Describing itself as "the most romantic location in all of Los Angeles County" on its Web site, the Trump National Golf Club boasts the sweeping ocean views characteristic of the Palos Verdes Peninsula in Southern California. A bride would be hard pressed to find a more breathtaking location. And it would cost her dearly: up to $150,000 for a dream wedding.
But just behind the clubhouse is the public Founders Park, offering the same dramatic setting, for under $1,000. The city has rented out Founders for events since 2006 with the help of Trump's golf club, which manages the bookings. Under the arrangement, Trump has maintained control over what happens at his municipal neighbor's property, and ensured a small cut of the take.
But now, that contract has expired and Trump wants Founders to raise its fees, claiming his current cut doesn't cover the expense -- or the nuisance -- that events at the city park generate.
Earlier this week, the Rancho Palos Verdes city council postponed a vote on whether to raise event rental fees or cancel them altogether in order to negotiate with Trump's camp.
The city's profit from bookings in 2009 at Founders Park was $15,500. The golf club has only realized $165 on each of the 40 weddings held at Founders Park since 2006. In a letter sent to the city's parks and recreation department, Trump's manager presented a new fee structure.
"For us, we see $2,250 per park wedding earmarked for us as a fair amount of compensation," wrote David Conforti, general manager of the golf club, in a letter to the city. That would raise the three-hour booking cost for residents from $585 to $2,670, and for non-residents, from $915 to $3,000.
"Trump's proposal is to recover their cost," said Tom Odom, interim general manager of the parks and recreation department. "The three-year agreement that recently expired hasn't covered their costs to manage those events.
"We'll make sure their costs are in line with the services that they provide."
Those services would include a wedding planner, valet, security guard and cleanup. But the new fee structure also takes into account "intangible" impacts on the golf club.
One such intangible is park parties that spill over onto Trump's property to take wedding photographs, use the club's locker rooms and get in the way of the club's high-paying guests.
"They come in, get in the way of our guests and often trash the place," wrote Conforti, pointing out that one time, a bride and her bridesmaids took over the men's locker room for an entire hour before a park wedding last summer.
The proposed new fee structure would also add an $800 photography site fee and a $600 facility usage fee, both refundable as long as the wedding party remains on the 5.5 acres of Founders Park and does not venture onto golf club grounds.
The discussion makes this issue the mildest in Trump's history with the city. That includes demanding the city rename a street in his honor (it didn't) to illegally planting ficus trees and suing the city for fraud and civil rights violations for $100 million.
"The contention between Mr. Trump and our city is well documented," said Rancho Palos Verdes Mayor Steve Wolowicz. "We may have contention on other points, but we still have to make a sincere effort to be fair in any subsequent request."
If the golf club has its way with the higher fees, brides seeking an ocean view will have to consider options elsewhere along the peninsula.
"Founders Park is a place that seems extravagant without spending that kind of money," said Megan Kocher, who runs a wedding and event design firm, and lives near the park. "It will deter a lot of brides from using that location if the price goes up."
Odom said that if an agreement can be reached with the golf club, there is a good likelihood that Founders Park will remain available for event rentals. He hopes to bring a revised proposal before the city council during the first meeting in March.
During those discussions, Trump may well remind the city of his clout, something he's never been shy about doing. Fortunately for the city, there's no one at Founder's he can turn to and shout "You're fired!"