The Pine Cone's sixth story of the week

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Bulldozers demolish front yard golf course

- Coastal commission order carried out


Published: May 27, 2011

A PEBBLE Beach couple who fought the California Coastal Commission for a decade over a three-hole golf course in the front yard of their 17 Mile Drive mansion have apparently given up their costly legal battle to keep it.

Scraped earth is all that remains of a well kept mini golf course that was once prominent in the front of Robert and Maureen Feduniak’s house not far from Cypress Point. A bulldozer ripped out the lavish greens over the past two weeks.

The Feduniaks have also listed the 6,931-square-foot, 15-room house — which they bought for $13 million in 2000 — for sale for $19.5 million.

A realty sign marks an end to the couple’s long court struggle to retain the tiny course, which had been in place 15 years before they bought the house. A weather-worn “Fan Shell Greens” sign still stands at the gate to the oceanfront estate. The new buyer will have an oceanfront view in a prime location but will have no mini golf course.

In October 2010 — the most major recent legal action concerning the golf course — the coastal commission sued the Feduniaks in Monterey County Superior Court, seeking as much as $20 million for keeping the course after a 2007 appeals court ruled in the commission’s favor.

During a hearing March 18, attorneys for both sides said they were in discussions to resolve the case, according to court documents.

The Feduniaks couldn’t be reached for comment and their attorney didn’t return a phone message. A deputy attorney general, Joel Jacobs, who’s representing the coastal commission, said the commission “is always open to a fair settlement as an alternative to litigation.”

The seemingly innocuous golf course — which looked like little more than a well groomed lawn to passersby — first drew the ire of the coastal commission in 2001 when the state agency was notified by a Del Monte Forest Foundation forester the novelty course violated a conservation easement limiting landscaping on the property to native plants — a condition of a 1983 permit for the home.

In 2002, the coastal commission issued a “cease and desist and restoration” order that the golf course be removed and replaced with native plants, and threatened to fine the Feduniaks $4,000 per day if they didn’t comply.

The Feduniaks, who didn’t know about the easement when they purchased the home, sued the coastal commission.

After a trial in 2004, a Monterey County Superior Court judge ruled the couple could keep the course because the commission had not raised objection to it for 18 years, leading the Feduniaks to believe the golf course was legal. In April 2007, however, an appeals court reversed the judge’s decision, finding that “presumed knowledge” of the course wasn’t enough, and that there was no evidence coastal commission staff knew about the course’s existence until the forester notified them in 2001.

The Feduniaks appealed to the California Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case. Then, in October last year, the coastal commission sued the Feduniaks because they had kept the golf course even after the appeals court ruling.

In the lawsuit, the coastal commission said the Feduniaks’ failure to remove the tiny golf course “damages natural resources, interferes with the coastal commission’s attempts to uniformly and fairly enforce and administer the Coastal Act” and encourages other people to skirt the commission’s rules.

Set on 1.5 acres, the estate features six bedrooms, four bathrooms, in-ground pool, hot tub, fitness room, five fireplaces, library, wine cellar, a guest house and caretaker’s cottage, according to Sotheby’s International Realty.

Robert Feduniak is a former managing director of Morgan Stanley. He and his wife have also been professional poker players.