Mel Lane, former co-owner of the company that published Sunset magazine and Sunset books, and the first chairman of the California Coastal Commission, died at his Atherton home Saturday, July 28. A giant in the local and statewide environmental conservation movement, Mr. Lane died of complications from Parkinson's disease at the age of 85.
Mr. Lane and his brother, Bill Lane of Portola Valley, ran Lane Publishing in Menlo Park for nearly 40 years. The business had grown from a single project, Sunset magazine, purchased in the 1920s by their father. Before the Lane brothers sold the business to Time Warner in 1990, it published not only the pioneering Sunset, but books that focused on home do-it-yourself enterprises. Mel Lane was publisher of the book division, while Bill Lane was publisher of the magazine.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Mr. Lane graduated from Stanford University in 1944, and served in the U.S. Navy in World War II.
In 1965, Gov. Edmund Brown appointed Mr. Lane to be the first chairman of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which governs protection of the Bay and development of its shoreline.
Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1972 appointed Mr. Lane to be the first chairman of the California Coastal Commission, which was created when voters passed Proposition 20.
Mr. Lane was involved in a range of local conservation efforts, and was also a stalwart supporter of Stanford University, serving as a trustee from 1981 to 1991.
He was a key figure in the fundraising effort to restore Memorial Church at Stanford after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, and so inspiring were his efforts that he was able to expand the project to include repair of structural damage from the 1906 earthquake as well, according to his family. Mr. Lane oversaw the restoration and re-opening of many of the church's balconies that had been closed since 1906, family members said.
His memorial service, set for 4 p.m. Sept. 11, will be held in Memorial Church, and "all balconies will be open," according to an announcement by his family. Following the ceremony, there will be a reception at Arrillaga Alumni Center on the campus.
Mr. Lane is survived by his wife of 54 years, Joan Fletcher Lane; daughters Whitney Miller and Julie Lane Gay; four grandchildren; and his brother, Bill.
In lieu of flowers, the family prefers that memorial donations be made to the Peninsula Open Space Trust, the Woods Environmental Institute at Stanford, or the World Wildlife Fund.