The Coast News Group
Locals gather at the scene after an early-morning fire on Sept. 30 devastated local businesses on the corner of North Coast Highway 101 and Daphne Street. Photo by Abraham Jewett
Community CommentaryOpinion

Extended Stay

Jim Babwe

Leucadia’s familiar hospitality and funk have been tested recently. And since the first week of August, these qualities have been tested by Tragedy, which extended its stay through the last week of Summer and into the first week of Fall.

From the Grandview Beach bluff collapse that claimed the lives of three local residents on August 2 to the drowning of a surfer near Moonlight Beach nine days later to the loss of a well-known, long-time local business owner and resident on September 24 and through the midnight fire that claimed four local business–death and destruction have interrupted what’s left of the idyllic Southern California small beach town life which motivated many to stay here and many more to move to this place.

Leucadia’s decades-long reputation as a tightly knit community of surfers and artists has been diminished by these recent losses. As the picturesque eucalyptus canopy over Coast Highway disappears and as LA trust fund children and grand children pack the local watering holes and city streets with two different kinds of traffic, the new doesn’t necessarily arrive as a pair with the word “improved.”

In addition to the three lost lives at Grandview and the drowning near Moonlight, the sudden death of Morgan Mallory handed Leucadia another loss. Owner of the Corner Frame Shop and Gallery, advocate for the arts, and a positive presence as a member of a number of City committees, Mallory was one of those people whose attitudes, interests, and behaviors spelled Leucadia all day.

Less than a week after we lost Mallory, Leucadia lost four small businesses to fire. One was another iconic art gallery and t-shirt shop, one was a local photographer’s gallery, one was a fledgling pie shop, and the other was a longtime vegetarian cafe.  Shatto’s, Cali Life, Peace Pies, and Mozys are now chapters of Leucadia’s past. And based upon the probable costs for those business owners to rebuild, if a current local trend continues, it’s more likely that these establishments will be replaced by more soulless glass and metal buildings that will look more like the Orange County that Camp Pendleton has generally served as a buffer maintaining a bit of ground to separate conspicuous consumption from what virtually nobody here wants to resemble Newport Beach.

Realistically, hanging on to the past and hoping for a community to stay as we’d like it to stay might be possible, but it’s not likely. As an idyllic Southern California locale characterized by a culture of art, a love of the sand and surf, and a generally peaceful small town vibe, Leucadia took some big hits during these past several weeks. And contrary to what some may assume, these recent hits were blows to the gut, not activities usually associated with a thriving green vegetable which some of us never thought we would see legalized.

Jim Babwe