04 January 2009

La Vida Mineral Springs in 1985

In the 3 February 1985 Orange County edition of the Los Angeles Times, staff writer Shearlean Duke offered a description of the two remaining mineral spring resorts operating inthe county. One was the San Juan Hot Springs in San Juan Capistrano and the other was La Vida Mineral Springs here in good ol' Carbon Canyon. The portion of the article devoted to La Vida noted that
"La Vida, set in the rustic and picturesque Carbon Canyon, about six miles from the Orange Freeway, is owned by two Japanese businessmen, Ichiro Ishikawa, who lives in Japan, and Leo Hayashi, who operates the spa with his wife, June.

La Vida Mineral Springs was founded in 1924 by William Newton Miller, but as Orange County historian Jim Sleeper pointed out, the presence of the springs in Carbon Canyon was known as far back as Indian Times.

Hayashi and Ishikawa bought La Vida 11 years ago.

Today the springs continue to flow at 40 gallons a minute, much as they did in 1900, according to Sleeper . . .

Daily output runs about 25,000 gallons, Sleeper noted. . .

La Vida's two large outdoor pools are closed while its 16 indoor baths continue to do a brisk business.

A soak, a session in the sauna and a blanket wrap, followed by a shower, go for $7.50 at La Vida. A bath and a shiatsu (Japanese-style) massage are $26.50, and for $38 they'll even throw in a facial. La Vida also operated an adjoining 14-room motel (There is also a restaurant, currently leased and operated independently) . . .

La Vida has an efficient, health-club atmosphere with separate facilities for men and women and a staff of 15 . . .

Clients disrobe before entering the indoor, tiled baths, which are cleaned after each use. At La Vida, women are ushered into baths on the left side of the building, and the men use facilities on the right. There are private dressing areas with towels, and sheets to wear from massagfe. (During the summer, when the outdoor pools are open, all customers wear swimsuits in the pools.)

Many clients at La Vida visit the spa to relieve health problems, according to manager Bob Shibata. [What follows are testimonials from three regular visitors who went to La Vida for back problems.]

In recent years, owners June and Leo Hayasho say they have noticed that 'more and more young people without disabilities are coming.' [June Hayashi added that the average age of users was 30-40, not older people, and that 99% of La Vida visitors were Americans not of Japanese descent. Elaborating, she noted that Japanese-style bathhouses are unisex, which would not work in Brea.]"

The article concluded by noting that the shiatsu technique of massage was introduced by the Hayashis when the bought the property in 1974. Finally, hours of operation were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Thursday and Friday when closing time was 7 p.m.

There was also a nice photo of the Hayashis standing on the old wooden footbridge that led from the motel on the east end of the property across Carbon [Canyon] Creek toward the bathhouse at the west end, below the water tanks. You can see images of the bridge, motel, bathhouse and restaurant from old postcards in earlier posts about La Vida on this blog.

A sidelight to this article: Leo Hayashi remains a landowner in Carbon Canyon and has been involved in a number of controversies regarding changing land use policies and designations as the Carbon Canyon Specific Plan has changed over the years. In an 30 October 2006 profile in the national conservative publication The Weekly Standard, writers Shikha Dalmia and Leonard Gilroy's article "Taking 'Takings' to the Voters" began their essay with: "the life story of Leo Hayashi, 75, is the stuff of Hollywood epics. Arriving penniless on these shores at age 17, a refugee from war-ravaged Japan via a Siberian concentration camp, he painstakingly scaled the heights of the American dream. He put himself through college, started a one-man real estate company, and raised a family. Then the trouble began."

The article went on to describe how Hayashi's 300-acre property in Carbon Canyon bought in the mid-1970s (when La Vida was purchased) "as a nest egg" stood to be only open to the development of 15 houses, "instead of the 400 permitted when he bought the land" if a new specific plan [which was adopted] were passed.

In the election, which came the week after the article was published, California voters were to decide on Proposition 90, an initiative to prevent zoning and regulatory power (a.k.a. eminent domain) from diminishing the ability of private property owners from developing their property. Prop 90 narrowly failed by a 52.5% to 47.5% margin.

Someday, there may be a post on this issue of private property rights juxtaposed with planning issues that limit development in places like Carbon Canyon, because this continues to remain a timely, relevant, and essential issue for the canyon.

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