clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Architect Joseph Esherick was commissioned to design a group of houses, nestled into the hedgerow, on spec for Oceanic Properties. Esherick ended up purchasing this one for himself and building all the interior cabinetry.

Filed under:

‘Paradise at the end of the world’: An oral history of the Sea Ranch (Part II)

A two-part oral history mining the origins and controversies surrounding California’s most bucolic planned community—and forecasting its future

Welcome back to Curbed’s oral history of the Sea Ranch, the influential Northern California coastal development that’s experiencing something of a second coming. If you’ve made it through all 8,000 words of Part 1, congrats! There’s more (and Moore) ahead.

In Part 2, we take a look at how the look and feel of the Sea Ranch spread far and wide, thanks in great part to one enterprising publicist. We dig into the complexity surrounding the Sea Ranchers’ beef with an environmental watchdog group formed in the 1970s, and look at how the community’s internal building regulations hope to encourage careful development. Perhaps most importantly, we challenge those who know the Sea Ranch best to imagine its future—by unpacking the constraints getting in the way of experimentation, and the opportunities those constraints hold for the next generation of designers. —Kelsey Keith

Marketing the Sea Ranch ideals

In which the Sea Ranch tours the world on a wave of architectural press—a feat engineered by a maverick PR woman who contributed greatly to its legend.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: The missing person in all of this is Marion Conrad. She was really key, and sadly passed away really young, not long after the Sea Ranch. All of her papers are destroyed or gone or missing.

Alison Isenberg: Marion Conrad would have appreciated the irony that one of the most influential public relations people in San Francisco would later find her own contributions unacknowledged.

Al Boeke: Marion was the most charming and toughest Master Sergeant I’ve ever met and I spent three years in the Army Infantry in World War II.

Alison Isenberg: In May 1966, Conrad hit a publicist’s home run for the risky Sea Ranch real estate venture when her efforts yielded a seventeen-page cover story in Progressive Architecture.

Reverdy Johnson: Marion was one of the best PR women in the business, and she was assigned the task of figuring out how to promote this project when it was nothing but a sheep ranch.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: That’s a key component, how she promoted it: not compromising the ideals. Every brochure that you see from the period is: “It’s not for everyone. It’s for people who don’t mind the fog and the wind and the harsh reality.”

Al Boeke: If anyone was the sales manager, really, [Marion] was, because she created, with the help of Bobbie Stauffacher on graphics, she created pamphlets and all sorts of things, advertising in Bay Area papers and so forth, that was so compelling and so original and not a con act. The facts were present, the picture was present. It’s informative, it’s beautiful, it’s honest and compelling.

The hallmarks of the Sea Ranch “style” include wood cladding, thick beams, plate glass windows, and built-in sofas. More idiosyncratic design moves can be found in gems like the Rush House, designed by Moore and Turnbull in 1970.

Charles Moore and Donlyn Lyndon: The same media-driven winds which blew the ‘Sea Ranch idiom’ abroad and made it famous also blew uncaring visions of Swiss chalets and split-levels to this splendid brooding coast.

Reverdy Johnson: She created, through her contacts with the national press, shelter magazines, Life, Look, Sports Illustrated, she created an image of the Sea Ranch that we’ve all lived up to. And that was an image of a project that was driven by its environment, and not to abuse that environment.

Alison Isenberg: Conrad’s experience reveals how “planning stories” were written and circulated, how public relations could make design careers, and how projects succeeded and failed in the political process. Publicity machinery honed a master plan’s ideological clarity, won recognition for its designers, and earned profits for investors.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Marion and I felt responsible for the press, the success, for our part in this project. Were we just naive? Were all projects like this? We looked like career women. We felt like road kill.

Reyner Banham¹, English architectural critic: Sea Ranch must be the first housing development with its own T-shirts.

Alison Isenberg: Without publicity and reviews, Stauffacher’s interior Sea Ranch supergraphics would have remained virtually invisible. Marion Conrad ensured that these graphics were heralded as relevant to resolving the problems of environmental design, whether roadside rural, suburban, or urban.

California Coastal Commission

Private homeowners’ best intentions for land preservation are met with pushback from advocates fighting for public stewardship—and a decade-long fight results in new coastline access laws for California.

Al Boeke: The Coastal Commission began as the creature of several gentlemen in Rohnert Park who were frequent visitors to the Ohlson Ranch. They’d climb the fence and walk across the meadow to the shore and go abalone fishing. They trespassed and felt it was their right. They became the leaders of a movement to save the coast for children yet unborn; a quote that they used in their press releases.

