South OC Info


San Juan Capistrano
The city was created around Mission San Juan Capistrano, and many of the homes and strip malls resemble the Spanish architecture that compose the building. It is home to the widest variety of homes in Orange County, including those built prior to 1900 in its central district (some being adobes from the 18th century), a number of 10-million-dollar homes in the gated communities of the hills, and working ranches in its foothills. San Juan Capistrano is probably best known for the annual migration of the cliff swallows that reputedly migrate each year from Argentina to the Mission San Juan Capistrano.San Juan Capistrano is the site of a Catholic mission for which it is named, Mission San Juan Capistrano. When the Mission was founded in 1776, the region was populated by the Acjachemen band of Native Americans, called Juaneños by the Spanish. The mission was named after the Franciscan saint Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456).The city is the site of California’s oldest residential neighborhood, Los Rios. It is also the home of the oldest in use building in California, the Serra Chapel in the Mission. The area was the site of both the first vineyard and first winery in California.In the 1830s Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of the classic Two Years Before the Mast visited the area as a sailor engaged in the hide trade on board the ship Pilgrim. Describing the locale, which then included what is now the neighboring city of Dana Point, he gushed, “San Juan is the only romantic spot in California.”

link to Official City of San Juan Capistrano Website

Dana Point

The city was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was in turn named for Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, which included a description of the area. Dana described the locale, including neighboring San Juan Capistrano, as “the only romantic spot on the coast”.  Although Dana described the anchorage as poor, it is now a developed harbor and contains a replica of his ship, the Pilgrim. The Pilgrim is used as a classroom by the Ocean Institute, which is located at the harbor. In 1923, Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler and General M.H. Sherman, Director of the Pacific Electric Railway Company, created a major real estate group to develop what is known today as the Hollywood Hills, Sidney H. Woodruff, already a prominent Los Angeles homebuilder, was hired to lead the project. In 1926, Woodruff, Chandler, and Sherman created the Dana Point Syndicate. They invited other heavy hitters, company presidents, movie producers, and real estate investors, to join them in purchasing 1,388 acres of land, some of which includes the “Headlands” of today. Promising tree-lined, paved streets, electricity, telephones, sidewalks, water mains, storm drains, sewers, and other amenities, Woodruff built 35 homes and a number of commercial buildings. Most of these “Woodruff” houses are concentrated in a Dana Point’s historic core, also called Lantern Village (currently about 12,000 residents). The streets are named after the different colored lanterns, street of the Violet Lantern, Blue Lantern, etc. (colored lanterns were used by ships 200 years ago to advertise their fares when pulled into the Dana Point natural harbor). His crowning structure was to be the Dana Point Inn, a Mediterranean-like resort hotel. After a celebratory groundbreaking in 1930, a three-story foundation was poured and a 135-foot elevator shaft was dug. Unfortunately, the Depression caused construction to halt. Although Woodruff continuously sought financial support through the years, this project was abandoned in 1939. Subsequently, he sold the remaining holdings of the Dana Point Syndicate. Thirty-four of the original Woodruff residences are still occupied.

link to Official City of Dana Point Website

San Clemente

The population was 63,522 at the 2010 census. Located on the California Coast, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego at the southern tip of the county, it is known for its ocean, hill, and mountain views, a pleasant climate and its Spanish Colonial style architecture. San Clemente’s city slogan is “Spanish Village by the Sea”. The official City flower is the Bougainvillea and the official City tree is the Coral tree. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the area was inhabited by what came to be known as the Juaneño Indians. Long admired by explorers and passing settlers, it remained virtually uninhabited until 1776, when Mission San Juan Capistrano was established by Father Junipero Serra and led both Indian and Spanish settlers to set up villages nearby. After the founding of Mission San Juan Capistrano, the local natives were conscripted to work for the mission. Property rights to the land exchanged hands several times, but few ventured to build on it until 1925, when former Mayor of Seattle, Ole Hanson, with the financial help of a syndicate headed by Hamilton Cotton, purchased and designed a 2,000-acre community. Hanson believed that the area’s pleasant climate, beautiful beaches and fertile soil would serve as a haven to Californians who were tired of “the big city”. He named the city after San Clemente Island, which in turn was named by the explorer Vizcaino in 1602 after Saint Clement, whose feast day occurs on November 23, the day of Vizcaino’s arrival on the island. Hanson envisioned it as a Spanish-style coastal resort town, his “San Clemente by the Sea” (it was many years later that a few misguided people change Ole Hanson’s original city name to Spanish Village by the Sea). In an unprecedented move, he had a clause added to the deeds requiring all building plans to be submitted to an architectural review board in an effort to ensure that future development would retain some Spanish-style influence (for example, for many years it was required that all new buildings in the downtown area have red tile roofs). Hanson succeeded in promoting the new area and selling property to interested buyers. The city was to consist of buildings built in the classic Spanish style with red tile roofs. He built public structures such as the Beach Club, the Community Center, the pier and San Clemente Plaza, now known as Max Berg Plaza Park, which were later donated to the city. The area was officially incorporated as a City on February 27, 1928 with a council-manager government. Referring to the way he would develop the city, Hanson proclaimed, “I have a clean canvas and I am determined to paint a clean picture. Think of it – a canvas five miles long and one and one-half miles wide!” In 1969, an event occurred which accelerated the growth and reputation of San Clemente. In that year President Richard Nixon purchased a Spanish mansion in the southern part of town that Hamilton Cotton had built in 1927. This “Western White House” became the site of numerous historical meetings. The Old City Plaza also at one time had a small Nixon museum inside when the city occupied the premises.
link to Official City of San Clemente Website

