San Mateo Coastside History

Discovered in 1769 by Portola, and geographically isolated by ocean cliffs on the west and forested ridges and canyons on the east, the San Mateo County Coastside provided protection for the Costanoan Indians who inhabited the area through the early 1800's. The area was first settled by Mexican people following Portola who later sought refuge from the Spanish-American War of 1846-48. By the mid 1800's, adventurous and rugged individuals of Anglo-American, German, Irish, Italian and Portuguese descent arrived to become farmers, loggers, ranchers and whalers.

In the late 1800's there were grand plans with the Ocean Shore Railroad, "the railroad that reaches the beaches," to make the San Mateo County Coastside accessible and provide a reliable means of transporting goods from the area. However, partially completed and operating from San Francisco down through Half Moon Bay, the railway was plagued with geographic and financial disasters until it officially ceased operations in 1922.

Again the physical isolation impacted the San Mateo County Coastside when many an industrious bootlegger and colorful character took advantage of the coastal seclusion. During prohibition, the Coastside was said to be the largest supplier of illegal booze in the west! Rumrunners, bootleggers, madams and other "legitimate" businessmen established these remote roadhouses and bordellos complete with revolving bars and secret passages for quick escape from law and order.

With the railroad and the roadhouses, more people were able to view the coastal terrain and spectacular beaches. Speculative developers had divided up many land parcels and were offering them for sale. Many people from San Francisco and the Peninsula bought and used these as "summer places," the area still considered to be remote.

By 1933 when prohibition was lifted and the railway gone for over 10 years, the coast once again took on an air of seclusion, awaiting the better roads and transportation on the 1960's and 1970's. People working in San Francisco, the Peninsula and San Jose were becoming disillusioned with the high cost of housing and the long commutes on congested freeways and bridges. Suddenly the San Mateo County Coastside seemed much less remote. Thirty minutes on a windy and scenic route seemed an attractive alternative for many to the congested, hectic commutes that were 30 minutes and longer "over the hill." Plus the benefit that you were living in a beautiful, rural setting!

Many summer homes were converted to year round residences, and new homes were established. Today the San Mateo County Coastside offers convenience, as well as the serenity of the ocean, forested ridges and canyons. A late bloomer, the Coastside is one of the few places in California where it is less expensive to live close to the ocean and in the greater Bay Area where the commute to the major employment areas involves no bridges.