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It's got star quality

October 22, 2006|Jessica C. Lee | Special to The Times

The Bravo series "The Real Housewives of Orange County" follows the lives of five women as they maneuver through Botox, parties, kids, weekend getaways and, oh, their men. It's not every community that gets its own reality TV show. But not every community is Coto de Caza.


Originally a barley-growing ranch where sheep grazed, Coto de Caza was developed in 1964 first as a private hunting and equestrian social club that attracted many Southern Californians, including legendary actor John Wayne.

Coto de Caza's first homes were built in 1975. By 1980, Coto had been transformed into a 5,000-acre master-planned development with common-use facilities, open space, landscaped areas and gate-controlled access. Coto de Caza was officially completed in 2000.

Located in the unincorporated Trabuco Canyon region of Orange County, Coto de Caza is northeast of the Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park, west of the Cleveland National Forest, and north and east of Highway 241. There are about 4,000 homes, four guard-gated entrances and roughly 15,000 residents.

What's it about

Although Coto de Caza hosts high-profile executives and celebrities, its sheltered location offers public figures a covert lifestyle. Acres of open space, rustic hiking trails, wandering wildlife and an old-fashioned general store bolster Coto de Caza's small-town feel.

Here, seclusion is key. The Thomas F. Riley Wilderness Park and the Cleveland National Forest create a natural ridgeline, making Coto de Caza into its own private valley. For Jeana Keough, a 24-year resident, Realtor and "Real Housewives of Orange County" star, Coto's private setting allows famous residents to escape the hustle and bustle of Hollywood life. Coto "has this Midwestern feel to it," she said.

Although the show has stirred controversy within the community, Keough participated in the show and says that Coto's residents remain friendly toward her.

Insiders' view

Regardless of what's on TV, according to the father-son team of Don and Ken Bowen, Re/Max Realtors and Coto de Caza residents, Coto is "laid-back and unpretentious."

"We've got clients who are worth $50 million, but you wouldn't even know it. They don't flash it," Ken said.

"It's safe, secure and low-profile," Don said.

Nothing says "close-knit" like Coto's community events. The Fourth of July parade is an annual crowd pleaser. Other events include charity fundraisers, golf tournaments, movies in the park and concerts arranged by Coto's own philharmonic committee. In addition to social gatherings, some of Coto's other perks include a 36-hole golf course, a sports park, an equestrian center and man-made lakes.

Housing stock

Coto de Caza has an eclectic array of properties.

"If it's out there, we have it. There's something for everybody here," Don Bowen said.

On the market now is a quarter-acre property with a Spanish-style residence built in 1994. The 6,000-square-foot home has six bedrooms, 5 1/2 bathrooms, a pool, a spa and a golf course view, and is priced at $2,249,000.

Located on 2 gated acres, a custom home with 5,000 square feet is listed at $3.3 million. The home, built in 1996, has four bedrooms, two libraries, 4 1/2 bathrooms, a pool and spa, and an outdoor barbecue entertainment area.

A Tuscan-influenced custom estate on 9.6 acres is offered at $22.9 million. The newly constructed home includes a five-bedroom, 7 1/2 -bathroom main house with two full commercial kitchens, a library, home theater and wet/dry sauna. There's also a two-bedroom guest house, a saltwater pool and spa, a vineyard and an underground 1,800-bottle wine cellar, a tennis court, five-horse stable, putting green and two lagoons.

Report card

Coto de Caza is served by the Capistrano Unified School District. Children attend Wagon Wheel Elementary School, which scored 900 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report. Las Flores Middle School and Tesoro High School scored 860 and 815, respectively.

Sources:; the Bowen Team of Re/Max;

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