In the 1950's, Edward Zuckerman, with a partner, purchased a sloping 150 acre garbanzo bean field rising up from the cliffs of the ocean on the Palos Verdes Peninsula adjacent to San Pedro. In 1970, Ken Zuckerman's father had tried to build on his farmland 1,200 apartment units, a 200-room resort hotel, and a nine-hole golf course. This massive planned development prompted the formation of the City of Rancho Palos Verdes. The new government placed a moratorium on development, then downzoned the Zuckerman's property to require that all new homes be built on one-acre lots. Based on these restrictions, it didn't make sense to build, so the Zuckerman's sat on their property until 1989, when Ed Zuckerman's sons, Ken and Bob, with a partner, formed a joint venture for an additional 100 acres from developer Barry Hon to accumulate a total of approx. 260 acres, with close to two miles of ocean frontage.
The Zuckerman family spent years working with the City of Rancho Palos Verdes and various environmental groups to create a plan which would provide native sagebrush habitat for a rare bird, the California gnat-catcher. The plan was initially approved in 1994, however construction was delayed by years of lawsuits by environmental groups. The Zuckerman brothers created a new limited partnership in 1997, buying out Barry Hon.
Development of the Ocean Trails Golf Course finally began in 1998. Ultimately, out of the Zuckerman's 260 acres, 75 were devoted to 75 home sites. The golf course is built on 100 acres (compared with 150 for a typical course), but 20 of those were required to be covered with regrown sagebrush. 105 acres were reserved for sagebrush, public parks, or pathways.
Unfortunately, on June 2, 1999, just before its scheduled July 2nd opening, a large portion (approx. 17 acres) of the cliff-top 18th fairway slipped towards the ocean creating a huge chasm. The project, which had been originally budgeted for $126 million, required another $61 million to repair the land slide damage (paid for by insurance proceeds). For months, the course operated on a temporary basis as a 15 hole course.
Ocean Trails Landlide
The property was then tied up in various lawsuits, including a claim by Zuckerman that a water line running under the property had burst, causing the land slide, however another potential cause was discovered, that an ancient landslide, previously undetected, may have been the cause of the land slide.
Ultimately, the Zuckerman's were forced to declare bankruptcy, and the property was taken over by Credit Suisse , the lender on the property, in February 2002. In August 2002, Donald Trump acquired the Ocean Trails project for a reported $27 million. Subsequently, Trump made substantial improvements. The course finally opened as an 18 hole course on January 20, 2006. Including the money Trump has invested in the course and the original investment by the Zuckerman family, the project has expended in excess of a reported $300 million, clearly making the course the most expensive golf course ever constructed.