Kevin Keim: The Coastal Commission was born directly out of a controversy involving Sea Ranch. I think that the unfortunate thing is that in the long run, if you zoom out with 20/20 hindsight… Those who controlled the development chose to resist the whole creation of the Coastal Commission. The Sea Ranch called their bluff, and there was a moratorium on any work at Sea Ranch for, I don’t know, eight or nine years.

Al Boeke: After ten years of building, the Coastal Commission came along and shut us down. The architects and everyone [left to go] inland because they couldn’t afford to stay. It changed the Sea Ranch fundamentally.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: Ten miles of coast privatized. Boeke and all of them thought they were doing the right thing to protect the land. But the environmentalists in Sonoma County were all, “Wait a minute, actually it should be publicly protected.” So, it was interesting: same goal but different ends to get there. That ultimately led to provid[ing] public access points, not just in the Sea Ranch but starting with the Sea Ranch, up and down the coast every half mile.

Joe Bodovitz: Sea Ranch is one of the reasons Prop 20 passed in quite conservative parts of the north coast.

Michael Fischer², executive director of the California Coastal Commission 1978-1985: [In Sonoma County] they were, and to a certain extent still are, very very conservative, property rights-oriented. And development meant new taxes and meant jobs, and to hell with the future. They didn’t understand that they were basically giving off the birthrights of future generations, and they discounted the rights of public access.

Joe Bodovitz: It won the approval of the board of supervisors of Sonoma County to make Sea Ranch what it was—with no public access to the ocean. In return the developers donated maybe 160 acres at the mouth of the Gualala River for Gualala County Park.

Michael Fischer: At Sea Ranch, ten miles of shoreline were literally turned into private beach, even though it’s publicly owned tidelands.... Even though I was predisposed to the Sea Ranch from my planner-ness, from my citizen environmentalist point of view, I was outraged at a cow county board of supervisors that would give over to big developers this historic treasure.

Joe Bodovitz: That struck Sonoma County coastal environmentalists as such an outrageous act by the Sonoma County supervisors, that that rallied support up and down similar parts of the coast.

Michael Fischer: The citizens banded together in an organization called COAAST, which stood for Citizens Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands. Sea Ranch was the spark which ignited their flickering little flame.

Joe Bodovitz: When the Coastal Commission started you still had views of the ocean from Highway 1 along most of the ten miles.

Michael Fischer: They planted something like a quarter million trees right along the west side of Highway 1 to block the view of drivers into the back windows of houses. Well, in addition to that, it blocked views of the coast. So we came in saying, “Tear out trees. Create access paths through the meadows down to the beach.” Well these things were anathema to Sea Ranchers. “Trails? Through my backyard? Down to the beach? People leaving trash and littering and raping my daughter?” So the negative reaction from the Sea Ranch Association was emotional, to say the least.

Joe Bodovitz: There were the developers who wanted to keep developing. There were the people who bought lots but hadn’t yet built houses on them. And there were the smallest group, the people who had already built houses. They were in hog heaven: Prop 20 had just given them a total gold mine. They could enjoy this all by themselves; nobody could build a new house because we couldn’t figure out how you could let people build until the public access issue was resolved.

Michael Fischer: The Sea Ranch board of directors was composed of those people who lived at the Sea Ranch and it was in their interest to prevent more houses from being built. They knew that by being hard-nosed to the commission, if the commission was hard-nosed back and set a moratorium on future building, well—then they had a bucolic playground to themselves.

And there were some huge egos involved: There was Larry Halprin for one. Another architect who helped him out by the name of Al Boeke, a crashing ego, of world class stature…. State legislators found it impossible to go to a cocktail party of campaign contributors anywhere in the state and not find somebody who was pissed off at the Coastal Commission’s moratorium on Sea Ranch.

Kevin Keim: Charles [Moore] had absolutely no control over those things. Charles was always one to say, Well, here are the conditions. What do we do to make something good? Instead of being embittered by it.

Michael Fischer: It got resolved interestingly enough in ’84. [State assemblyman] Tom Bane carried the bill for the homeowners’ association to basically get the Coastal Commission off their back. And Bane, not knowing very much about the Sea Ranch at all, calls me, “I’d like to talk to you about it, and would you lead me by the hand through what this controversy is all about?”

