

Transition Laguna and the importance of wine

Transition Laguna merged three things of importance to Sean: food, water and energy use with the idea of local sustainability.  Incorporating the idea from World War II “victory gardens” along with cooking classes and potluck dinners, the group grew to 1,400 members and 60 back yard gardens.  McCracken has a secret for good meetings, calling food and wine  “the back bone”. 

“There’s a reason Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine,” he says with a laugh.  

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Sean with Dr. Dave

Dr. Dave retired from practicing medicine to focus on healing with food and to work with the Tenneys at Bluebird Canyon Farms

With Transition Laguna thriving, Sean took some time to really pinpoint what he wanted to do next.  He decided on a concept: “Friends of…” –  a group of like-minded people who come together for a common purpose.  When an architect-friend mentioned he had just put together a presentation on another architect, John Lautner, the format was set and Laguna Friends of Architecture was born. 

Next up, Laguna Friends of Architecture

Two years in from the start, the group meets at LCAD, in people’s homes (July 19     there is a tour of the famous compound at Rockledge) and takes tours to places like Los Angeles (“that’s where true friendships are made, on the bus over a beer”).  There’s something happening every two weeks, in addition to a newsletter.  

If this seems like a lot, it is.  Luckily, Sean has a lot of help.  In the beginning he did the bulk of the organizing himself, but now there is a core leadership group of 12 people who “are all about building friendships – and there’s something magical about that,” Sean says emphatically.

Stories, people and community are always front and center

True to his Irish heritage, Sean is a storyteller whose enthusiasm is infectious. “I’m an Irish guy who loves people and history”, he says.  He can weave stories about the Smithcliffs socialite, Pancho Barnes, with a tale of the Halliburton House in South Laguna in between an anecdote about his attempt to visit every beach in Laguna, from El Morro to Three Arch Bay after work.  If not a realtor, one could easily envision McCracken as an owner of a local pub, reveling in his patrons and their stories.

When asked what his next “Friends of…” venture would be if there were to be one, he doesn’t hesitate, “I’d like to do one on international real estate or living internationally; how people share houses and things like that.  I don’t know if there’s a group in that, but it’s a big interest for me,” he says.  A member of the Laguna Beach Business Club who participates in a lot of city planning groups, McCracken is a very busy guy.  He says it is “important to give back to the community, plus building trust and putting people together is part of what I do as a realtor.” 

He just can’t help it. “I have a tendency to meet people, say at Dizz’s.  We start talking. Then it’s ‘Hey, let’s hold some local events and have a good time’.  There are so many great stories out there.” 

Sean McCracken is on a mission to hear them all.

Ed. Note: Special thanks to Scott Tenney and wife Mariella Simon for photos taken at their Bluebird Canyon Farms 

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Pocket Listing: Totally Rebuilt Woods Cove Cottage

Large Ocean Views and Walking Distance to the Village and Beach

Will be completed the 3rd week of July

    This rebuilt 1938 cottage has it all. Great Woods Cove neighborhood, walk to very popular beaches or swim in your backyard pool, indoor/outdoor living with large balcony, expansive Catalina and north facing ocean views (including white water views of historical Moss Point), abundance of parking, large property with inviting private front yard, option to use whole house or a legal ocean view rental on ground level (optional kitchen in rental and optional connecting internal stairway). New landscaping. Cottage ambiance with vaulted living room ceilings and 2 fireplaces.


Could be either full time residence or a second home with rental. Some nice income to cover property taxes or help mortgage if you rent it.

4 bdm, 2 bath, 1,720 sqft, large 7,500sqft lot – Offered at $1,995,000

If there is interest let me know.  Once I put it in the mls it will go quickly.

House is in its final weeks of construction – new everything – Top Laguna builder Gallo Corporation is doing the improvements.

Drive by at this time since it is under construction.


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The Miracle Baby of Laguna Beach

By Amy Wilson

The Orange County Register

LAGUNA BEACH, Calif. – Sometime after midnight, a baby asleep on Donald Duck sheets was swept out of her house, out of her crib and into the night. That she was found at all is a miracle.

That she was alive is whatever is better than a miracle.

Nine-month-old Tiffany Sarabia rode the mudslide yesterday in Laguna Beach that smashed three homes and killed two men. (one was a British fellow who barely escaped the mud that destroyed his residence and he went over to a friend’s house only to be killed when the slide destroyed that house as well)

The man who found her was likewise swept away. Gary Segraves, 51, had come to Laguna Canyon Road to help his daughter, Jenifer, who had been stranded in an earlier slide. He was staying the night when the second slide hit, slamming him into the side of an animal shelter. When Segraves stopped rolling, he realized there was a baby with him on a pile of rocks and twigs and living-room furniture.

