Many people have heard of Saint-Malo, France. Saint-Malo is known for being the walled fishing village of Brittany, France, dating back to the Middle Ages.
However, few local San Diegans know we have our own little version of Saint Malo right here in North County. San Diego's first gated community is such a secret that the residents of the community pretty much have been sworn to keep this place under wraps.
Just above the bluffs in Oceanside, next to the railroad tracks, and just north of the Buena Vista Lagoon, is a beach community that has been hidden for 80 years.
There's nothing else like it anywhere, except perhaps, Saint-Malo, France. It is, after all, built to look like the walled port city of Brittany. If the architecture wasn't charming enough, the history will grab your interest even more.
As the story goes, back in the late 1920's, Kenyon Keith, a Pasadena architect got more than he originally set out to buy when he negotiated for land in Oceanside. It became an all or nothing transaction. Rather than buying a few oceanfront homes, he was forced to pick up 28 acres. By default, Mr. Keith added 'developer' to his resume, and the rest is history.
For 80 years, most of the 80 homes have been owned by successive generations of the original families. Each resident abides by strict regulations and a code of silence to keep this private property, private. The regulations have also maintained the architectural integrity of St. Malo. The homeowners are required to maintain specific architectural details such as the roofs must be slanted and have wood shingles, with red-brick chimneys and animal-shaped weather vanes. There's been little publicity or information available regarding St. Malo which actually only serves to add to the story.
True to San Diego style, the wealthy residents blend into the community and don't have a need to draw attention to themselves. In the early days, folks from Hollywood and wealthy families from Los Angeles would use St. Malo as a beach escape. With the train tracks steps from the community, it was an easy enough jaunt from the Los Angeles area.
Around two thirds of the 80 homes in Saint Malo have been owned by the same family for over 40 years, many by historically prominent families. Prominent families such as the Sepulveda, Chandler, and Doheny families are on the list. Other notable guests of St. Malo included Harpo Marx and Al Capone. St. Malo was the 'it' place in the 1930's-1950's with all that you'd expect of old-money soirees and celebrations.
As late as 1984, Prince Phillip and Princess Anne stayed at St. Malo while enjoying the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic equestrian events held at Fairbanks Ranch in San Diego.
Over the years, the properties would be resold to known relatives and friends in order to keep the tight-knit community whole and private. Even the beach below the property remains private.
The historical significance of the homes remains intact as all of the homes have kept true to the original French Normandy architecture.
Should you go, we ask that you respect this private property. You can not enter the property. "Little John" who runs the guard hut on the outside of the gate will make sure of that. He knows hall the residents and won't allow anyone else in without reason. He's worked at St. Malo for 23 years.
Home sales in this neighborhood are scarce. The last sale was in January of 2018. 113 Eaton Street in Oceanside, with 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and 2313 square feet sold for $1,830,000.00.
If you don't have an extra $2 million lying around, you could also enjoy this exclusive community by renting one of the vacation properties inside the community. The vacation homes rent for $400 - $700 per night with a week's minimum stay in the winter and as much as a month minimum in the summer months. Staying in one of these vacation rentals affords you access to the private beach along with all the community amenities. The St. Malo enclave features a private beach with clubhouse cabana, summer lifeguards, playground equipment, barbecue, covered patio, sand volleyball court, a paddle tennis court, and 3 tennis courts.
St. Malo has been a well-guarded secret. It is easy to see why the families haven't wanted to spoil the appeal, privacy, and traditions they've enjoyed. But for a sneak peek, enjoy the photos below.