[Then] he called this meeting. The Sea Ranch Association reps behaved true to form and were abrasive, aggressive, obnoxious, demeaning to me. He was really upset… affronted, basically, by their performance. So it was the Bane Bill which called for the state to drop its lawsuits, and in return, access would be dedicated and a number of septic tests would be taken, and the standards of the water board would be met.

Kevin Keim: It took an act of the California Legislature—which is extraordinary—to resolve it, and I think that [the Sea Ranch developers] felt they had to both recoup what was lost in those blank years of development and face new economic realities.

Al Boeke: When we started again in the 20th year, we were inevitably—due to inflation and the cost of construction and so forth—building for wealthy people, which sometimes spoils things. We gradually shifted gears to the really rich. And that’s where we are today.

Dung Ngo: The Sea Ranch developer negotiated a deal whereby they could build an additional 300 housing units if they allocated 15 percent for affordable housing and made infrastructure improvements. Turnbull designed the master plan for 45 units of low-cost employee housing.

Donald Canty³, editor and architecture critic: The Sea Ranch was born in the 1960s of environmental concerns, yet the environmental movement of the late 1970s almost killed it, and in the end the struggle resulted in landmark environmental law.

Kevin Keim: To have fought that bitterly for so many years was both short-sighted, but also in a sense, contrary to what they were doing. The idea of private property brings out the worst in people. Had they just simply said, “Sure, there’s no problem with people having access on this very limited basis to parts of the coastline”... That is an ideal that we should actually embrace instead of resisting.

Donlyn Lyndon: There are six [public access points] over the course of Sea Ranch. The last one is connected to the path, and there’s a three-mile walk from the north down to one of the other public access trails.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: All the money I made, I bought a house at Stinson, not at Sea Ranch. I was the only who took my money and did that. At Stinson people can walk along the beach.

How to get something built at the Sea Ranch

Any new landowner looking to construct a house goes through a substantial dialogue with the community’s design committee.

Al Boeke: The Sea Ranch is not a good fit for everybody. It’s a special place with a special climate and within it there are numerous microclimates and you have to pick a microclimate that you will be pleased with. If you don’t have experience in these matters you should be very, very cautious about building or buying at the Sea Ranch.

Mary Griffin: In the 20-plus years since Bill died, we’ve done about five or six houses. And we’ve really enjoyed having that continued exploration of how to build there.

Architect Donlyn Lyndon, a founding partner of MLTW and the de facto steward of the Sea Ranch’s architectural history, photographed at his home in 2015.

Donlyn Lyndon: It’s very important that we maintain the idea of the landscape having precedent, and buildings becoming interrelated and are overall a composition, and that the landscape isn’t just a setting. I think the design committee has been a huge factor in it being as coherent overall as it is.

Mary Griffin: I don’t think any of us want the Sea Ranch to be stuck in any particular time. We don’t [just] want to rebuild buildings from the early ’70s and we can’t. It doesn’t meet current code—so that is sort of pushing it into thinking about new ideas.

Donlyn Lyndon: You buy a piece of property and when you want to start thinking seriously about building, the owner sets up time with the design committee to visit the site, bring drawings, but think about the site’s possibilities and deficiencies. The committee helps decide what would be most important for the architect and owner to pay attention to.

Dick Whitaker, when he was on the design committee, would try to get people to look at the back of the lot, and they could not turn their eyes away from the formulaic ocean view!

Then you see the site and develop a fundamental scheme—how it relates to surroundings, its views, [if it has] cloistered open space or a secondary unit. The design committee, [which comprises] three to five design professionals, review the scheme and ask questions: Have you thought about what that will do for the neighbor?

Lisa Dundee: Most importantly show us how the context, the individual site, the neighborhood, the environment is the creator of the design. How that has inspired what your proposal is and how it responds to all that surrounding context.

Donlyn Lyndon: The scheme is not rejected or accepted, but commented on. Then the architect develops a pretty thoroughly articulated set of preliminary drawings, which are almost never accepted without conditions. Then it goes through development into working drawings with final approval on construction documents. That approval is based only on whether it’s doing what it said it was going to do in preliminaries. That whole process takes awhile. And that’s very frustrating to people—both owners and architects—that someone thinks they can do it better.

Mary Griffin: It is a struggle if someone comes in and wants to do a house that breaks all the rules, because symmetry is based on having rules, having a collective attitude. So if you wanted to do a painted white steel house, it’s going to get challenged. But still, I’m hoping that there can be innovations and continuing new ideas about how to live that can still work within the guidelines.

William Turnbull of MLTW completed the Hines residence in 1968; current owner Shev Rush calls the home—one of the original architectural masterpieces at the Sea Ranch—”complex and sublime.”

