4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Saint Malo: A home more informed by English Tudor than French Normandy style

Tucked away between the Pacific Coast and Buena Vista Lagoon

All of the homes in this secluded, gated community hew to a strict design language.
All of the homes in this secluded, gated community hew to a strict design language.

(Editor’s note: The listing was removed after this piece was submitted, but we are presenting the story anyway, in part because, given the house’s history on the market, it seems likely that it will be re-listed soon.)

This week’s entry, for me, is one of those reminders that no matter how much you think you know about a subject, there’s always more to learn. I’ve been doing real-estate-related things in San Diego for a quarter century now, and writing about our county’s high-end properties and neighborhoods in these pages for close to a decade. A while back, I spent several weeks mapping out the county’s seventy-ish miles of coastline, looking for vacant space and observing the dramatic changes that had taken place over the course of a few decades.

Welp, it looks like I missed a couple of vacant lots during that inventory. In fact, I missed an entire neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lack of effort that led to the oversight. It just seems that the handful of residents of St. Malo Beach are rather interested in not being found.

The owner’s suite was added in 2008, but maintains the old-world feel.

Originally built out between 1929 and 1939 as a train-accessible escape for the Los Angeles elite, St. Malo is said to be one of the first (if not the very first) gated communities in the county. To this day, guards remain posted at the entrance to keep trespassers out, and properties rarely hit the public market — in a searchable database going back to about 1996, I can find only 35 listings for the 50-60 properties behind the gate. Even other media on the neighborhood is sparse; a blog post here, an article there.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The story, as best I can piece it together: the community was named for Saint Malo, a port city off France’s Brittany Coast that rose to wealth and prominence as a home to bands of government-backed pirates. All of the homes hew to a strict design language, though one that seems more informed by English Tudor than the French Normandy style commonly attributed to the community. The odd thing is that every house seems to maintain a wood shake shingle roof, despite a 2012 fire safety law that effectively banned the material by imposing costly chemical treatment requirements for a material that largely wasn’t known for its longevity anyway.

St. Malo residents also seem to despise the fact that their community is located in Oceanside, if just barely. While the Buena Vista Lagoon to the south (part of the shoreline is also owned by the homeowners’ association) is the official border, several archived listings brag that they’ve obtained an exception and so may claim that St. Malo is actually in Carlsbad, further confusing things.

While not all of the lots in St. Malo are waterfront, a good chunk of them are. And while the HOA claims that the beach is private, technically, in California an individual can own land only up to the mean high tide line, meaning that when the tide is in and crashing against the rip-rap at the edge of owners’ yards, there is no beach to speak of. When it’s out, anyone walking north from Carlsbad or south from Oceanside is welcome along the St. Malo shore until tidal shift once again covers it up. There are, however, a pair of sandy lots that the HOA maintains as vacant behind the breakwall, which is as close to a private beach as you’re going to get.

Given the relative rarity of listings in this little enclave, I’m a bit surprised to report that there are actually two examples on the market as of this writing. One was built in 1939 during the original phase of development, but since this is a column about really expensive houses, we’re going to look instead at 70 St. Malo Beach, the priciest offering at the moment and a six-bedroom, six-bath home built in 1953.

“Tucked away between the Pacific Coast and Buena Vista Lagoon, is a beachside oasis named Saint Malo,” the Zillow remarks open. “This coastal colony has remained one of the best and longest kept secrets in Oceanside...first gated community in San Diego...impeccable reputation of exclusivity and prestige...” Okay, we know all this. But in addition to the sandy vacant lot (sorry, “beach”), there are also five tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a cabana clubhouse for residents to enjoy. Number 70 is also “the only pool home in all of Saint Malo, and a beautiful one at that.” Let’s have a look, shall we?

From the front, we definitely get a taste of old European architecture: whitewashed lower walls with exposed wood above, steeply sloped roof angles to shed the snow that will never arrive along the Oceanside coast — and the stone driveway and wooden barn-door style garage doors are a nice touch. An aerial shot that follows lets us know that we’re a few houses away from the actual beach, and also that at least a slight nod to modernity has been allowed here, as solar panels are fitted to several faces of the roof.

The pool area is interesting, flanked by the house on three sides and featuring both a disappearing-edge style design and what appear to be a pair of leaf-shaped lounge chairs sitting on a platform just barely under the water. I’m a bit lost as to why the lighting effects seem to make the water appear green at night.

