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At Home With Dean & Susie Spanos

Published

At Home With Dean & Susie Spanos

“You want some chicken soup? I make the best chicken soup.” Susie Spanos is bustling about the kitchen in her hilltop home, offering visitors a taste from the pot simmering on the stove. The “First Lady of San Diego Football,” as she’s been called, is a petite, blonde bundle of energy as she shows Ranch & Coast around the three-level house carved into a canyon overlooking La Jolla Shores. From nearly every room, there is a dazzling view of the coastline. On this brilliant day in mid-October, the sun glints off sparkling, sapphire blue waters, and seabirds glide overhead.

The Arthur Porras-designed living room offers panoramic views of La Jolla
The Arthur Porras-designed living room offers panoramic views of La Jolla

There was just a small cottage on the private, one-acre lot when Susie and husband Dean, Chairman of the Board and President of the San Diego Chargers, bought the property in 1997. They hired Del Mar-based architect Bill Hayer, who says the biggest challenge was expanding the pad on the steeply sloped property. Hayer solved the problem by adding a basement and below-grade garage, then carefully laying out primary living spaces to take advantage of the remarkable views.

Susie also worked closely with the late Arthur Porras on the home’s interior designs. “Because we have so much nature around us,” she says, “he brought the inside in.” Sleek, contemporary furnishings in neutral tones complement rather than compete with the vistas. Porras also designed the custom cabinets, and selected artwork ranging from a massive glass panel above the reflecting pool to a centuries-old carved angel from a church altar. Despite its lofty location, the house, says Dean, is very down to earth. “What I mean by down to earth is that every room, you can get comfortable in. There’s really no formality to our home — and the views are spectacular.”

The deck overlooks the La Jolla coastline
The deck overlooks the La Jolla coastline

It’s also perfect for entertaining. “What I love about it, is the functionality,” says Susie. “It really works well for us.” From the living and dining rooms, guests can spill out onto the slate-tiled terraces or into the intimate interior courtyard with its raised reflecting pool and waterfall. The den, centered with a big screen TV and a couch large enough for linebackers, is a favorite place to watch football games. There’s also a bar, a foosball table, and bookshelves lined with dozens of Dean’s golfing trophies. An accomplished golfer, he has taken top honors at major pro-ams from Pebble Beach to Palm Springs.

The den, decorated with Dean’s golfing trophies, is the favorite place to watch football
The den, decorated with Dean’s golfing trophies, is the favorite place to watch football

The couple’s big, extended family includes sons A.G. and John and their wives, brothers and sisters, and 25 nieces and nephews. “When we all get together,” Susie says with a laugh, “it’s like the movie” — a reference to the sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The son of Greek immigrants, Dean’s father Alex, majority owner of the Chargers, became a real estate developer and self-made billionaire. Sixteen years after his father received the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Dean himself accepted the prize, which remains his most cherished. “That’s where it all started,” he reflects. “It was very special.”

The Spanos family also comes from a tradition of giving back. They have pledged $500,000 for a new Athletic Performance Center at UCSD, named after Alex Spanos, bringing their support to $1.6 million. The Chargers Community Foundation has provided nearly $12 million to programs that help youth and families in San Diego County.

Fall foliage and pumpkins lend a festive touch to the expansive dining room table
Fall foliage and pumpkins lend a festive touch to the expansive dining room table

Dean is especially proud of the Chargers Champions, created in 1999, to improve the health and fitness of county students. Since then, the program has provided more than $5 million to area schools for fitness, nutrition, weight rooms, and athletic fields.

Susie, named a 2001 Woman of Dedication by the Salvation Army and Woman of the Year by the San Diego Leukemia Society for her philanthropic work, has been especially involved with the Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Church and the Village Garden Club of La Jolla. But perhaps nothing has been more rewarding than her work with the Chargers’ Blood Drive and the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign in partnership with the American Cancer Society to promote annual screenings for breast cancer. Susie and Tanya Snyder of the Washington Redskins were national spokespersons for the program, helping to raise millions of dollars for breast cancer education and screenings. The Chargers became the first NFL team to offer free mammograms. Last year, because of those screenings, 22 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

Susie is a big believer in early detection for a very personal reason. In 2004, when a routine mammogram revealed a spot smaller than a pinhead, she insisted on a biopsy. She had stage one breast cancer, which doctors treated successfully. The experience taught Susie how important it is for women to be health advocates for their families, their friends, themselves.

Another lesson is especially apt as we approach Thanksgiving. “I’ve learned that you really have to enjoy your life,” she says. “Celebrate the good times. Bless the day. Be thankful.”   Andrea Naversen

Susie and Dean Spanos with Enzo in the courtyard of their La Jolla home
Susie and Dean Spanos with Enzo in the courtyard of their La Jolla home

Photography by Vincent Knakal

Twenty-two Comments

  • Rev Diana R. Sotelo

    Reply

    Your home is very pretty…I was enjoying looking at your pic.your little dog was so cute…i was hoping to find a pic of your father’s home …i heard he always decorates at Christmas…and to be perfectly honest I was day dreaming a little bit about your house one day having one like it laugh out loud have a wonderful Holiday God bless you and your family…Pastor Diana Ruth Sotelo

  • Brandy

    Reply

    Dream House

    • Valerie Chao

      Reply

      Please stay in San Diego
      This is your home !
      Your family and The Chargers are in paradise
      And LA would be a terrible place to go .