Gabriel Ramirez, homeowner at The Sea Ranch: The design committee was excellent throughout the whole process. Often when people come to this house they say, “How did you get this through the design committee?” And we did spend some time with them, but it was not for the reasons you think. It was back and forth in terms that they provided really good insight— helped shift the house a little bit, [suggested some] Sea Ranch things like the pop-out window.

Donlyn Lyndon: I’ve tried to work on the committee to deal with some of its language, because it is all in terms of restrictions, what you can’t do. Where in fact, they are really good guides.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: It’s like a religion, they all feel that they’re superior because they have these rules to abide by.

Mary Griffin: You need new ways to clad these houses because cedar and redwood have become increasingly precious materials.

Donlyn Lyndon: The meadow goes up onto a concrete piece which is actually the garage. And then the main cladding with the roof and upper walls is Cor-Ten [steel].

Lisa Dundee: If you take Gabriel Ramirez’s house, it is definitely not the conventional, traditional approach to a Sea Ranch house. But their design team was clearly well qualified. They were able to take the general philosophies about fitting into the landscape, about not drawing visual attention to itself, et cetera, using a few materials that weren’t commonly used before, but were aptly fitted for the Sea Ranch.

Mary Griffin: Just the ways of making things have needed to change, because the early buildings had wood shingle roofs [which] are really beautiful [but] went away because of cost, and now increasingly because of fire.

Lisa Dundee: Certainly of late we’ve really had to challenge ourselves about finding alternatives to the traditional materials in the face of Northern California (well actually all of California) burning up. The cost and availability of good quality cedar and redwood, and the concern about material sustainability. All of these things have challenged the way that we approached [building] in the ’60s and ’70s.

Kevin Keim: It’s funny, if you look at Charles’s houses, he was often the one kind of pushing the limits of breaking the rules.

Lisa Dundee: That’s the beautiful thing about design: There are 7,073 ways you can do it, as opposed to science, which is absolute.

Enduring legacy

What we talk about when we talk about the Sea Ranch, and how that affects its future.

Lawrence Halprin (1967): [The Sea Ranch] has become a symbol of an attitude and an approach. The attitude is that quality is worthwhile in itself but that it also makes great economic sense. The approach is that it is possible for human beings to occupy and live in a piece of land without destroying the very values which brought them there in the first place.

Jennifer Fletcher: I think there is something that happens when you’re there, that definitely feels different and exciting. Sometimes the best architecture is the one you just feel, There’s something different here, and I don’t know what it is.

Shev Rush: As life has sped up, it’s even more of a special place. There’s Sea Ranch time—two days there feels like five days somewhere else.

Mary Griffin: There have been challenging projects suggested over the years that haven’t gone forward for various reasons. One of the biggest questions about the future of the Sea Ranch is probably the landscape, as we confront fires. The ways we work with nature are changing.

Obie Bowman: How do they adapt to things? I’d say early on, by kicking and screaming as they were dragged.

The exterior of Moonraker recreation center, built by MLTW as one of the original community gathering spots at the Sea Ranch.

Kevin Keim: Charles [Moore] was never a purist who said, “This was the original intention. We have to stick to it no matter what.” He understood that circumstances change. To believe that things don’t change is just naïve.

Richard Peters: [Donlyn] is the one person left that really does have a fairly accurate understanding of what went on there that I think I would depend upon. He has a lot of responsibility.

Donlyn Lyndon: I came to view that we had to stop worrying about whether it was the way it was originally intended and worry about what we could do to keep making it better, that’s all.

Christopher Hawthorne, Chief design officer for the City of Los Angeles, former LA Times architecture critic: I think the challenge for them is to build things that match the original ethos and don’t just rely on the money that comes from, say, the tech world looking for a weekend house. And they’ve always struggled with that: people with money who want a house on the ocean and don’t necessarily want to be subject to all those restrictions.

Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: It’s that northern California reverse snobbism, where it has to cost millions of dollars, but god forbid it should show it. Esherick especially. Your house is built of just plain wood, but it cost ten times more than if you built a fancy house in LA.

Dung Ngo: Sea Ranch right now exemplifies the larger situation with postwar modernism: The sharp edges of the political and social ambitions of its founding have been smoothed over by time and money.

Donlyn Lyndon: A lot of what is happening now is determined by the high cost of things, and therefore the expectations of people with extraordinary amounts of money to spend. The initial intentions were a bit more modest, of course.

