Copley Press still seeks to develop land near La Jolla estate

As part of its liquidation process, Copley Press, Inc. is seeking to subdivide and sell 25 acres at the end of Country Club Drive, near La Jolla Summit. Pat Sherman photos
As part of its liquidation process, Copley Press, Inc. is seeking to subdivide and sell 25 acres at the end of Country Club Drive, near La Jolla Summit. Pat Sherman photos

By Pat Sherman

Following the death of David Copley — the final heir to San Diego’s Copley Publishing dynasty — Copley Press is forging ahead in liquidation mode, with plans to develop 25 ocean-view acres near the family’s “Fox Hill” estate.

Ironically, the plans were presented to the La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee (DPR) on Nov. 20, less than two hours before Copley crashed his car a couple of blocks from La Jolla Rec Center, where DPR meetings are held.

Copley died hours later at a nearby hospital, of apparent heart failure.

Dean Dwyer, chief financial officer of Copley Press, confirmed hat the company was “still going forward with the development,” although the plans could be “slightly modified” as the company seeks coastal development and site development permits from the city.

“Time will tell,” Dwyer said, noting that all the corporation’s assets are in the process of being sold off.

The Copley Press land was listed with California Prudential Realty for about $22 million a few years ago, though the price failed to garner a buyer.

Copley Press now seeks to subdivide the land for sale and development, with permits and design specifications in place — an effort to make the property more palatable to potential buyers, said DPR Chair Paul Benton, of La Jolla-based Alcorn & Benton Architects, which is overseeing the design process.

The lots would be sold with permits that include design restrictions pertaining to all future home construction and improvements to the property.

The development would include two or three estate- size homes, the largest of which could be as large as 25,000 square feet.

Because the land has been designated as “open space” by the city, only 6.3 acres can be developed, said Project Manager Greg Shannon, with Sedona Pacific Corporation. The land will include a conservation easement preventing 75 percent of the land from being developed.

About 1.4 acres have already been developed as an adjunct to the Copleys’ adjacent Fox Hill estate, Shannon said.

Last month DPR members and more than a dozen neighbors toured the site.

“They’re worried about their views — or what they consider their views,” Shannon said. “Most people are not familiar with the property and it’s very large by La Jolla standards.”

The project will come before the DPR committee once more for a vote. From there it will go before the La Jolla Community Planning Association and, ultimately, the city’s planning commission, Shannon said.

“That’s a ways off because an environmental impact report has to be prepared,” he said.

Though Shannon said it has been the Copley family’s intent to develop the land or sell the land for development since they purchased it in the late 1950s, a concerted effort wasn’t made to market the property until recently.

“The biggest challenge when they started about four years ago was that no one knew it was designated as open space,” he said. “All of a sudden the city took 75 percent of our land value.”

Determining which 25 percent to develop has posed added challenges, as neighbors grapple with the potential loss of coastal views, and wildlife habitat.

Clark Straw, president of the La Jolla Summit Homeowners Association (HOA), said there are 142 homes in his community, many of which overlook the Copley property.

Working with the HOA, Shannon has done a “good job of trying to appease the people that were upset,” Straw said, largely by reducing the number of proposed homes in the development, as well as their height and size.

“A couple (of residents) wouldn’t settle for anything, and one’s a lawyer,” Straw added.

The property contains an earthquake fault line, according the DPR presentation.

• Development Permit Review Committee meets 4 p.m. the second and third Tuesdays of the month at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.

• A private memorial service for David Copley at The Salk Institute on Dec. 16 has been postponed to a later date, at a location to be determined, Dwyer said.