Beach Road began life in 1924, when much of Southern
California was booming. As houses sprung up all over the greater Los Angeles
basin and investors snapped up Wilshire Blvd. land, Edward Doheny Jr. a member
of the oil-rich Doheny family, bought 1,000 acres in south Orange County,
including 3 miles of beach frontage that was known as Boca De la Playa, from
the heirs of Don Juan Forster. He commenced to create a subdivision named
Doheny built four handsome Mission Revival-style houses
(still standing today) and the similarly designed Beachcomber’s Club at the
head of the new road, where the county park is today. He also built a few more red-tile roof houses
up on the Palisades. He planned to build
more houses on Beach Road as well as to sell lots to prospective home
builders. His vision: To create a
relatively unspoiled, peaceful beachfront community that was far removed from
the urban sprawl of Los Angles yet was within a half day’s drive. In those days, it took several hours to drive
a Model A from downtown L.A. to Capistrano Beach, on a route through mostly
open rolling hills and ranch land.
Doheny alas, was not to realize his dream. The Teapot Dome scandal hit the national
news, limiting the Doheny family’s time for real estate development projects,
and soon after, Edward was murdered. Unwilling or unable to continue to invest in their beach community, the
Doheny’s simply put it in trust with their banks.
The subsequent Depression years were quiet on Beach Road,
with community life focused on the Beachcomber’s Club, whose members included
the few residents of Beach Road and some from the scattering of houses up on
the Palisades. During this era, houses
existed only north of the turnaround.
During the war years, after the return of prosperity, L.A.’s
Harvey family, owners of Harvey Aluminum bought the property from the Doheny
heirs. Their purchase included the
Beachcomber’s Club, which it leased to private operators, many Beach Road lots,
the water company that supplied the community, and a great deal of land in the
Palisades. The Harvey’s sold individual
lots to people looking for an idyllic second or retirement home.
boom time for the road was the decade after World War II, when such current
residents as Wayne Schaffer and Eileen Short settled here. “There wasn’t much here when we came in 1947,
says Mrs. Short. “The Schaffer house was
built but not yet occupied. There were the Doheny houses and the water company,
but no sewer or gas. My mother put up
the cost ($2,000) of a lot at 35735 providing my husband Bud and my brother
would build the house. They did that on
weekends over the next year or so and I doubt we had more than $20,000 invested
in the whole project, furniture, appliances included.
In those very early years, from the 30”s through the 50”s,
the homeowners’ association Capistrano Beach Road Association (CBRA) provided a
way for neighbors to band together and share interests, even though the group
had no actual power. As the community
grew, however, they saw the need for a stronger organization. So on December 31, 1959 the community
incorporated the self-governing Capistrano Bay Community Services District
(CBD), giving it authority to assess Beach Road residents through taxes to
manage the infrastructure. The two
groups have co-existed since that day, with the CBD handling the serious stuff
and the CBRA taking care of Beach Road’s social and aesthetic needs.
Around this time there was bustling economic activity in and
around Capistrano Beach. The Harvey
family opted to sell its entire holdings to developers Hadley-Cherry, who in
turn sold the remaining ten lots at the end of Beach Road as well as the Beach
Club and parcels of acreage on the Palisades.
With Interstate 5 now completed, Capistrano was about 75
minutes from Los Angeles and it became an increasingly desirable vacation –home
Says longtime resident Wayne Schaffer, “Suddenly we had L.A.
money and property really started to move. Capistrano was a private beach that was comparatively inexpensive, and
the surfing scene was exploding, fueling interest in beach-oriented living.”
Perhaps the preeminent center of Southern California’s
surfing community in the late 1950”s and 60”s was Poche (“po-chee”), the
section of beach at the south end of Beach Road. The “Poche” railroad sign that once fronted
this part of the beach marking a railroad siding (a sort of train passing lane)
has been gone for 30 plus years but the name remains.
The stories of those days remain as well when Poche was the
unofficial social club, think tank, and surf spot for legendary big wave
surfers Walter and Philip “Flippy” Hoffman. (Walter still resides at Poche
today, filmmaker, Bruce Brown, surfboard foam inventor Gordon “Grubby” Clark (
a former turnaround resident), world famous surfer and surfboard designer Hobie
Alter (for many years a resident) and Surfer magazine editor Pat McNulty, whose
widow, Mary, still owns their longtime Beach Road home. In fact, it was right at Poche that Hobie
Alter and pals spent countless hours testing, redesigning and perfecting the
Hobie Cat, which would become the world’s most popular sport sailboat. Some of the next two generations of the
surfing cabal went on to achieve fame of their own starting with world champion
surfer Joyce Hoffman in the 1960’s. The 70’s and 80’s saw the rise of pro
surfer brothers Sean, Brian, Terrence and Joe McNulty and a little later,
Walter Hoffman’s grandson Christian Fletcher, considered the father of modern
aerial-style surfing. The tradition
continues today with such residents as the Trette family, one of the many
Trette brothers is acclaimed big wave surfer Jacob Trette.
But back to the 1970’s. The next Beach Road boom came as a
result of the imposition of statewide limitations on the ability to own
beachfront property enacted by the newly created Coastal Commission. Consequently, houses shot up in value and
once plentiful vacant lots became precious commodities.
Summers saw a steady increase in renters, especially from
L.A., Arizona and Utah seeking cooling beach breezes. Residents became more
active in both the CBRA and in CBD affairs, in the process making Beach Road
safer and more attractive. In 1989,
after 61 years as part of unincorporated Orange County, Capistrano Beach became
part of the newly expanded city of Dana Point. This gave the Capistrano Beach District better access to local services. Now well into the 21st century,
the community continues to see the quaint beach houses and cottages of early
years being replaced with significantly larger and more elaborate homes. These have been complemented by a road that
was completely rebuilt in 2003, followed by an extensive renovation of the road
entrance, gate, and parking areas in 2010-2011.
Over the years the community’s ties have strengthened.
Residents have succeeded in creating a model-private beachfront community that
offers physical beauty, neighborly camaraderie, and an undeniably exceptional
quality of life.
For more information about Beach Road please contact Ken Ross. Ken has been involved with 60+ successful transactions on Beach Road that provides for irreplaceable knowledge and experience. 949-636-9899 or Ken@ocpremierproperties.com.