Mediterranean mood in Malibu
Point Dume has been dubbed the "Malibu Riviera" for its panoramic ocean views and large private oceanfront estates. But if you have to ask the price, you probably can't afford it.
Privacy is coveted in the Point Dume neighborhood of Malibu, where many homes are gated. (Carlos Chavez / LAT)
In a bargain that might rival the sale of Manhattan, Frederick and May Rindge bought the entire 27-mile Malibu coastline for $30,000 in 1892.
And in what might be described as a precursor to today's beach access issues, the Rindges kept outsiders at bay with chained gates, barbed wire and armed guards on horseback.
Life changed for the widowed May in 1928, when Pacific Coast Highway opened and this beautiful stretch of the California coast could finally be enjoyed by all.
Tired of fighting for her privacy, a defeated and broke Rindge auctioned off Point Dume in large parcels. The barren acreage high above the sea attracted equestrians who built sprawling ranchos. Because of its remoteness at the time, the coastal bluff earned a reputation as the "Malibu ghetto" and offered some of the cheapest buys around.
The rich and famous didn't take notice of the area until 1984, when Johnny Carson, known for relishing privacy, bought a gated estate on Wildlife Road for more than $9 million, setting the price record at the time in Los Angeles.
Point Dume today is home to many Hollywood celebrities: Barbra Streisand, Bob Dylan, Nick Nolte, Kenny G and Martin Sheen among them. At one point, this was the stamping grounds for the so-called Hollywood Brat Pack — Charlie Sheen, Rob Lowe, Sean Penn and Emilio Estevez. And it was on one of these bluffs that Penn married Madonna.
To the unwitting, Point Dume is an unpretentious, laid-back California beach town. Half of the 400 homes, especially the ones seen from the road, were built in the '50s and '60s, so ranch styles are predominant. One might wonder what all the fuss is about — until someone explains that behind the 8-foot-tall hedge stands an 11,000-square-foot custom-built residence overlooking the expanse of the blue Pacific.
Point Dume, its exorbitant home prices aside, is still about living a casual lifestyle, insists Coldwell Banker's Rick Wallace — or Malibu Rick, as he's known around town.
Casual, perhaps, but with a nod toward finer living. The local Cooke's Family Market boasts an extensive wine selection, offers fresh caviar, has its own sushi chef and sells freshly made gourmet and organic deli products. And Point Dume's casual cover is blown by a stroll down the frozen food aisle, which could easily be labeled the nirvana of exotic frozen desserts.
Most of the properties at Point Dume are deeded to include a key that opens one of three private gates leading down to the seashore. Many residents on the bluff have their own stairways; some even own title to a spit of sand a few hundred feet below. So coveted is the privacy these access gates allow that each year, under guarded secrecy, the locks are re-keyed.
Mere mortals can access the beach via a lovely hike through the Point Dume State Preserve at the end of Westward Beach Road or by parking near Zuma Beach and walking around the craggy rocks through what's known as Pirates' Cove, formerly a notorious nude beach.
The housing style can only be labeled eclectic when you have '60s ranch homes, Mediterranean mansions, modern showplaces of glass and bronze and the occasional hippie's snub at society all on the same street.
The lowest-priced single-family home on the market is a 4,000-square-foot home built in 1978, with nary a view, listed for $3.1 million. The most expensive listing is a 7,600-square-foot home with panoramic ocean views for $24.75 million.
There's always the Paradise Cove trailer park, although spaces can be hard to come by.