Segraves had lost his glasses, and at first he thought she was a muddy doll.

“I pinched its fingers to see if it was alive,” he said.

Shaken, tired and hurt, Segraves handed the mud-swaddled baby to a stranger named Todd Tingley. The baby’s brown eyes were open. She looked up at Tingley, who told her she was safe now.

Tingley took the baby and jogged toward the road, to firefighter Frank Ybarra, aboard the first firetruck pulling up to the scene.

“I didn’t have one foot on the ground when they handed me a baby covered in mud,” Ybarra said. “She had mud packed in her mouth and nose. She was very cold and wet, and she was not breathing.”

Ybarra cleared her airway with a bulb syringe – five times, 10 times.

“She started moaning a little bit, and breathing,” Ybarra said. “She was living!”

That done, he cut her wet, filthy pajamas off her and wiped mud from her face.

Meanwhile, Teresa Sarabia, barely conscious, had been loaded onto an ambulance. When she awoke, she was frantic about her husband and three children.

“My baby! My baby!” she screamed.

Ybarra showed her the ambulance’s other passenger: a baby.


Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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Lansner: Sky-high premium for O.C. homes

OC Register

Published: May 27, 2014 Updated: May 29, 2014 12:00 p.m.


While Orange County homes are selling at prices that have yet to exceed their pre-bubble-bursting peaks by most measurements, the relative cost of a local home has never been higher – according to one of my favorite affordability benchmarks.

I’ve long tracked the relationship of Orange County home pricing to nationwide values as my “Orange Premium.” It measures, in essence, how much extra we pay to live in relative paradise.

My math is simple: Compare the National Association of Realtors’ median selling price of single-family residences in Orange County and the U.S. In the first quarter, the local median price tag was $669,800, up 12 percent in a year, vs. $191,600 for the nation, up 9 percent in a year.

My trusty spreadsheet tells me that this “Orange Premium” was at 3.50 for the start of 2014. That is, you could get one Orange County home for 31/2 homes at the national median price.

(Curious note: At this moment, the national price happens to be the same cost as a Las Vegas single-family residence – if you need a better mental image of the comparable properties.)

How high is this premium? The first quarter’s “Orange Premium” topped last year’s cyclical peak of 3.4 U.S.-homes-to-one-here ratio in the first quarter, and the old record peak of 3.41 in 2004.

If so many folks speak of California economic challenges, why is this premium surging?

One key factor is Orange County’s faster-than-elsewhere home-price recovery. Since the “Orange Premium” hit its most recent bottom – at 2.99 homes-to-one in 2012’s fourth quarter – Orange County home prices are up 38 percent through 2014’s first quarter. Nationally, price gains are just 18 percent over the same period.

That rebound left Orange County prices only 6 percent below the 2007 peak. National pricing is still 14 percent below its 2006 peak.

This price gap isn’t just fodder for real estate pros or statistical junkies. High housing costs are a major challenge to the local economy – hurting our chances to attract and retain employees and employers, and concentrating the finances of Orange County residents on house payments and diverting it from the rest of the economy.

But the fat home-price premium is also the byproduct of the area’s economic oomph. The region’s long history of job growth has brought more house shoppers to Orange County. Coupled with laggardly homebuilding, which limits the supply of housing to buy, that pushed home prices skyward.

In the last three decades, Orange County job-growth pace has outpaced the nation by 30 percent – a 1.7 percent average annual growth rate vs. 1.3 percent. That’s a noteworthy and long-running edge, especially in an area with limited raw land suitable for cheaper housing and where developers, as well as city leaders, seem to prefer building pricier homes to residences that mainstream shoppers could afford.


The local housing crunch isn’t only found in my mathematics. Other, more complex measurements of housing affordability also show just how costly local real estate can be.

Take the Housing Opportunity Index from the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo. This metric juggles local pricing patterns, income levels and mortgage rates.

It shows Orange County was the second least-affordable major market in the nation in the first quarter – only 19 percent of the local homes sold were “affordable” to the median-income household, lowest level since 2008. The only place that was less affordable? San Francisco.

