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Coronado Cays
Coronado Cays

The Secret Story of the Coronado Cays

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Tip of the Week: November 1, 2008


"You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear."

Um..actually you can make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. We don't want to boar you, but this story is pretty good and we've condensed it for your reading pleasure. Think Reader's Digest version.

Before city records were ever kept and the very few had a lot of dough, there wasn't a whole lot of squealing about toxic waste and land development. It used to be that those with deep pockets would be in hog heaven selling land as easily as farm animals. People wouldn't make a big stink if trash was dumped just on the outskirts of town. You'd never know, today, that multi-million dollar homes share a history with hogs and trash.

Enter the Coronado Cays. This stretch of land, 4-miles south of Coronado, along the Silver Strand, has an interesting past. You'd have to wonder why would something like 1500 homes would be placed in this remote small enclave in what would typically be considered an odd location for a slice of paradise. What gives?

Coronado Cays-Map
Coronado Cays-Map

If you have ever driven around the Coronado Cays, you might have wondered what's the story behind this development. Afterall, it sits in the middle of the Silver Strand with canals, boat docks and a general sense of exclusivity. While there is a security guard, there are no gates and they do not stop you from being a "lookie-loo." Again, all the more reason to go explore!

So, here's the story. The Hotel Del Coronado Hotel Del Coronado fell on rough financial times before it even opened in 1888. Mr. John D. Spreckels rode in on his wealthy white horse and took over the hotel and other businesses owned by the Coronado Beach Company. The Beach Company owned the land, Rancho Carillo or "Hog Ranch," which was leased by the Riis family. Spreckels had the grand idea to let the hogs pig out on the waste disposal from the Hotel Del, Coronado's grand dame. Hogs are such pigs. They'll eat anything.

After a few short years, the Riis family lost the farm in 1916 after a devastating flood from the Otay water disaster. Their livelihood was left, literally, in the dumps. They had no choice, but to leave.

At that time, Coronado had a dirty little secret. The residents and businesses turned a blind eye and took to using the island's nooks, crannies and outlying areas for their own disposal sites. Spreckels who had more money than God, decided to build an incinerator on the Carillo Ranch property to handle the island's trash. It became the official city dump. Everything went to this 236 acre site for disposal. In 1948, the City of Coronado took over the site. In 1955, the dump was finally dumped. The property, even with the dump, languished for 20 years before promise rose from the ashes.

In 1967, speculating that green would come to Coronado from the construction of the blue Coronado Bay Bridge, Atlantic Richfield bought the Carillo Ranch property and went into partnership with Cedric Sanders to build the Coronado Cays. In 1969, development started on the Cays with full build out completed in 1995. Land-fill, dredged from the bottom of the San Diego Bay to create the Cays, was later used to build the property that eventually became Lowe's Coronado Bay Resort.

To this day, the Coronado Cays is the only marina residential development with personal boat slips in all of San Diego and north to Newport Beach, California. At the earliest point, the purchases prices for the lots were $29,500 to $126,600 and the homes ranged in price from $49,000 to $79,900. Wanna guess how much those home prices for now? All we can say is, you bettah be livin' high on the hog.

TIP: If you've dreamt of a gondola ride in Italy, or even the Venetian in Las Vegas, you can take a gondola ride at the Coronado Cays. Though slightly pricey for being right there in the Cays, it is cheaper than flying to Venice, Italy or Las Vegas.

Coronado Cays
CA-75 south of the Hotel Del Coronado

·  A Little Bit of Venice in San Diego
·  Coronado Beaches
·  John D. Spreckels Influence on San Diego Architecture
·  San Diego Coronado Bridge
·  Where to Eat in Coronado
·  Coronado Island Hotels and Resorts

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