It was in the late 1950's when building developer Ross Cortese saw 541 undeveloped fields as an ideal location for a southern California real estate project. He dreamed of transforming those fields into a place where senior citizens could enjoy life with comfort, security and dignity.
In the beginning, a cooperative apartment sold for $9,000 to $11,000 with down payments ranging from $680 to $769. The monthly payments of $92.50 to $103.50 covered all services, as well as principle, taxes, insurance and medical insurance. Prospective buyers were informed that Leisure World would free them from landscape maintenance. Their new apartments had all electric appliances, as well as extra-wide halls, sit down showers, individually temperature controlled rooms, electric sockets 24 inches above the baseboards and private patios. The community started with three clubhouses (a forth was added in 1974 and a fifth in 1997), an amphitheater, a nine-hole golf course, its own bus transportation system, rolled curbs, extra-wide sidewalks, a security force, and a nearby shopping center.
Cortese spent two years researching this project before obtaining financing to build. The Federal Housing Administration (today called HUD) backed the cooperative housing venture by guaranteeing 40-year mortgages. Construction began in 1960 on the first parcel of land consisting of 844 units. It sold out in nine weeks, and a fast selling pace continued as it was expanded. Each parcel (now called Mutual) was developed as a corporation until 15 were developed. The first residents moved in on June 8, 1962. By November 1962, the development had over 3,000 residents, and by March 1963, there were 4,418 units sold. Because of the government-guaranteed loans, there were many regulations on how the money was to be used. FHA requirements included being linked to an established city, so Leisure World became annexed to Seal Beach.
The Leisure World Seal Beach community has a unique organizational structure. Each resident purchased a share of stock in a Mutual Corporation and another share in the Golden Rain Foundation. A new buyer paid cash to the seller for the shares of stock, which permitted occupancy of the apartment. The new resident made monthly payments to the Foundation, who then prorated a portion to the Mutual for service of the mortgage payment carried by the Corporation, as well as for the maintenance of the property.
Unique to southern California real estate communities is an on-site medical center. Construction on a new medical building was completed in November 1998. The original plan to fund a private on-site medical clinic staffed with doctors, nurses, and various specialists turned out to be cost prohibitive. This was replaced by a contract with OptumCare Medical Group to manage the Leisure World Health Care Center. OptumCare provides 24-hour emergency service and regular medical care.
The Golden Rain Foundation is a non-profit corporation established for the upkeep of the common areas and properties. Kept in top-notch condition are the main streets, golf course, clubhouses, amphitheater, exercise room, and library. There is an administration building as well as an on-site Post Office.
In the beginning, the community was governed by a Golden Rain Board of Directors appointed by the developer. By 1964, a large group of residents had a growing concern that the builder's interest was in conflict with the residents. They called for replacing the original directors with elected residents. This fundamental change continues to exist today, making Leisure World unique among similar communities.
The Golden Rain Foundation Board in this southern California real estate is made up of one - two elected residents per Mutual. The board is responsible for the community-wide facilities and the overall operation. Committees are organized with board members who are involved with various issues, projects, fact finding and policy decisions. Committees include executive, finance, medical, physical property, publications, library, recreation, and security.
The Golden Rain tree is small with bright yellow flowers hanging in dropping clusters. The seeds grow in pods that hang on the tree until new growth appears. It is described as a gorgeous tree when in bloom because the brilliant blossoms hanging in clusters from the drooping branches can be likened to "golden rain." It was in New Orleans that the developer first saw a Golden Rain tree and fell in love with its beauty. He wanted these trees to be a symbol of the Seal Beach Leisure World community. Determined that the tree could live within' southern California real estate, he ordered 2,700 to be sent to a nursery in Chino, California where they were carefully nurtured until they were ready to be planted in Seal Beach. Time took its toll on these trees and today only three of the originals grace the property. Mutual 15 added 20 of these trees in 1995.
For many years, "the country club city for happy people" has continued to run smoothly. The developer's dream of a "Leisure World" is a success story. While the residents on the Board are willing to volunteer their time and talents, they carry the responsibility of managing a retirement community with the goal of providing the best possible living conditions for the residents of this very special southern California real estate.
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Disclaimer: Leisure Living Resales is an independent real-estate agency specializing in assisting with the buying and selling of properties in and about the Seal Beach Leisure World Community. "Leisure World" is a registered trademark owned by RRLH, Inc. Leisure Living Resales is not affiliated with RRLH, Inc. or Leisure World.