Doug Manchester builds private golf holes in Country Club area


When real estate mogul “Papa” Doug Manchester bought the Copley Estate known as “Foxhill” at 7007 Country Club Drive for $17 million in 2015, he also acquired the adjacent unimproved 25 acres known as “The Reserve,” which came with a development permit for two single-family houses to be built under very detailed instruction.

However, Manchester used one of the lots to install private golf holes to the surprise of neighbors, who shared their concerns with La Jolla Light. Most of the concerns were over environmental issues, such as the displacement of wildlife, removal of native vegetation and construction for unknown purposes.

In response to the queries, Manchester told the Light, “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. It’s an amenity to our existing estate. It’s not open to the public and we have preserved the open space.” He added that he doesn’t rule out building a single-family home on the grounds in the future.

When asked whether Manchester needed a permit to build the golf greens, Bob Vacchi of the City’s Development Services Department told La Jolla Light, “The City of San Diego is currently investigating this matter, and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Plans for a home on the second lot are underway, and the matter will soon go through the community review process. The City’s website lists the permits acquired by Manchester to prepare the grounds for development, but there is no mention of the golf course.

A site “Stormwater Maintenance Agreement” permit was issued by the City in May for “grading associated with the subdivision and future construction of two, single-family homes and open space lot.” But, on Aug. 8 the permit was altered to increase the affected area from 0.65 acres to 5 acres, and to change the scope of the project to “(grading) for re-vegetation, including site demolition, exotic vegetation treatment and removal, irrigation system installation, plant and seed installation and maintenance services.”

A little history

In 2014, one year before Manchester bought the Copley mansion, The Reserve went through the community review process to obtain permits for separating the lot into three parcels and developing two single-family residences/estates. The 1.07-acre Parcel 1 was to be inserted into the Foxhill lot; the 1.68-acre Parcel 2, with access from Encelia Drive, was to be developed into a residence of 5,000 (maximum) square feet; and the 22.2-acre Parcel 3, with access from Romero Drive, was to be developed into a 25,000 (maximum) square foot single-family residence.

La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) unanimously approved the plans in February 2014 with the addition that a “Substantial Conformance Review (SCR) should be processed for any development,” according to the minutes of the meeting. The SCR condition means that before the home developments, the final designs must go back to the community for verification of conformance to the Project’s Design Guidelines. This document, also approved by the board for the two future homes, includes information about setbacks, building height, exterior building materials, landscaping and brush management.

In the plans it was also determined that 18 acres of the total lot were to be preserved. According to the Biological Resources Technical Report prepared by environmental consulting firm Dudek in April 2014, the site was found to contain scrub oak chaparral, southern maritime chaparral and non-native grasslands, “which are all identified as sensitive biological resources.” An open space easement was created and the only stretches of land allowed to be the developed were the corresponding 5,000 and 25,000 square feet on Parcels 2 and 3.

The golf course was developed in the area where the 25,000-square-foot estate was to be built on Parcel 3, as Manchester confirmed.

Project Design Guidelines state that the design philosophy for Parcel 3 is, “to provide flexibility of architectural and landscape character inside a defined and controlled development area, while at the same time ensuring the long-term preservation of the conservation area and unique natural setting of the home site.”

For some 200 pages, the document goes into detail about types of fencing, color palettes, roof tile and every possible landscaping element recommended for use on the property. A golf course is not mentioned as one of the options.

Under “Planting Design” the study reads, “The landscape should be a sensitive marriage of formal and informal arrangements of landscaping materials woven together with the natural topography and vegetation. Homeowners are encouraged to preserve native habitat within portions of the development area.”

However, the limitations did not preclude “the installation of exotic, non-native vegetation in the development area.”

The document also emphasizes that a minimum of 90 percent of the existing large scrub oak within the development area must remain in place. “A large stand of old scrub oak sits near the end of the private driveway and is an iconic element of The Reserve and the entry to the house.”