Former U-T publisher and mayoral moneyman Douglas Manchester has been stirring the genteel reaches of the late Helen Copley’s Foxhill estate ever since he bought the lavish spread up the hill from the La Jolla Country Club in July of last year for $17 million. Some wanted to designate the property a historic site, a notion dashed by aging ex-Copley vice president Richard Crouch before Manchester closed his purchase.
“While certainly pleasing,” said Crouch in a letter to the city, “the home has been modified and changed over the years in keeping with their personal taste and those of David C. Copley, their son. I am sure that the Copley’s [sic], were they alive today, would agree that the home is not architecturally significant to warrant historic designation.” Now Manchester has upped the ante by building a private mini-golf course on some adjacent property he owns contemplated for future development of a mansion.
“All we have done is taken what was already designated as an area in which a house could be built, and we’ve put a big lawn there and we have made a few (golf) holes,” Manchester recently told the La Jolla Light, which he sold last year, along with the Union-Tribune and a raft of small papers, to the Chicago’s Tribune Publishing, now known as tronc. “It’s an amenity to our existing estate. It’s not open to the public and we have preserved the open space.” But whether the improvement is legal, the city — run by GOP mayor Kevin Faulconer, a major recipient of Manchester’s money and favorable newspaper coverage — won’t yet tell.
“The City of San Diego is currently investigating this matter, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time,” the Light quoted Development Services Department spokesman Bob Vacchi as saying. The ex-U-T owner has a storied history of getting his way with city regulators under Faulconer. The developer’s most lucrative achievement came in September of last year, when the city planning commission signed off on a deal to settle a decade’s worth of repeated environmental violations at Manchester’s Grand del Mar hotel and golf course.
“Approval of the Project would permit prior unpermitted improvements at the resort,” noted the report to the commission. Five months later, Manchester sold 88 percent of the sprawling complex for an undisclosed sum to Richard Blum, the wealthy husband of Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein. This past June, architect and planning commissioner Douglas Austin — designer of a never-built U-T headquarters for Manchester in Mission Valley — agreed to fork over $6000 to the city’s ethics commission for illegally participating in a Grand del Mar vote.