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LOS ANGELES TIMES MAGAZINE MAP No. 11 : LAGUNA BEACH

A Series of Hometown Maps of Southern California Communities by Westwood Artist Paul Shaffer

August 10, 1986

Around the turn of the century, English-born watercolorist Norman St. Clair painted landscapes at Laguna Beach. He exhibited them in San Francisco in 1906, and within the next two decades, between 30 and 40 artists followed him to the coastal village. Local lore has it that at first they hung their art on fences to attract buyers. But in July, 1918, a show was held in the Old Town Hall, drawing nearly 2,000 viewers during the first three weeks. Shortly thereafter, fund-raising began for a permanent gallery, which was completed in 1929. Now the Laguna Art Museum, it's being expanded to more than twice the original size. When it reopens next month, the works of 27 Southern California Impressionists who painted or exhibited in Laguna Beach between 1918 and 1928 will be shown.

Located 51 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Laguna Beach covers 5.6 square miles, stretching along the Pacific coastline and into the San Joaquin Hills. There are only two access roads into the village: Laguna Canyon Road and Coast Highway.

The year-round population is 18,650, an increase of 2,100 since 1978.

As many as 40,000 people visit Laguna Beach on a Saturday or Sunday during the summer. The annual number of tourists is about 3 million. Those who stay overnight spend an average of 2.7 nights and $127 a day.

In 1985, the Laguna Beach Police Department issued 67,513 parking tickets, generating $558,389.45.

During a peak summer day, 48,000 people visit the 3 1/2 miles of beaches, though the number at any one time may reach between 40,000 and 42,000.

The 68 municipal lifeguards rescued 1,693 people and 11 boats last year.

The Friends of the Sea Lion Marine Mammal Center is the only marine mammal rehabilitation facility in Orange County. In 1985, 94 ill or injured seals and sea lions were rescued between San Onofre State Beach and Seal Beach and treated; 61 were able to return to the ocean.

Last year, more than 450 wild animals and birds, including raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes, hawks, owls, sea gulls and pelicans, were captured and eventually released to their natural habitats by the City of Laguna Beach Animal Services .

Between 1913 and 1930, more than 50 silent films were shot in Laguna Beach.

The Laguna Community Players Inc., which originated in 1920 as the Community Dramatic Club, is California's oldest continuously operating theater group.

Famous residents of Laguna Beach have included John Steinbeck, Bette Davis, Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and Peter Ueberroth.

Eiler Larsen, depicted in two statues around the village, appointed himself the town's greeter in 1942. In 1963, the city named him the official greeter, and he kept the title until his death, in 1975. Among his daily activities were waving and pointing his cane as he shouted hello to visitors and residents alike.

The Pottery Shack, a Laguna Beach landmark since 1936, covers three-quarters of a city block; shoppers number 500,000 per year. In the front courtyard, a jade rock weighing 1,307 pounds is on display.

This summer, at the 49th annual Pageant of the Masters, in which live re-creations of masterpieces are staged, 270 volunteers are posing. For each of the 40 to 50 entries, all models must remain perfectly still for the duration of the presentation--an average of 90 seconds. The pageant attracts a capacity crowd of 135,762, and about 70 gallons of makeup are used each year.

Produced by Linden Gross. Research and text by Mary Allen Daily. Demographics reflect currently available figures.

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