By Jackie Davie
Laguna Beach today is well known as a world-class destination for vacationers from around the
globe. How Laguna came to have this reputation is tied directly to resort development along its coastline.
One of the pioneers of beachfront development was Loren Haneline, a Berkeley graduate whose family owned a summer home in Laguna from the mid 1930’s. His parents, William and Anne, along with his brothers, Willard and True, provided the seed money to Loren for his original 1950s investment in Laguna’s ocean beachfront.
In just eight years, Haneline aggressively assembled a block’s worth of ocean front parcels that would become Laguna’s first resort-style property, the seven-building Vacation Village. Along the way, he knocked down community resistance to high-rise hotels with the promise of economic renewal and, ahead of his time, established walk-to-work rental housing for employees.
In 1958, Loren and his wife, Elizabeth, purchased vacant land in the 600 block of south Coast
Highway on one side of Sleepy Hollow Lane and two years later, on June 22, 1960, opened the 32-unit Seas Motel, since renamed and today the most visible part of Vacation Village from the roadway. With the opening of Disneyland in 1955, business was booming.
Haneline quickly began a program of expansion of his beach holdings, acquiring parcels, some with rundown ‘20s era cottages, along almost an entire block on either side of Sleepy Hollow Lane. He accomplished his control of additional beachfront by both purchase of title and a complex system of long-term, leaseholds. In 1962, Haneline struck a long term lease of ocean front property with the Adelsperger family; in 1963, he negotiated the lease of two parcels owned by Buzz and Geraldine Wood; in 1965, he obtained a lease for property known as the Mayflower Apartments and owned by KB and Norma May; and in 1967, he purchased title to an expansive ocean front parcel from Baird Coffin, a Laguna Beach attorney.
Eventually the 130-unit resort hotel known as Vacation Village emerged from these seven separate multi-level buildings, each named differently. Many locals and visitors alike still know them as the five-story Reef Tower, the four-story Bahia or the three-story Pacific Edge. Haneline, who had a degree in engineering, designed one building, and contractor Bruce Scherer, who would build many projects for the Haneline family, erected Pacific Edge.
Before Loren Haneline began his quest to build an ocean front resort in the 600 block of Coast
Highway, he and his wife had already purchased properties on the inland side of the same block stretching back to Ramona Avenue, a narrow street paralleling Coast Highway. He developed this property into an eight-plex apartment building with three Coast Highway storefronts. Over the years, the apartment building served to house Vacation Village’s many employee families. Some of the families who resided there include the Perez, the Cardenas, the Panduro-Ramirez, the Vizcarra, the De la Rosa, the Knoblocks and Gutierrez families. Many of these families worked 20 to 30 or more years for the Hanelines, who had great appreciation for their employees whom they considered an extension of their family. There were many shared piñata birthday parties and BBQs between the families.
Another beachfront property Loren Haneline acquired after he had developed Vacation Village was known as the estate of Slim Summerville, a movie comedienne and ardent surf fisherman. This property is contiguous to the Vacation Village property and was purchased from Ivy Callandar who had resided on the property for 20 years. Haneline leased the property to Gail Pike and family who, in 1968, opened the Beach House Restaurant on the premises.
Loren Haneline was an active member of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and served as the president of The Hotel and Motel Association. Over the opposition of residents, Haneline was tenacious in using his influence at City Hall to obtain zoning changes, relief from then 50-foot height limits and multiple variances to establish Sleepy Hollow for hotel and restaurant use.
In 1978, Loren and Betsy Haneline turned over active management of Vacation Village, the Beach House property, and the 600 block inland Coast Highway property to their son Bill Haneline, and his wife Linda. They along with their children, Russ, Jeff and Chrissie, managed the property for 20 years, with the founder’s grandchildren at times manning the front desk, washing windows and emptying trash. Loren Haneline, after many years of traveling abroad, died in 1985. Betsy lived on until 1990.
In May 2006, Bill and Linda Haneline sold all their Laguna Beach holdings to Newport Beach-based PRES Companies and Westport Capital Partners LLC, of Westport, Conn.
Their three children, Russ, Jeff, and Chrissie, still reside in Southern California. Russ is a cabinetmaker and owner of Haneline Architectural Woodwork of Mission Viejo. Jeff is involved in off-road vehicle design and fabrication, and recently participated in the Baja 1000 race from Ensenada to La Paz. Chrissie continues to reside in Laguna Beach and is in real estate sales with Prudential California Realty.
Vacation Village, for years the second largest resort in Laguna Beach after the Surf and Sand up until the 2003 opening of Montage, played a significant role in developing Laguna as a vacation destination. The credit goes to the vision and tenacity of Loren Haneline and the management skills of his son Bill and grandson Russ in carrying on the family enterprise through two generations.