Orange County fares no better with a National Association of Realtors’ calculation of the qualifying income needed to buy the median-price local single-family residence. By this math, an Orange County shopper with 20 percent down in the first quarter needed $130,000 household income to buy. Only three U.S. markets – Silicon Valley, the Bay Area and Honolulu – had heavier salary demands.

One quirk inside these affordability indexes is that most people don’t earn the median salary. Online property tracker Trulia broke the homebuying income challenge into some key educational categories.

So while just 24 percent of homes listed for sale in Orange County in May were “affordable” to the median-income household – third-lowest in the nation – that affordability fell to 9 percent for local folks with at most a high school degree, and rose to 59 percent for Orange County residents with graduate degrees.

And apartment tracker Green Street Advisors says the typical house payment required to buy an Orange County home is twice the local rent – well above the national average of 1.3 times and the highest mortgage-to-rent ratio among 30 major U.S. markets.


Let’s be honest, though. No matter how you do the math, it’s fair to say that Orange County has long had a home-affordability problem.

In 1982, the first year of my Orange Premium database, local house prices ran nearly double that of national costs. Cry, or laugh – that was when the Orange County median home sold for $129,641!

The Orange Premium exploded to 2.7 in 1989 – amid the region’s late 1980s real estate boom – but then cooled off in the ugly 1990s California housing slump.

The premium bottomed at 1.84 in 1996, perhaps the last whiff of local affordability.

Unfortunately, no major affordability index has a long history on Orange County. The NAHB/Wells index dissects Los Angeles house prices back to 1992, and that metric shows regional affordability in the mid-1990s rising almost to the national levels, as Los Angeles home prices fell while incomes soared in a fast-paced regional business climate.

As the new century neared, though, the local housing market recovered with gusto – and higher prices made my Orange Premium and other affordability measures turn painfully unaffordable. Orange County’s median home price soared 232 percent in the decade ending in 2006. U.S. prices jumped, too, but just by 92 percent.

The local price boom around the turn of the century wasn’t just a byproduct of that era’s generous mortgage standards. Orange County’s economy was cooking – growing its workforce by 28 percent in the decade ending in 2006 vs. 14 percent job growth nationwide.

When the easy lending ended, the housing-dependent economy – and housing itself – turned sour. Curiously, the downturn hit hard all corners of the nation, so Orange County affordability barely improved. Local pricing was off 31 percent in the four years after 2006. Nationally, it was a 28 percent dip.

The affordability question doesn’t just rest on prices. House shoppers complain about what you get for Orange County’s stretched housing dollars.

That disparity is captured by a study from Trulia, showing that Orange County homes for sale in May that were “affordable” to the median-income household (24 percent of all listings) had a median size of 1,100 square feet. Compare that to the most “affordable” market – Akron, Ohio – where 86 percent of homes listed were “affordable” at a median size of 1,300 square feet.


Orange County’s surprisingly vigorous housing rebound highlights some of the challenges the region faces when anyone from government leaders to real estate insiders try to tackle the affordability issue.

Let’s pray we don’t get the pure economics fix again – a dramatic decline in housing prices. Let me warn you that the last two similar surges in my Orange Premium – in the late 1980s and again in the middle of last decade – did not end well.

Constructing enough new homes to dramatically lower overall prices isn’t realistic, even over the medium range. Building far more affordable housing is possible, but tell me this: Which community in this NIMBY-thinking world would encourage that kind of massive development?

Incomes won’t jump broadly enough, either. Orange County’s job growth is creating a split class of residents – well-paid folks who can somehow afford today’s house prices and lesser-paid workers who don’t even dream of homeownership.

And a rush of investors and out-of-towners to Orange County further clouds affordability.

Folks looking for rental properties to own like the fact that Orange County has some of the nation’s highest rents – at $1,639 a month, the nation’s eighth-highest, according to rent tracker Reis Inc. – and a healthy appetite for single-family homes to lease. This buying is another strain on the for-sale supply.

Plus, house shoppers from other parts of the globe are attracted to Orange County’s economy, climate and diverse population, and don’t see our housing prices as high compared with other major world cities. For example, Los Angeles was only the 27th-most-expensive place to live out of 131 major cities ranked worldwide by The Economist magazine.

The bottom line is that no matter how you measure the price gap, you will pay way more to live in Orange County vs. many other places. A hearty chunk of that extra cost is for good reasons (lifestyle, opportunity, etc.) And some of the expense reflects basic economics (heavy demand, limited supply.)

That’s why an Orange Premium exists – as very tangible validation that Orange County is a well-above-average place to be.