After a bunch more aerial shots and a handful of the brick patio that sits below the pool deck, we finally make it inside. “It’s impossible not to notice the one-of-a-kind features that went into this home, some of the most notable include Douglas Fir timber planking, antique Tassie Oak imported from an Australian school house, antique chandeliers, antique repurposed doors, Kolbe windows, custom Clive Christian cabinetry and 5 gas starter fireplaces throughout,” the listing boasts. Okay, that’s a lot and a bit all over the place, but the first room we see looks nice, what with its exposed-beam ceiling, wide plank floors, and brick fireplace. The furniture layout is a bit puzzling, but we can fix that later.

“No expense was spared” in remodeling the “gourmet kitchen,” the listing continues, ticking off a who’s-who list of expensive appliances while missing the glaring fact that the separation between the kitchen and dining room seems to be simply a pair of large dressers that match neither the kitchen nor the dining room in style or color.

The “vast owner’s suite overlooking the lagoon” was added onto the home in 2008. The bedroom area has its own fireplace and a sitting area, populated by chairs, couches, pillows, and curtains in so many different vibrant patterns that I am now dizzy after having looked at it continuously for 30 seconds. There are also a pair of baths, including one that features a “BainUltra Champagne Bubble Bath” – not sure what this is, but BainUltra seems to be a brand of very expensive tubs that start around $5000. I’m guessing this one has jets in it.

While everything here is modern and luxurious, I appreciate that the owners have really committed to making the house look like it belongs in the 1950s, from the tile and wallpaper choices to the diner-vinyl-looking upholstery on the theater seating, despite the relative rarity of private movie theaters in ‘50s homes.

We get some more shots of bedrooms and baths (including a shower that’s seriously compromised by the slope of the roof), and then we’re outside to see the community amenities and the guard shack that keeps the commoners out.

Public records indicate a Robert and Adelyn Firtel as the owners of the Saint Malo estate; the home appears not to have changed hands through public sale in at least 25 years. After a previous attempt to sell for $6.2 million last year attracted no buyers, the home was re-listed in early March for $5,995,000, a price was unchanged when the property was de-listed on July 13.

  • 70 Saint Malo Beach| Oceanside, 92054
  • Current owner: Robert & Adelyn Firtel | Listing price: $5,995,000 | Beds: 6 | Baths: 6 | House size: 5441
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Confessions of a San Diego Amazon Flex driver

Boxbringer
All of the homes in this secluded, gated community hew to a strict design language.
All of the homes in this secluded, gated community hew to a strict design language.

(Editor’s note: The listing was removed after this piece was submitted, but we are presenting the story anyway, in part because, given the house’s history on the market, it seems likely that it will be re-listed soon.)

This week’s entry, for me, is one of those reminders that no matter how much you think you know about a subject, there’s always more to learn. I’ve been doing real-estate-related things in San Diego for a quarter century now, and writing about our county’s high-end properties and neighborhoods in these pages for close to a decade. A while back, I spent several weeks mapping out the county’s seventy-ish miles of coastline, looking for vacant space and observing the dramatic changes that had taken place over the course of a few decades.

Welp, it looks like I missed a couple of vacant lots during that inventory. In fact, I missed an entire neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a lack of effort that led to the oversight. It just seems that the handful of residents of St. Malo Beach are rather interested in not being found.

The owner’s suite was added in 2008, but maintains the old-world feel.

Originally built out between 1929 and 1939 as a train-accessible escape for the Los Angeles elite, St. Malo is said to be one of the first (if not the very first) gated communities in the county. To this day, guards remain posted at the entrance to keep trespassers out, and properties rarely hit the public market — in a searchable database going back to about 1996, I can find only 35 listings for the 50-60 properties behind the gate. Even other media on the neighborhood is sparse; a blog post here, an article there.

Sponsored
Sponsored

The story, as best I can piece it together: the community was named for Saint Malo, a port city off France’s Brittany Coast that rose to wealth and prominence as a home to bands of government-backed pirates. All of the homes hew to a strict design language, though one that seems more informed by English Tudor than the French Normandy style commonly attributed to the community. The odd thing is that every house seems to maintain a wood shake shingle roof, despite a 2012 fire safety law that effectively banned the material by imposing costly chemical treatment requirements for a material that largely wasn’t known for its longevity anyway.

St. Malo residents also seem to despise the fact that their community is located in Oceanside, if just barely. While the Buena Vista Lagoon to the south (part of the shoreline is also owned by the homeowners’ association) is the official border, several archived listings brag that they’ve obtained an exception and so may claim that St. Malo is actually in Carlsbad, further confusing things.

