Since she was a child, Terri Haack, president of the upscale Terranea Resort, had been unconsciously conditioning herself to become the chief caretaker of 102-acres of wonderment in Rancho Palos Verdes.

She grew up in Colorado in a family with seven brothers and one sister. The household was lively and chaotic at times, but they all took care of each other, she said. 

Overseeing the day-to-day needs of so many siblings steered her to the service industry. There was no doubt in her mind where she was best suited. 

“I singularly focused on hospitality my entire career,” said Haack, who has been in resort development for 30 years. Haack earned degrees from the University of Phoenix in the 1990s in business administration and organizational management.

Leading up to her role at Terranea, Haack said she oversaw several large-scale resort developments with Destination Hotels. She helped redevelop 1,600 acres of Wild Dune resort, located on the Isle of Palms near Charleston, South Carolina. Prior to that she spearheaded the re-positioning of Kingsmill Resort, a luxury golf and spa resort in Virginia. 

Those projects taught her how to create a unique destination from ground up, she said, all the while keeping track of the intricate details. 

As Terranea celebrates its tenth year on the Peninsula, Haack has much to oversee: a world-class hotel, restaurants, spa, event space and environmental initiatives. Still, the busy executive easily sets the bar for cordialness. Her smiles come easy and she makes it a point to put others at ease.  

“Every morning when I drive up to the property, I stop and think about how grateful I am to have the chance to influence others,” Haack said from a small conference room on Terranea’s well-manicured premises. “How will I touch someone in a positive way? How can I take roadblocks out of someone’s way?” 

These are the questions she asks before getting out of her car each morning, said Haack. And, they're the thoughts that bring her the most joy from her job.

“Of course, the sweeping ocean views I am lucky enough to see daily can’t be denied,” Haack said. “How can anyone have a bad day when nature’s beauty is all around you?” 

Haack said her leadership has come full circle.

She deflects credit to her staff, employees and associates. She is a hands-on professional who makes it a point to know her employees by name. She also sends personal birthday cards to all 1,200 of her business associates at Terranea.

The Palos Verdes Peninsula resident said one of the biggest challenges of the early years was keeping her staff employed during a recession.

The real estate offerings on the property weren’t selling and the banking industry was in the middle of its own maelstroms. 

“I asked the staff to take care of each other and our guests, and told them I’ll take care of the financials, and we’ll be OK,” Haack said, but wouldn’t admit a great weight was on her shoulders.

She personally asked for the same cooperation among her vendors, many of whom have stuck with the resort through thick and thin. 

Ten years later, Haack’s other motto: “Never let them see you sweat,” has taken the resort to innovative heights. 

From Marineland to luxury resort

Terranea was developed on the site of Marineland of the Pacific, a public aquarium that brought tourists to the hill from 1954 until it closed in 1987.

Folks flocked to the Peninsula to visit Marineland, developed by famous architect William Pereira where fantastic aquariums and wild animal tanks met the sea. In 1987, Sea World owners bought the property. The new owners moved the animals, including Corky, Orky and Shamu, to their San Diego aquariums in the dead of night, then surreptitiously closed the tourist attraction down. 

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Orky, a giant killer whale leaps out of the tank as part of a daily show at Marineland at Los Angeles, Calif in 1972. (AP Photo)

Historical accounts reveal in 1995, after sitting in abandonment for almost two decades, local developer York Long Point purchased 480 acres of coastal land along the Palos Verdes Peninsula that included the defunct Marineland property. 

Kelvin Vanderlip, grandson of visionary and Palos Verdes Peninsula developer Frank Vanderlip, remembers how his grandfather Kelvin Sr. and his mother Elin spent most of their time in the 1940s and early 1950s promoting the Peninsula by inviting people from Los Angeles to parties, dinners, tours, horseback rides, tennis and beach outings.

The Vanderlips were relentless in getting people out to Palos Verdes Peninsula. In parallel with promoting Marineland, they promoted the Portuguese Bend Club, Wayfarer’s Chapel and the Nansen Field soccer field and more. 

Today, Kelvin and his three siblings lend their iconic name to events, issues and projects on the hill. And, just as Marineland brought visitors, so, too, does Terranea.

“Terranea is now the center of Palos Verdes,” Kelvin Vanderlip said during an interview from Villa Narcissa, the legendary Portuguese Bend property where he resides.

“The resort has become an essential ingredient to the area," said Vanderlip. "Credit goes to an incredible team of people who share a common vision. ‘Terranea Proud’ is the motto of the work force.”

Sustainability anchored by the sea 

In 2007, under the watchful eye of Haack’s in-place Lowe development team and Palos Verdes Land Conservancy advocates, the resort would endeavor to combine “a seamless transition between indoor and outdoors spaces.” 

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File photo of the Terranea resort under construction at the site of the old Marineland in Rancho Palos Verdes on Friday, February 8, 2008. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Included in the plans were a golf course, casitas, hotel, spa and other resort facilities. Land Conservancy members planted flora two years in advance for Terranea’s opening while landscape contractors carefully uprooted trees, shrubs and plants that were later replanted. 

And so the property began a new age of sustainability anchored by the sea. 

Enter Terranea 2019, an eco-friendly oceanfront resort, now a decade in the making and one of the Palos Verdes Peninsula’s most celebrated hidden gems.   

Some of the watershed projects Haack said she has led during her tenure at Terranea are: 

  • More than 3,000 promotions have been awarded as staff and associates are encouraged to train and rotate into new roles. 
  • More than 160 employees out of a 1,200 workforce have been with Terranea since opening in 2009, with more than 489 of the associate population employed for more than five years. 
  • Everyone at Terranea earns above the $15 minimum wage. 
  • Working with Executive Chef Bernard Ibarra, innovative sustainability programs have been developed to harvest the resort’s own ingredients like, vegetables, honey, sea salt, wine, and sea kelp.
  • Hiring a professional falconers and predator birds keep flocks of sea gulls and crows away “blitzing” but entertaining visiting guests. 
  • Sea Harvest workshops 
  • Partnering with charitable affiliates like One Hope Wine who hosts tastings on first Fridays at Terranea to help, fund and support community projects and Chefs to End Hunger where safely chilled foods are diverted to feed the hungry.
  • Creation of the elegant signature event “The Pastoral,” an oceanside sit-down dinner to benefit the Palos Verdes Land Conservancy 

Haack, considered approachable and insightful by her closest co-workers, had some inside advice for applicants seeking employment at Terranea:

“You must have a kind heart and a deep desire to please,” she said. “If you have those two things, then we can teach you the skills in any particular job. I think that’s what Terranea is all about.” 

Want to attend The Palos Verdes Pastoral? 

On Oct. 27 at 5 p.m. more than 200 guests will sit down to the signature “Palos Verdes Pastoral” a garden-to-table epicurean feast overlooking the ocean, especially created by Terranea’s five-star chefs, kitchens and gardens. Tickets are currently on sale starting at $250 per person. Contact: Palos Verdes Land Conservancy, 310-541-7613, ext. 210 or visit swilcox@pvplc.org

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