Ken Leighton 3:37 p.m., June 18
Emails show Doug Manchester in no rush in bringing Grand Del Mar to code
UT San Diego publisher waited until the final days to pay fines.
At Doug Manchester's flagship resort, the Grand Del Mar, construction crews are working on bringing the resort into compliance with city code after six long years of permit violations.
Of course, no one said it was going to be easy. Judging by emails obtained through a public records request, it has been anything but easy.
Manchester and company have spent much of the past seven months quibbling with the City over the size and extent of the violations. In addition, Manchester was reluctant to pay the fines, waiting until the last minute before the deadline set in the January 8 settlement agreement.
Since buying the property in 2003, the hotel developer and media magnate has been dinged by the City for destroying natural habitat during renovations of the golf course, for building world-class equestrian center and horse trails, three new parking lots as well as a landing pad for helicopters, all without permission.
On January 8 of this year, the UT San Diego publisher signed off on a settlement agreement which required him to not only mitigate impacts to natural habitat and stop using the equestrian center and landing pad but to also fork over $87,000 in fines and $250,000 for ongoing maintenance for the horse trails in Del Mar Mesa.
Disputes over the extent of the mitigation has gone on for years. Signing the settlement agreement didn't change much. That was evident in a May 1 email exchange between Manchester's land use lobbyist Perry Dealy and project manager from the City of San Diego, John Fisher.
"...We should stop the dialogue on how much was impacted, accept the City's estimate and move forward," wrote Fisher in his email. "This one issue prevents any progress forward...continuing this dialogue has been unproductive since the first [settlement agreement] and all other discussions since."
To which Dealy responded: "As we have pointed out in processing the Golf Course issues, the extremely small improved areas that were created for the 5th, 6th, and 15th tee boxes were once a disturbed rough area with gravel, dirt, rocks, and weeds now looks remarkable and serve as an improvement to the habitat."
Records also show there have been other issues as well; money.
By April 2, city employees adopted a harder line with Manchester. "They already paid our costs of $12,000, they must [pay] a penalty of $75,000 by May 8, 2013. A further penalty of $600,000 is being held over their heads pending compliance," Robert Vacchi, Deputy Director of Code Enforcement, wrote in an April 2 email to Bob Filner's former aide, Allen Jones.
In fact, the UT San Diego publisher waited until the last minute to pay the $75,000. In a phone interview, Perry Dealy said the payment didn't clear until after the May 8 deadline but said that was due to the check getting misplaced but city officials.
All the while, Manchester refused to flinch when dealing with City officials, including Mayor Filner. In an email to Filner, Manchester bragged about the resort while referring to the $250,000 for maintenance of the horse trails as more gift than penalty.
"Dear Mayor Filner, I appreciated your visit and am prepared to close this six-year dispute which will keep the horse trail open for all the Del Mar Mesa residents and hand you a check in the amount of $250,000," Manchester wrote in an April 8 email.
"I would respectfully request that the City is proud of the fact that the Grand is the most expensive private resort or private development of any kind completed within the City fo San Diego limits and that it is only one of six in the world that has achieved 15-star status."
Despite his promises, Manchester has not yet signed off on that check. That will occur, says Dealy, when the City signs off on the permits sometime later this year.
And while the series of emails shows the two sides continuing to butt heads over the non-permitted work at the resort, Dealy says his client is working "diligently and consistently with the City of San Diego to honor their agreement."
He expects all necessary permits will be in place by the end of the year.