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San Diego hearing officer approves new home development at La Jolla’s Foxhill estate

Renderings of a proposed home development on the Foxhill estate
Renderings of a proposed home development on the Foxhill estate include the view from across a canyon that it abuts (top left), the view from the driveway (top right) and other views of the house as presented to the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee in January.
(File)

Plans call for creating two lots, with the existing mansion on one lot and a new 14,269-square-foot house on the other.

A San Diego Development Services Department hearing officer has given final approval for development of a new home on the sprawling, storied Foxhill estate in La Jolla.

The project is classified in a way that requires community planning group review and approval from a hearing officer. The officer’s decision is final unless appealed to the San Diego Planning Commission.

The hearing officer, Duke Fernandez, said he found “no basis not to approve this.”

Plans call for coastal development and site development permits to create two lots, with the existing mansion on one lot and a new 14,269-square-foot house on the other, including an attached garage and outdoor covered patios and decks, a pool house and a pool on an 8.77-acre site at 7007 Country Club Drive.

The current house on the Foxhill estate was built in 1959 by San Diego Union and Evening Tribune publisher James Copley.
The current house on the Foxhill estate was built in 1959 by San Diego Union and Evening Tribune publisher James Copley.
(File)

Development Services staff member Carrie Lindsay said the project meets San Diego municipal code requirements for setbacks, height, floor area ratio (the size of a development in relation to its lot) and parking and does not encroach on any existing accessways, protected public views or environmentally sensitive land.

However, staff recommended that construction be done outside of breeding periods for the Cooper’s hawk, or if it must be done during the breeding season, that a survey of nests be done before construction begins and a mitigation plan be prepared.

Once the lot is split into two parcels, there will be two access points from Country Club Drive: one at the north end and one at the south end.

Lindsay said construction would not be permitted between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. or on Sundays to lessen impact on neighbors. Further, a traffic control permit will be issued for the project to address how construction vehicles would share the street.

Fernandez said there is space on the site to stage a lot of construction equipment, which is not the case in many locations.

The city prepared a mitigated negative declaration earlier this year, finding that the project avoids or mitigates “potentially significant environmental effects previously identified, and the preparation of an environmental impact report will not be required.”

When the proposal was considered by La Jolla’s Development Permit Review Committee in January, the panel expressed concern about potential effects on biological resources, given the proximity to a nature reserve.

At the time, Kent Coston of Coston Architects said, “This project is not on the reserve, it has nothing to do with the reserve; it is entirely on Foxhill property.”

The committee unanimously determined that findings could be made to support the necessary permits, and its decision was ratified by the La Jolla Community Planning Association in February.

The current house was built in 1959 by San Diego Union and Evening Tribune publisher James Copley. He, his wife, Helen, and son David used it to entertain Hollywood celebrities, visiting royalty and, once, President Richard Nixon.

James Copley died in 1973. Helen Copley lived in the mansion until her death in 2004, and David lived there until he died in 2012. David had no heirs.

In 2015, the San Diego Historical Resources Board reviewed the property but ultimately did not deem it historic.

Doug Manchester — former owner of The San Diego Union-Tribune and La Jolla Light — bought the 32-acre estate for about $27 million in 2015.

In January 2020, Manchester listed the 17,368-square-foot main home and the guesthouse on eight acres for $25 million and the adjoining 24 acres for $12 million.

Real estate websites indicate the property is now off the market, and Manchester’s Manchester Foxhill LLC is still listed as the owner in San Diego County property tax records. ◆