Just five miles east of Interstate 5, lying in the original map of Rancho San Dieguito, is the exclusive estates community of Fairbanks Ranch. In the early 1900s, Theodore Reed, movie director for the screen idol Douglas Fairbanks, discovered the area and suggested Fairbanks purchase the land as an investment. In 1924 Fairbanks and Mary Pickford bought 800 acres and named in Rancho Zorro (or Fox Ranch) after one his films. Fairbanks built a dam to capture water from the Lusardi Creek draining into the San Dieguito River, planted more than 300 acres of Valencia oranges and hired a full time manager to oversee his property. Wallace Neff designed the couple's dream home, which was to be a country retreat. But in 1936, before construction started, Pickford and Fairbanks were divorced. Because Fairbanks' second wife, Lady Sylvia Ashley, felt the property was too isolated, Fairbanks came much less often to visit his onetime country playground. The property was maintained as a grove until the 1950s when it was sold.
After changing hands several times, the Fairbanks property was purchased in 1977 by Ray Watt, a Santa Monica developer. Inspired by the exclusive ambiance of Rancho Santa Fe, Watts wanted to create an elite community of estate sites called Fairbanks Ranch. He went on to subdivide the 1,240 acres and started selling lots in 1981. The amenities of the guard-gated community include a lakeside clubhouse, tennis courts, 40 acres of open space, three miles of fenced horse trails, a 17-acre equestrian center with a 27-stall barn, two lakes, miles of walking trails, a fitness course, and several shaded picnic spots. The original pump house that was built in the 1920s has been restored and is used as the community library.
Featured on "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", the custom-built residences of Fairbanks Ranch occupy 620 well-manicured estate sites, ranging from one-half to 10 acres. Sale prices range from $1.5 million to $10 million. Fairbanks Ranch Country Club, Del Mar Country Club, Morgan Run Golf Course, Rancho Valencia Resort, several polo fields and equestrian facilities are nearby.
Fairbanks Ranch students attend Solana Santa Fe Elementary School, Earl Warren Middle School, and either Torrey Pines High School or San Dieguito Academy.