While not all of the lots in St. Malo are waterfront, a good chunk of them are. And while the HOA claims that the beach is private, technically, in California an individual can own land only up to the mean high tide line, meaning that when the tide is in and crashing against the rip-rap at the edge of owners’ yards, there is no beach to speak of. When it’s out, anyone walking north from Carlsbad or south from Oceanside is welcome along the St. Malo shore until tidal shift once again covers it up. There are, however, a pair of sandy lots that the HOA maintains as vacant behind the breakwall, which is as close to a private beach as you’re going to get.

Given the relative rarity of listings in this little enclave, I’m a bit surprised to report that there are actually two examples on the market as of this writing. One was built in 1939 during the original phase of development, but since this is a column about really expensive houses, we’re going to look instead at 70 St. Malo Beach, the priciest offering at the moment and a six-bedroom, six-bath home built in 1953.

“Tucked away between the Pacific Coast and Buena Vista Lagoon, is a beachside oasis named Saint Malo,” the Zillow remarks open. “This coastal colony has remained one of the best and longest kept secrets in Oceanside...first gated community in San Diego...impeccable reputation of exclusivity and prestige...” Okay, we know all this. But in addition to the sandy vacant lot (sorry, “beach”), there are also five tennis courts, a volleyball court, and a cabana clubhouse for residents to enjoy. Number 70 is also “the only pool home in all of Saint Malo, and a beautiful one at that.” Let’s have a look, shall we?

From the front, we definitely get a taste of old European architecture: whitewashed lower walls with exposed wood above, steeply sloped roof angles to shed the snow that will never arrive along the Oceanside coast — and the stone driveway and wooden barn-door style garage doors are a nice touch. An aerial shot that follows lets us know that we’re a few houses away from the actual beach, and also that at least a slight nod to modernity has been allowed here, as solar panels are fitted to several faces of the roof.

The pool area is interesting, flanked by the house on three sides and featuring both a disappearing-edge style design and what appear to be a pair of leaf-shaped lounge chairs sitting on a platform just barely under the water. I’m a bit lost as to why the lighting effects seem to make the water appear green at night.

After a bunch more aerial shots and a handful of the brick patio that sits below the pool deck, we finally make it inside. “It’s impossible not to notice the one-of-a-kind features that went into this home, some of the most notable include Douglas Fir timber planking, antique Tassie Oak imported from an Australian school house, antique chandeliers, antique repurposed doors, Kolbe windows, custom Clive Christian cabinetry and 5 gas starter fireplaces throughout,” the listing boasts. Okay, that’s a lot and a bit all over the place, but the first room we see looks nice, what with its exposed-beam ceiling, wide plank floors, and brick fireplace. The furniture layout is a bit puzzling, but we can fix that later.

“No expense was spared” in remodeling the “gourmet kitchen,” the listing continues, ticking off a who’s-who list of expensive appliances while missing the glaring fact that the separation between the kitchen and dining room seems to be simply a pair of large dressers that match neither the kitchen nor the dining room in style or color.

The “vast owner’s suite overlooking the lagoon” was added onto the home in 2008. The bedroom area has its own fireplace and a sitting area, populated by chairs, couches, pillows, and curtains in so many different vibrant patterns that I am now dizzy after having looked at it continuously for 30 seconds. There are also a pair of baths, including one that features a “BainUltra Champagne Bubble Bath” – not sure what this is, but BainUltra seems to be a brand of very expensive tubs that start around $5000. I’m guessing this one has jets in it.

While everything here is modern and luxurious, I appreciate that the owners have really committed to making the house look like it belongs in the 1950s, from the tile and wallpaper choices to the diner-vinyl-looking upholstery on the theater seating, despite the relative rarity of private movie theaters in ‘50s homes.

We get some more shots of bedrooms and baths (including a shower that’s seriously compromised by the slope of the roof), and then we’re outside to see the community amenities and the guard shack that keeps the commoners out.

Public records indicate a Robert and Adelyn Firtel as the owners of the Saint Malo estate; the home appears not to have changed hands through public sale in at least 25 years. After a previous attempt to sell for $6.2 million last year attracted no buyers, the home was re-listed in early March for $5,995,000, a price was unchanged when the property was de-listed on July 13.

  • 70 Saint Malo Beach| Oceanside, 92054
  • Current owner: Robert & Adelyn Firtel | Listing price: $5,995,000 | Beds: 6 | Baths: 6 | House size: 5441
Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Gaslamp ugly sweater pub crawl, Coronado ice skating, Nutcracker tea party, Del Mar Red Nose Run

2022 Reader Christmas events guide
Next Article

San Diego guys reflect on their dark skin

Editor's picks of stories Robert Kumpel wrote for the Reader
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories Fishing Report — What’s getting hooked from ship and shore From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town The Gonzo Report — Making the musical scene, or at least reporting from it Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Theater — On stage in San Diego this week Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close