Oak Street Beach

View from 155 Oak Street of the beach

 Introduction to the Enclave: Located in the center of the village is a wonderful neighborhood steeped with history and many say is the beginning of the California surf culture. Many avid surfers consider it the best surf spot in Laguna Beach. It is no wonder that when the swell is up, the young as well as the seasoned surfers are all at Oak Street. Notables like Steve Pezman, former publisher of Surf Magazine and Bob McKnight co-founder of Quiksilver Surf Clothing love to surf in these waters. 

Bordered By: The Oak Street Beach neighborhood is located along the beach from Brooks Street on the north to Cress Street on the south.

History of the Area: Oak Street at Gaviota Drive is ground zero for the California surfing movement. Many famous names associated with surfing grew up and surfed at the famed Oak Street Beach and surrounding beaches like Brooks Street. Most notably is Hobie Alter of the famed Hobie Surfboard and who lived on Gaviota and later built his first store on PCH. During the early 1950s, Hobie sold boards out of his garage near Oak Street. Later, Hobie’s dad helped him buy a vacant lot off PCH for $1,500 where the first Hobie Surf Shop was built. In the 1950s when surfing was coming of age, all the cool kids went to Oak Street to surf and to be seen. Today it is a sought after beach front neighborhood and the real estate prices prove it. 

My recent listing at 155 Oak Street sold in less than one week on the market for $6,100,000. This was the first time this home was on the market since the Hill Family bought it with 50 feet of beach frontage in 1924 for $5,000. At a recent dinner with the six brothers and sisters they shared many wonderful memories of growing up on Oak Street. Their father, Walter B. Hill, M.D. from Upland, remembers when his father purchased a three-room cabin that was surrounded by empty land and a few small homes in 1924. Little did he know the importance of that purchase and the memories it gave to so many of his family. According to his book entitled, “Laguna Beach: Our Extended Childhood,” which he wrote in 1996, the senior Hill recalls in 1924 as a young boy riding down a two-lane oiled road known now as Coast Highway and then turning down a dusty dirt road now known as Oak Street to the small cabin at 155 Oak Street at Gaviota. Gaviota was called Seaview Avenue in those days and was later changed to its present Gaviota Drive. Over the years, the Hill family would add a large family room with ocean views, additional baths and bedrooms. The original house was two bedrooms with a small kitchen, one toilet with a sink, but no bath or shower. Bathing was done in the ocean in the early years. They had indoor plumbing but you couldn’t drink the water, so they had bottled water. In the early days, residents had to drive four miles up into Laguna Canyon to fill bottles with water for cooking and drinking. There beside the road was the old well with its hand pump. The home had no hot water, the shower was outside and the water just soaked into the sand.  Cooking was by kerosene stove. Kerosene was bought from Wilson’s Store-at-Your-Door. Fresh food and groceries were also purchased from him as his van periodically visited the Oak Street neighborhood.

Bud MacRae surfing at Oak Street Beach, October 1966

In 1927, Coast Highway was paved and widened through Laguna Beach.  Before that one had to go inland to get to Newport Beach. Gene’s grocery store was just up on Coast Highway near Oak Street. It was a place where everyone would visit with one another. This building now houses The Art of Fitness and Spa Health Club.

The Oak Street area was originally part of the James Sterling Homestead of 1876 and Lorenso Nathen Brooks Homestead of 1879. “Nate” Brooks paid the U.S. Government $1.25 per acre; his total holdings were 600 acres. Upon Nate Skidmore’s death in 1914, his widow Catherine Skidmore Brooks became sole owner and Joe Skidmore, son of Catherine Skidmore Brooks, would subdivide this area into lots for sale. Prices ranged from $400 for an interior lot to $1,700 for a 50 ft. x 100 ft. wide ocean front lot. Terms offered were 20% down, 2% monthly, payable quarterly. If you purchased in cash you would get a 10% discount.

Other historic buildings in the Oak Street Area include La Casa del Camino Hotel at Cress Street and South Coast Highway and the Pottery Shack at Brooks and South Coast Highway.

Views: Panoramic ocean and white water views. Amazing sunsets and Catalina Island.

How the Community Has Evolved: The community has evolved over the years with many of the old original cottage wood bungalow-style homes replaced with modern-style residences made from stone, stucco and wood. Many of the commercial buildings are original with remodeled exteriors and interiors.

Homes: Most of the original homes are wood construction reminiscent of early Laguna Cottage style. More recent construction ranges from very contemporary (glass and concrete) as in the recent sale at 990 Ocean Front for $11,500,000 to Tuscan design that 1136 Gaviota Drive has (stucco and stone) that is currently for sale at $2,899,000.

Community Features/Amenities/Special Events: The Brooks Street Surf Contest is celebrating its 50th year. For more information 

Current Market Activity:

Active Listings:

• 1136 Gaviota Drive, a 3 bedroom, 3 bath with a 2 car garage, built in 2007. Offered at $2,899,000.

• 150 Cress St., an 8 bedroom, 6 bath with a 3 car garage, built in 1955. Offered at $5,499,000.

• 1337 Gaviota, a 4 bedroom, 10 bath with a 4 car garage with 4,500 sq. ft. of living space, built in 1972. Offered at $9,950,000. The building is comprised of 4 residences.

• 1155 Gaviota Drive, a  3 bedroom,3 bath with a 2 car garage and 2,200 sq. ft. of living space, built in 1935. Price per sq. ft.: $3,179. Offered at $6,995,000.

Sold Listings since January 1, 2011.

* 155 Oak Street, a 6 bedroom, 4 bath ocean front with 3,042 sq. ft. of living space, built in 1919. Listed by Shauna Covington, Prudential California Realty. It sold for $6,100,000 in one week. Price per sq. ft.: $2,005.

• 990 Ocean Front, a newly constructed 3 bedrooms, 4 bath ocean front with 3,750 sq. ft. of living space. Sold at $11,500,000. Price per sq. ft.: $3,066.

Active Listings per the MLS as of June 20, 2011.

Information provided by Shauna Covington, Realtor with Prudential California Realty, located at 30812 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach. Contact her at 949.395.8786 or by email at shauna@shaunacovington.com. Visit www.shaunacovington.com.