Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Wealthy Romney Financial Backer and La Jolla Beachfront Neighbor Breaks Ground on Huge Remodel
Residents on Dunemere Drive in La Jolla's posh beachside Barber Tract have yet another high-profile residential renovation project to kick around.
First it was Mitt Romney's plan to raze the 3,000-square-foot beach cottage that he and his family purchased in 2008 to make room for an 11,000-square-foot oceanside abode, including a four-car garage with an elevator.
Now, it's the turn of John R. Miller, Romney's close friend and next door neighbor.
Miller, a longtime Romney campaign fundraiser and multi-million-dollar investor in the private equity firm Solamere Capital, co-founded by Romney's son Taggart, has submitted renovation plans for his 1.4 acre historic beachfront estate, and is already busy tearing up the property.
Back on February 2, 2009, according to a document obtained from the City of San Diego Development Services Department, Miller and his wife Victoria obtained permission "to remodel & add 3,951 square feet" to the existing three-level single family residence on Dunemere Drive.
A building official said that Miller had not used that permit and subsequently applied for another, which he said yesterday had not yet been approved.
This July 2, the Millers received another permit, this one for a "remodel and addition of floor area and garage area to an existing guest house over [an] existing garage."
As construction workers swarmed the property and a backhoe droned in the background, a worker who did not identify himself said yesterday that the guest house project was under construction, and that he expected a permit for the main house to be issued by next Monday.
Miller made much of his fortune through his investment in the National Beef Packing Company, a $7 billion Kansas City, Missouri firm. He also is a founding partner of Wasatch Premier Properties, a real estate outfit based in Salt Lake City.
He invested millions in the private equity firm Solamere, launched by Taggart and the elder Romney's chief political fund-raiser Spencer Zwick in 2008, according to an April 2012 account in the New York Times.
The paper reported that Miller was first pitched the idea of investing in Tagg Romney's fund "over dinner at the posh Torrey Pines resort in San Diego" in February 2008.
"The chief executive of National Beef Packing until 2009, Mr. Miller had been a national finance co-chairman for the 2008 Romney campaign."
According to an account in the Los Angeles Times earlier this week, the Millers get a large break on property taxes on their La Jolla manse under the state's Mills Act, intended to preserve historic structures.
"In exchange for a dramatically lower assessment and taxes, the owners agree not to change the exterior, according to Cathy Winterrowd, principal planner for San Diego's Historical Resources Board," the Times reported.
"Once owned by the late actor Cliff Robertson, the Miller home is assessed at only $1.74 million, according to county records, a fraction of its value. Rather than paying annual taxes of about $165,000, which one would expect for a $16.5-million home, the Millers pay $18,846."
Reported with Dorian Hargrove