Lu Lyndon: I think it’s probably harder now than it was in the early days for people to have a sense of modesty of the place. They spend a lot of money on a piece of land and then they feel that they have to justify it, and build something big on it in order to get their investment back.

Christopher Hawthorne: There’s always been an airstrip up there and people come by plane, but there’s more traffic on that route now because there’s so much money down in Silicon Valley.

Kevin Keim: If Sea Ranch were an hour closer to San Francisco, it would be a completely different planet. The property value of it would be so far out of anybody’s reach—if you look at what’s happening in San Francisco with real estate and the tech boom, it’s changed San Francisco fundamentally. I think the same would be true of Sea Ranch if it were just one more hour accessible.

Mary Griffin: I think there are other challenges for the Sea Ranch: It’s far away and it depends on cars to get there. Increasingly it’s become full-time because the internet totally transformed the ability to work there, so people actually stay up there for longer periods of time. It’s not all about commuting back and forth to San Francisco or Los Angeles or wherever. But it is a pretty car-dependent place, so it’ll be interesting as we go forward to think about not only an aging population up there, but also ways to use cars less.

Christopher Hawthorne: The question they could be grappling with more is, how to deal with an aging population. One of the reasons my parents sold their house is that it’s not a place you want to spend more time as you get older (in case you have a medical emergency).

Shev Rush: It would be great if there was some way of allowing people to age in place at the Sea Ranch, and that’s not a single family home solution for most people.

Lisa Dundee: We are currently seeing a shift to probably a decade-younger people coming to the Sea Ranch. In the late ’80s, you would sit in a community meeting and it would be a sea of gray hair. Now not so much. I think the recent installation of the fiber optic system, which allows high-speed internet and other technology improvements, has allowed people who are younger to not only live here part-time, but even full-time.

Shev Rush: We started adding it up and realized we were spending about a third of the year up there.

Chris and Kate Foss: There are a lot of full-time retirees, but there are also many young families. One of the surprising things we value about the Sea Ranch is the age diversity. Our kids could be sitting in the sauna next to a retired marine biologist hearing amazing stories of his life or swim in the pool, playing games with kids of all ages.

Dung Ngo: I myself only know owners who use the Sea Ranch as a second home. These houses are the architectural equivalent of very expensive vintage furniture, once cheap and plentiful but now signifiers for something else. But that doesn’t mean it can’t spawn contemporary imitators, and maybe that’s the lasting legacy.

Mary Griffin: I think the Sea Ranch shouldn’t turn its back on Gualala. It’s great to have more connection to Gualala. I think we’d all like it to be more of a village, and less just housing stretching over the ten miles.

Kevin Keim: The value of the real estate often dictates what you ultimately do with it, because real estate in the United States is an investment instrument as much as anything. All of these factors affect how you think about building on a piece of land. The whole saga of the Sea Ranch lodge is very much tied up in that… Every hotel person I talk to says there’s no way to make a 19-room hotel work; you have to create a denser footprint with more rooms to make any hotel spreadsheet work. Yet there seems to be resistance about expanding the lodge at Sea Ranch.

Mary Griffin: The lodge is what really needs to be addressed, because it’s closed right now. Of course, you’re competing with a rental market where sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a house than to rent a room. But I hope that the lodge can come back and fill the need of a gathering place.

Al Boeke: Am I proud of it? That’s not a word that I use much, but I’m not ashamed of it. It isn’t a mistake that billionaires and millionaires live here. All the professions, to professions so exotic you hardly know what they mean or what they’re about, live here quietly in a house, in the forest, or on the meadow. So to that degree the Sea Ranch is a success, and I guess I should say I am proud of it.

A 21st-century Sea Ranch

Imagining Northern California’s most iconic modernist utopia with new voices, new zoning, and new housing.

The dense hedgerows of 100-year-old Monterey cypress are recognizably “Sea Ranch.”
Kevin Keim says of his mentor Charles Moore’s work at the Sea Ranch, particularly of Condominium One, pictured here: “There is such a feeling of shelter— in a primal sense.”

Christopher Hawthorne: That was one of the things that came up in the symposium: I made an argument that they should do a version of the Case Study [program]. But it should include a really small house on a super-cheap lot but also try to push for a multifamily project. Which would be very controversial amongst some of the homeowners, but an argument worth having.

Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher: I’ve always wondered why more contemporary architects are not taking the challenge of working within the CC&Rs.

Kevin Keim: Whether or not Sea Ranch would ever run a competition, I don’t think they would, but the idea of inviting fresh insight is always good.

