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home | Newsletter Archive | Saint Malo Oceanside California

St. Malo - Oceanside
St. Malo - Oceanside

Saint Malo Oceanside California

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"Secrets are made to be found out with time."
- Charles Sanford-

Saint-Malo is known for being the walled fishing village of Brittany, France, dating back to the Middle Ages. These days, Saint-Malo is a major tourist attraction for the northern coast of France.

In 2009, with folks holding on tighter to their wallets and faraway lands seeming further away, we had to tip you off to something special in San Diego that will transport you, even for a few minutes, to another place.

Lean in. This is a secret. 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. In this case, keeping a secret can be a good thing.

We found this place long ago while riding Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner route to Los Angeles. From the train, it looked like an old hamlet complete with a lagoon. We had to figure out how to get to it and the actual find was even better than spotting it from the train.
St. Malo - Buena Vista Lagoon
St. Malo - Buena Vista Lagoon

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.

Drive up the street to find it and you'll know when you arrive. There's nothing else like it anywhere, except perhaps, Saint-Malo, France. It is, afterall, 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.
St. Malo - Oceanside
St. Malo - Oceanside

As the story goes, back in the late 1920's, Kenyon Keith, a Pasadena architect got more than he orginally 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.
St. Malo - Oceanside
St. Malo - Oceanside

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. 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.

Prominent families known all around Los Angeles would call St. Malo their summer home. The Sepulveda, Chandler, and Doheny families were 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 his peeps. He's worked at St. Malo for 23 years. But, you can stroll around the perimeter and have a look at the 12 houses just outside the gate. They are easy to spot.

St. Malo has been a well-guarded secret. We can see why the families haven't wanted to spoil the appeal, privacy, and traditions they've enjoyed.

Each home is required to maintain certain architectural elements. Have fun identifying them. We could tell you what they are, but then, they'd have to kill us for giving out too much information. Can you keep the St. Malo secret?

Saint-Malo (St. Malo)
Map to St. Malo

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