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A Place in the Sun: Upper Crust Loves to Bake at Exclusive La Jolla Club

August 27, 1989|JOHN M. GLIONNA | Times Staff Writer

One possible issue, Kellogg acknowledged, is the building of apartment-style guest rooms along the club's eight-hole executive golf course. The club now operates 91 guest rooms, which are available to both members and the general public.

"Years ago, this land was zoned as a private recreation facility, which means we can't increase the floor area by any more than 10%," Kellogg said. "We're certainly not going to change this place into any Miami Beach."

True to Its Roots

Despite such talk of change, Kellogg insists that the club will remain true to its roots: a site of La Jolla's annual Jewel Ball, a training ground for tennis greats and a place where business deals can be struck in a restrained social atmosphere.

"We still primarily view ourselves as a family and tennis resort," he said. "It's not for swinging singles--it's somewhere parents and children alike can get away from things."

Critics maintain that the exclusive club is maybe a little too exclusive--that few blacks and other minorities have been permitted membership.

"In my 43 years here, it's been the general understanding that people of the Jewish faith haven't been welcome there," said Rabbi Morton J. Cohn. "For years, there seemed to be a gentleman's agreement that people in La Jolla wouldn't rent or sell to minorities."

Salk, UC Bring Changes

Much of that changed, however, with the arrival of institutions such as the Salk Institute and the emergence of UC San Diego as a major university, Cohn said.

"These places attracted people of great social and intellectual eminence who just happened to be minorities," he said. "Things had to open up, including the clubs in town."

Kellogg said he didn't know the number of blacks or other minorities in the club's membership.

"I don't know the number of black members--if there are or there aren't," he said. "The club's membership reflects the La Jolla community and possibly whatever biases there are out there."

Membership rules require that applicants be sponsored by at least two present members and submit to a personal interview. Initial fees are $7,500, with an additional $2,100 annually, he said.

Relatively Low Prices

Kellogg said the relatively low prices make the club competitive with other area tennis clubs and resorts--places like the San Diego Tennis & Racquet Club, the tennis club at the Hotel del Coronado and resorts in La Costa and Rancho Bernardo.

"The beach club doesn't even look at national origin or religious persuasion," he said. "I suspect there are Jewish and Italian members, but I refuse to comment on that, because I don't know."

George Hunt, a club member who made his fortune in the self-storage business, said he has seen no signs of discrimination at the club.

"Based on the number of applications, the number of minorities is extremely fair," he said. "I've known the Kelloggs for years, and I've never seen any behavior that even touches prejudice.

"I mean, a lot of the staff has been there a long, long time. If they weren't treated properly, they wouldn't stay."

Discrimination Claimed

Ben Press, tennis pro at the Hotel del Coronado, however, believes discrimination against Jews prevailed when he played at the club in the 1960s.

"They did have a problem for years there," he said. "I played there, but maybe they didn't know I was Jewish. I knew a lot of other Jews who got turned down for applications."

Herbert McCoy, a retired La Jolla physician, said he's not the only Jewish member today at the beach and tennis club.

"Jonas Salk is a member," he said. "Not all of us are the standard Caucasian Presbyterian types."

McCoy said he joined the club in 1950 as a way to become closer with his children. "I graduated all my children from there," he said. "In the summer, we used the beach a lot.

"I knew they'd grow up and leave me someday. So, while I had them, I made it sort of a daddy's summer camp."

Established in 1927

Perhaps that's what Frederick William Kellogg had in mind when he and a group of investors established the La Jolla Beach & Yacht Club back in 1927, dredging a channel from the ocean to the duck pond that remains part of the property.

But the channel soon collapsed and, with the arrival of the Great Depression, so did the national economy. The group went bankrupt and Kellogg bought their interests, changing the scope of the club and its name, in 1935, to the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club.

After the elder Kellogg's death in 1942, his son William Scripps Kellogg took over until 1972.

It was during those years that the club became a training ground for many of the great tennis players of the era. The likes of Bobby Riggs, Pancho Gonzalez and Bill Tilden could often be seen on the 12 concrete and asphalt courts.

Storms Damaged Restaurant

The Marine Room restaurant was also built. Twice over the years, the last in 1982, storm waves crashed through the restaurant's reinforced windows. Pictures of William Scripps Kellogg, serving drinks to patrons standing in knee-deep water, still hang in the lobby.

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