Lisa Dundee: I’d like to think that the local architects are doing the best work here, but that’s not the case. Every time we get somebody from out of the area… a fresh interpretation has been really interesting.

Christopher Hawthorne: The irony of Sea Ranch is the project that everybody knows is the condo. But you can’t build an apartment there now; I don’t think anything is zoned for it. So the weird paradox is the prototype of the place is multifamily, and yet it’s in a landscape which doesn’t make any room for that type now.

Lisa Dundee: The big obstacle is that our CC&Rs say “one residence per parcel.” So we’d have to make a change to the CC&Rs, which has only happened once in the history of Sea Ranch.

Donlyn Lyndon: The reality of the thing is that it, the whole has a defined development plan that is not registered with the county, and to change that plan would require a substantial vote from the entire membership.

Lisa Dundee: You’d have to get three quarters of the membership to vote, which doesn’t happen. And secondly, they’d all have to vote in favor.

Donlyn Lyndon: The other thing would be, taking a serious look at the county and the Sea Ranch constraints on the in-law housing, the secondary units. There are some now, but they’re not allowed to have kitchens and be full living places.

Lisa Dundee: Currently, as we stand here today, Sonoma County says you can do a main house and a guest house up to 640 square feet. In California there has been a big push for what’s called an accessory dwelling unit, and that’s to help provide housing because there’s so little housing in the Bay Area available, especially at a reasonable economic level.

Donlyn Lyndon: But how to define that and what the constraints would be—I mean, many people are up there to be as alone as possible and do not become cheerful at the prospect of more people coming up there.

Kevin Keim: It’s that isolation that gives it its fundamental quality of not feeling as though it’s suddenly turned into an ultra-exclusive domain of the very, very wealthy. You know, there is a newer generation of people moving up there. The question is, how do you begin to shape the destiny of it?

Christopher Hawthorne: It would be amazing to do a community center that had some kind of health care, apartments, community center, cafe, all together in a building that would be at a scale they haven’t built since the lodge or the condo. But there would be a huge amount of pushback against that, I’m sure.

Shev Rush: I think we’re going to need to evolve in a way that makes sense for years ahead. Bring in additional types of folks so that the community can remain dynamic.

Richard Peters: [At] the 50th year symposium, they were asking people like myself, “What do you think about how to improve the Sea Ranch?” The obvious thing is they could do a student thing in the summer: Bring really responsible young people together to study and discuss that entire land planning thing—where it is now and where it is going to go.

Kevin Keim: And for the young people doing buildings up there, do we insist that they absolutely do what Charles Moore and Donlyn Lyndon and Bill Turnbull and Dick Whitaker and Joseph Esherick did?

Donlyn Lyndon: Having more units on those lots would be a really good thing. What could you try and achieve with a set of small lots, where people are committed to linking them up in good ways? There’d be a particularly good set of relationships between house and landscape, and perhaps [one could] find a way to put lots in common ownership and allow for some level of co-housing, and consolidate the land used for parking.

You’ve gotten me to speculate about a lot of things.

Lawrence Halprin (1995): The Sea Ranch still needs a heart. This may be the greatest challenge which lies ahead for Sea Ranch, to create a community center with a heart.

  1. Reyner Banham, “Arts in Society: Architecture in Freedomland,” New Society, January 6, 1966.
  2. Michael Fischer. “Oral History interview with Michael L. Fischer, Executive Director California Coastal Commission 1978-1985, Deputy Director Governor’s Office of Planning and Research 1976-1978, Executive Director, North Central Region, Coastal Zone Conservation Commission 1973-1976.” Interviews by Ann Lage 1992-1993. Oral History Center, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 2015. Archived at
  3. Donald Canty, “Origins, Evolutions, and Ironies.” Lyndon and Alinder. The Sea Ranch (revised). Pages 23-32.
  4. Donlyn Lyndon interview with Kelsey Keith, December 20, 2018.
  5. Gabriel Ramirez interview with Kelsey Keith, August 24, 2018.
  6. Christopher Hawthorne interview with Kelsey Keith, August 29, 2018.
  7. Dung Ngo email interview with Kelsey Keith, February 10, 2019.


Writing, interviews, and research: Kelsey Keith
Archival research: Jessica Dailey
Photography: Leslie Williamson
Art direction: Audrey Levine, Alyssa Nassner
Editing: Sara Polsky
Factchecking: Dawn Mobley
Copyediting: Emma Alpern
Special thanks: Mariam Aldhahi