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La Jolla permit reviewers see plans for Foxhill development

Overhead shot of Foxhill at 7007 Country Club Drive.
Overhead shot of Foxhill, a property at 7007 Country Club Drive that belonged to the Copley publishing family.
(Courtesy)

Plans to develop the sprawling Foxhill estate once owned by the Copley publishing family and real estate developer Doug Manchester are making their way up the local review chain, having gone before the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee during its Oct. 13 meeting for a preliminary review. A vote was not taken.

Plans call for a tentative map, coastal development permit and site development permit to create two lots with existing single dwelling unit on a lot and new lot with construction of a new 14,226 square-foot two-story single dwelling unit with attached garage, pool house, and pool on a site containing environmentally sensitive land. The 8.77-acre site is at 7007 Country Club Drive.

Speaking for the applicant, Kent Coston of Coston Architects offered a brief presentation at the DPR meeting, acknowledging it was preliminary and sought questions that would need to be answered in-depth to guide his presentation at a future meeting.

“The owner wishes to live off the south corner toward the top of the hill and split off two acres for another residence,” Coston said. “The square footage sounds like a big scary number, but it includes the garage and other amenities.”

The property would feature three biofiltration basins, and “larger retaining walls,” with vegetation on the west side of the house. The mature, 40- to 50-foot-tall trees in the nearby open space will remain.

Speaking to aesthetics, Coston said the owner wants to take cues from the existing Foxhill residence, a French eclectic chateau style, with respect to rooflines, gray blue slate roofs and off-white stucco.

However, the roof seemed to pose a problem for trustees, who argued it was too thin for such a large property.

“What is this house?” posed DPR trustee Diane Kane. “It’s big, but other than that, I don’t understand it. There needs to be better proportions between the roof and the wall and how it fits with the landscape. You have a beautiful site, huge yard and wonderful views. Grace it with something elegant, not something that squeezes in the most amount of square footage you can get.”

Without naming the owner, Coston said the applicant is “a long-standing client of mine” who “doesn’t do contemporary things.”

DPR trustee Angeles Leira added she had concern as to whether the development was in line with an estate plan that was prepared for all the Copley properties.

Coston agreed to bring renderings, a materials board, clarified architectural drawings, how the project fits into the estate plan, open space easements, landscaping plan, consideration of roof replacement and more to a future DPR presentation. A date has not been set.

The 16-bedroom property was built by San Diego Union-Tribune publisher James Copley in the late 1950s. Copley, his wife, Helen, and son David used it to entertain Hollywood celebrities, visiting royalty and, once, President Richard Nixon.

Helen Copley lived in the mansion until her death in 2004, David until his in 2012. David had no heirs.

In 2015, the San Diego Historical Resources Board reviewed the property for historicity.

At the time, Scott Moomjian, an attorney and historian hired by the David C. Copley Trust, argued that a historic designation would make the property nearly impossible to sell at or near market value.

“The trust ... has a fiduciary duty to sell the property free-and-clear from all encumbrances, including a (historic) designation,” Moomjian told HRB members. “Designation of the property today will significantly lower the value of the property, limit the amount the trust can provide for charitable purposes — which is contrary to the Copley estate plan — and would prohibit or frustrate any future potential remodeling or development plans by a new owner.”

Though the board voted 5-1 to designate the property as such during its Feb. 26 meeting, six votes are needed for historic designation. The house was therefore deemed not historic.

Manchester — former owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune and La Jolla Light and President Donald Trump’s onetime appointee for U.S. ambassador to the Bahamas — purchased the 32-acre estate and the adjoining 24 acres (which now houses a four-hole golf course) for approximately $27 million in 2015.

In January this year, Manchester listed the property for $25 million and the site next door for $12 million.

The La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee next meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 10, online. Learn more at lajollacpa.org.