Flamboyant New York developer plans to trump Pebble Beach

Flamboyant New York developer plans to trump Pebble Beach
Donald Trump announced his purchase of the Ocean Trails Golf Club in Ranchos Palos Verdes in November 2002.Here, he walks toward the pin on the 11th tee as part of a portrait session. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Donald Trump, a Republican presidential candidate and the front-runner for the nomination, has real estate interests in Southern California. This story originally appeared in The Times on Nov. 10, 2002.

Donald Trump rode into the ocean-view enclave of Rancho Palos Verdes in a black stretch limousine Saturday and told a roomful of residents what's in store for their city's most prized piece of property if he gets his way.


First, he said, forget about your "very good" but basically uninspiring Ocean Trails Golf Club course, the one whose 18th hole slid into the Pacific Ocean a few years back, eventually bankrupting the last developer. The new golf course on which he intends to close escrow in two weeks could become the "Trump National Golf Club, Rancho Palos Verdes."

Second, watch out Pebble Beach, he said. You members of the Riviera and Los Angeles country clubs? You won't be able to match the beauty and challenge of the new Trump golf club.

"Look, no course in L.A. has the Pacific Ocean," Trump said. "No course in L.A. will even be able to compete."

If that's not enough, he boldly vowed to outdo the famous ocean-side eighth hole at Pebble Beach by reconfiguring an existing Ocean Trails hole so that it is perched on the fringe of a bluff.

Trump's pitch is the latest in a nearly 10-year development saga for 261 spectacular acres on Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Residents fought and won 65 acres of open space, 17 acres of parkland and 10 miles of public trails as part of an agreement that allowed the former developers, Kenneth and Robert Zuckerman, to build the golf course and 75 luxury homes. But weeks before their course was to open in June 1999, a chunk of land fell into the ocean, because of sewer pipe leakage. The Zuckermans filed for bankruptcy protection, after which the lender called in its loan and took control of the course last May.

Donald Trumpdiscusses the improvements and additions to the Ocean Trails Golf Club to members of the Rancho Palos Verdes community on November 9, 2002.
Donald Trumpdiscusses the improvements and additions to the Ocean Trails Golf Club to members of the Rancho Palos Verdes community on November 9, 2002. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Word of Trump's impending purchase became public in August, but details of his plan were not disclosed until Saturday. Trump said he wants to build only about 55 luxury homes, not the 75 that had been approved for the site, and to add a driving range. He also wants to close the course to the public and make it an exclusive, pricey, private country club.

So, residents and city council members, the decision is up to you, he said. "Are we going to have a superlative course, a great course, a course to rival Pebble Beach with a world-class driving range?"

Their answer was straight out of a city code book.

Any substantial changes to the original plan would "have to come to the full council to be judged," said City Councilman Larry Clark, who added that the California Coastal Commission would also have to approve any changes, such as tinkering with the placement of holes near sensitive coastal bluffs.

Trump's pitch to a standing-room-only crowd at the Ocean Trails ballroom appeared to be well received. Just don't mess with our public space, warned several community leaders.

And, said one woman, "big names don't impress us" in Rancho Palos Verdes, which is one of the most affluent ZIP Codes in the county, with a median home price of more than $720,000.

Not to be outdone by money talk, Trump made sure to tell residents that this project " is a small deal for me," like a fun, "weekend job," on which he said he intends to spend in excess of $45 million. The New Yorker said he wants to build himself an ocean-view home on the land and work with officials of Loews Hotels, who have plans for a nearby resort.

He met with a prominent Los Angeles real estate figure, John Cushman, last week in New York to discuss the possibility of building a residential high-rise elsewhere in town.


"I would not be surprised if I came to Los Angeles and built Trump Tower," he said.