When Chad Cooper's father wanted a flag to fly in his Maryland backyard, he asked his son to send him a Laguna Beach flag.
Cooper, who has lived in Laguna for more than 30 years, scoured the city for an official flag and when his search led him to a City Council meeting, he noticed the dais displayed only two — those of the United States and California.
He commented on the need for a city flag at the meeting, and the council told him to pursue a design. "They loved the idea," he said.
City Clerk Lisette Chel-Walker said that, according to former Councilwoman and City Clerk Verna Rollinger, Laguna Beach did have a flag in the 1980s, the result of a design competition. But it was lost after being loaned to the county.
That's all the encouragement Cooper needed. He began the process for a new flag and did not take his task lightly. He felt it was his duty to properly represent the city, so he talked to a range of residents from every corner of Laguna Beach to see what the city meant to them.
"Everybody had a common thread of two things," Cooper said. "One was the lifeguard tower … and the other was sunsets."
So his flag features the Main Beach lifeguard tower in front of an ocean sunset. The city flower, Pelargonium, adorns the base of the design, and the motto "artistic freedom" and the city's founding date, 1927, are on a banner split by the tower.
The flag design process was far more complicated than he imagined, Cooper said. He spent long hours talking to residents, interviewing the Laguna Beach Historical Society and turning to vexillology — the scientific study of the history and symbolism of flags.
Though his inspiration for starting the design came from his father, he turned to Laguna Beach's sister city, Menton, in France, and other European flags for inspiration and discovered "the more simple the better."
Cooper came close to stopping last year, but when his father had a stroke, he felt renewed pressure to finish it.
Four years after starting, Cooper gifted the finished project to the city at last month's council meeting to a room filled with applause. Mayor Kelly Boyd was absent and has yet to see the flag, but he said he plans to meet and discuss it with Cooper next week.
Chel-Walker said the process for the city to officially adopt the flag can begin once a council member requests that the issue be placed on the agenda for a future meeting.
Cooper has handed out more than 30 flags and said that local businesses like Sourced and Ganahl Lumber are flying one, as are a few residents, including former Laguna Beach Mayor Jane Egly.
Laguna Beach Cyclery is also flying the flag, and owner Patrick Fetzer said he "is proud that he asked me to be the first store to have it."
Fetzer said people come into the store every day to ask about the flag, and support has been positive.
"It's a great story and I think that everybody would love to give him a thumbs-up for his perseverance," he said.
Flags can be obtained by contacting Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org.