Lifestyle

Trump Sued A School District And A Small Town Over A Bit Of Land And Some Ficus Trees

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Businessman Donald Trump speaks at the groundbreaking of The Trump National Golf Club on January 14, 2005 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. Matthew Simmons/Getty

When Trump supporters are asked why they continue to support Trump despite his inarguably terrible behavior in public, the most common responses are, “He’s not a politician, just a regular person like you and me” or “He says exactly what he’s thinking, and sometimes it’s not perfect” or “His imperfections make him human.”

I see it again and again and again. He’s a “regular guy” who built an empire because he’s smart and so what if he manipulates the system, golly gee we should all learn to do that and then all our problems would be solved.

But do “regular guys” sue school districts into submission so they can profit off of their land? Do “regular guys” prey on the tragedies of others in order to enrich themselves? Do “regular guys” coerce cities into naming roads after them and refuse to pay standard construction fees as required by law? Do “regular guys” gleefully bully American homeowners and tell them their home “looks like shit”? Do “regular guys” fire women who aren’t “pretty enough”?

Trump not only does all these things, but he did all of these things in a single, years-long real estate transaction in the city of Rancho Palos Verdes in California, where he built a luxury golf course. Everything about this one property, from the manner in which Trump acquired it to how the property was managed once it became operational, screams “douchebag.” None of it, not one itty bitty tiny bit of it, says “regular guy.”

Trump began eyeballing the 300-acre oceanfront golf course after a catastrophic landslide in 1999 literally dropped the 18th hole into the Pacific Ocean. When he purchased it in 2002 at a deeply discounted price after the previous owner lost it to foreclosure as a result of the unfortunate natural disaster, the city of Rancho Palos Verdes was relieved, even elated. The community was still emerging from a horrible recession and welcomed what they saw as a potential economic boom.

Work continues on the grounds of The Trump National Golf Club on January 14, 2005 in Rancho Palos Verdes, California Matthew Simmons/Getty

The honeymoon period ended quickly. The residents quickly learned that Trump is not a person who plays by the rules. In fact, he expected the town to simply let him do whatever he wanted with no rules at all, including refusing to pay a previously agreed-upon lease to the local school district who owned part of the land on which the course sat. When the school district demanded Trump pay the agreed upon fees, he turned around and dropped a lawsuit on them, costing them over $100,000 in legal expenses.

Then Trump decided he didn’t like the view of some of the houses adjacent to the golf course. So he planted a row of 10- to 12-foot ficus trees to block the view of the homes. But those homeowners had purchased those homes at a premium because of the ocean views, which Trump’s trees now blocked, so of course the homeowners objected to the trees. Trump went with members of the City Council to meet with one of the homeowners in an attempt to resolve the dispute. According to a source interviewed by NPR, while Trump stood in the person’s home, he said, right to the homeowner’s face: “This looks like shit,” and “Your house is ugly. My customers should not have to look at your ugly house.”

Trump also erected a 70-foot-tall flagpole with a 400-square-foot American flag at the course in 2006 without a permit. Because of the scenic ocean views in Rancho Palos Verdes, the city has strict regulations about putting up anything tall that could block those views of nature. Trump gave exactly zero shits about any of that, and put up the flag. The city asked him to remove it, and he declined. They asked him to apply retroactively for a permit, which he finally did, but he refused to pay the $10,000 fee for the permit. And because Trump already had so many lawsuits and grievances against the city, they finally caved and agreed to let him keep the flag.

Trump had argued that he puts up flags at all his courses all over the country and no one ever says anything. That is an outright lie, as during that same year, he was suing the town of Palm Beach, Florida, for $25 million (it started at $10 million but then Trump got madder and increased it) over nearly the exact same issue. It was a 375-square-foot flag on a nearly 80-foot pole, which hadn’t been applied for and was far outside of code.

Trump also demanded to have the road that ran alongside the Rancho Palos Verdes course renamed from Ocean Trails Drive to Trump National Drive. Residents at the time suggested instead, “Ego Aisle” or “Narcissism Lane.” That was yet another of Trump’s demands that the city eventually gave in to as a way to avoid further entanglement in Trump’s expensive, aggressive, and bogus lawsuits.

Gary Friedman/Los Angeles Times/Getty

And then comes the part where Trump told managers to fire unattractive women. The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to a sworn declaration from Hayley Strozier, director of catering at the club until 2008, Trump regularly told managers that some of the hostesses were “not pretty enough” and should be fired and replaced with prettier women. Strozier said that managers eventually started adjusting employee schedules whenever they knew Trump was coming for a visit, so that the most attractive women were working. Employees did bring a lawsuit against Trump for the discrimination, which was settled and the terms of which were required to remain to remain confidential.

This is what Trump does. He refuses to follow any rules, anywhere, ever. He does whatever the hell he wants, and when he is told he’s out of line, when he is asked to follow the same rules that everyone else does, he litigates people into submission. And you better believe he claims all those lawyer fees as a business expense so he gets a nice fat tax deduction. He knows a small city council or a school district or a group of women he sexually harassed can’t blow their entire budget or life savings on a lawsuit with a billionaire and that their only way to get out of paying a fortune in litigation fees is to comply with his petulant requests or settle and keep quiet in the future.

Donald Trump is not a regular guy. He is an unbelievable narcissist and bully. Why anyone would want a predatory, opportunistic, crush-the-little-guy suit in our White House is utterly beyond my comprehension.

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