Laguna Beach is the second oldest city in Orange County, second to Anaheim. Settlers arriving after the American Civil War found scarce amounts of land available for homesteading, and one such tract, known then simply as “the public lands” was the coastal strip from Laguna Canyon to Three Arch Bay. During the 1870s, a small community named Arch Beach had been started at the mouth of Bluebird Canyon. By the early 1880s most of the land around its small Post Office and general store had been subdivided. It was to be founded in 1887 as Lagonas, but was renamed to Laguna Beach in 1904. At about the time that Orange County separated from Los Angeles County and became independent in 1889, the community was caught in an economic downturn. When the economy renewed itself, the decision was made to relocate the town to the mouth of Laguna Canyon. This was possible because a dispute with the Irvine ranch over the public right to traverse Laguna Canyon had been resolved in the courts, allowing an additional means of access to the coast. The streets were laid out in a grid plan despite the location’s hilly nature, which has resulted in some streets having extremely steep inclines. By 1900 Laguna Beach was occupied by five families of homesteaders struggling to farm land. They soon found an additional source of income by renting sections of the beaches to farmers from Tustin, Santa Ana, Fullerton, Riverside, and other inland communities who were eager to escape the summer heat. Thus began the tourist industry which is still a mainstay of the local economy. Pioneer days in Laguna Beach and its growth from a few scattered buildings to one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in the West as well as a famous California art colony was vividly recounted by J. S. Thurston (born in 1868), a son of one of the community’s original settlers, in Laguna Beach of Early Days (The Press of Murray & Gee, Culver City, California, 1947).

In the early 1920s the area was discovered by a group of landscape painters who laid the foundation of the art community which is still thriving to this day. The region was originally known to the Spanish as “La Cañada de Las Lagunas” which means “The Canyon of the Small Lakes”, in reference to two lakes found near the head of Laguna Canyon. However, in confusion with the word “Lagoon”, Laguna Beach was nearly misnamed “Lagoona” by the State of California. While it was still an unincorporated community, the Postmaster, Nicholas Isch, journeyed to Sacramento to rectify the mistake, and the original Spanish spelling was retained. Laguna Beach was incorporated as a General Law City in 1927 and has experienced a slow but steady population growth since that time. Laguna Beach was the southern California epicenter of ‘alternative’ culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In early 1967, John Griggs and other founding members of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love relocated from Modjeska Canyon to the Woodland Drive neighborhood of Laguna Beach, which they later re-christened ‘Dodge City’.

Laguna Beach has a warm Mediterranean climate with abundant sunshine all year. Daytime temperature averages range from 67°F in January to 79°F in July. Mean annual precipitation is relatively low – 13.56 inches. Water temperatures are some of the warmest on the southern California coast and range from about 60°F in February to 72°F in August; however in early to mid September water temperatures often range from 73°F-75°F.

Each summer the Pageant of the Masters is held. This event shows recreations of artwork with people posing in a set that looks like the original art. Also held during the summer are festivals such as the Sawdust Art Festival, Festival of Arts, and Art-A-Fair.The Sawdust Art Festival began in 1965. The Laguna Beach Chamber Music Society holds an annual chamber music festival during the winter season. Laguna Beach has long been considered a politically liberal enclave in conservative Orange County. However, the city’s liberalism is only relative to its surroundings as registered Democrats have only a slight 2 percent advantage over Republicans in the Laguna Beach making the city considerably more conservative than California as a whole.

link to the officcal City of Laguna Beach Website

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