      Your home is lovely and I know you will help Dean make the right decision to stay where your heart is .
      Family and love are far more important than money .

  • Dennis Thompson

    Reply

    Lovely home. Too bad you will be the most hated people in San Diego history soon if you move the Chargers to Los Angeles. You and your family won’t be able to set foot in La Jolla. Even the upper class folks in La Jolla have pride. Maybe you can build a new dream house under the Carson sewer.

    Dennis,
    San Diego

  • gary stupp

    Reply

    Alexander Gus Spanos and Faye Papafaklis and your family
    Dean – Micheal – Aleis – Dea — and all the kids

    May your family and the United States of America have a great new year

    Please think very hard about giving back to a very special place – San Diego

  • Tony M.

    Reply

    To Deano, (and Susie) and also the spoiled brat boys:

    Cmon man!

    Just because you think that perhaps you are better than most… Get over it!

    San Diego Chargers. Period. What part of that do you not understand? Just sell the team if you can’t “hang”. I worked for you for many years, but you were never very “warm and fuzzy”. Cold as ice. I sick and tired of this whole thing called NFL etc. You make me sick. You only give to keep your sanity. You have no right to exploit the citizens of this great city called: San Diego. One last thing, it is the San Diego Super Chargers! Not the Los Angeles Super Chargers. Get a clue already! Shame on you for wrecking the SD Chargers and the fan base. You just don’t get it. Sell the team. It was never yours anyways. Keep the Chargers in SD you moron. Or go to Greece and never come back! Spanos is like a bad word these days!

  • Jimmy

    Reply

    What a wonderful story and amazing tribute to being grateful. I too am grateful and have learned that part of that is staying true to values, using integrity, patience and love. I have only been to ONE Charger game in my life (I was dear friends with Zekio Moreno and his former wife) as I am not a “sports fan” of any sort. I will say this; if we lose the Chargers to LA, its going to hurt the morale of San Diego. Let us also not forget what happened to the Oakland Raiders and where they ended up today. Please use your hearts in this decision. Please stay on the land that helped make you what you the wonderful, thoughtful and successful family you are today.

    Love and Light

    • Jose Rodriguez

      Reply

      WELL SAID. WHAT HAPPEN AND IS HAPPENING TO THE RAIDERS. FOR HIM TO FIND OUT.

  • Dan

    Reply

    Hope his house is covered in non-stick cooking spray. I foresee dozens of eggs coating his walls later tonight.

  • Dep

    Reply

    Mister Spanos, I can not believe what you have done. The saddest art is that your Father has no idea. I think if he did your Father would slap you as being not only greedy but so inpersonal. Really, you can not even announce your decision publicly? We were season ticket holders for many years and we are loyal fans. I personally hope you ROT IN HELL!!!!

    • Jose Rodriguez

      Reply

      THAT’S RIGHT HIS FATHER ( MY RESPECT TO HIM ) MAY NOT EVEN KNOW WHAT THIS GREEDY BUNCH OF $#%^ ARE DOING, WELL THEY’LL SEE WHAT I HAVE GONE THRU FOR OVER 30 SOME YEARS AS A CHARGERS AND PADRES FAN. THEY DON’T WANT YOU HERE OR IN OTHER WORDS YOU DON’T BELONG HERE.

  • george thompson

    Reply

    Dean Spanos, his lame kids, and the NFL are complete and total trash.

    The most hated man in San Diego is Dean Spanos. Go, and never come back.

    • Debbie

      Reply

      Get out of San Diego-You are the most hated family in San Diego now!!!

  • Pat

    Reply

    The truth comes out…. Even after it took “Years” to develop that steep cliff house in La Jolla, that you two would live forever!!! That was not enough to keep you happy enough to leave the Chargers in San Diego….after your builders and architect took years to make you happy on that ungodly cliff side!!!!!

    You both will never find the comfort and beauty in LA, that La Jolla has offered both of you…. but honestly, you two are not true Californians, so enjoy LA….

  • Hil Contreras

    Reply

    Dean

    How much money do you and your family really need? This team was the San Diego Chargers; not the Spanos Chargers. Perhaps one day when you sell the team; a new owner will hire capable people to run the operation instead of inexperienced incompetent individuals willing to work cheap. That includes the head coach, general manager and your sons.

  • Jose Rodriguez

    Reply

    HELLO DEAN, I WILL CALL YOU MR. SPANOS BUT I DON’T RESPECT WHEN YOU DON’T RESPECT, GREED (MONEY) IS THE BIGGEST SIN THERE IS IS THIS WORLD. I WAS BORN IN MEXICO ( TIJUANA ) TO BE EXACT, MOVE TO LOS ANGELES IN 1983 I HAVE BEEN REPRESENTING ALL OF MY TEAMS FROM ” SAN DIEGO ” ( CHARGERS PADRES ) WITH PRIDE AND HONOR SOMETHING YOU MAY NOT KNOW, I’M A TRUCK DRIVER AND DRIVE ALL OVER CALIFORNIA AND FOUND OUT THRU THE YEARS LIVING HERE (L.A) A CITY OF RAIDERS AND RAMS FANS, THAT THE ” CHARGERS ” DON’T BELONG HERE, WELL THAT IS GOING TO BE FOR YOU TO FIND OUT. NOW THAT YOU ( GREEDY ) MAN LEFT THE BEST FANS AND THE GREATEST LOVING FANS THAT A CITY ( SAN DIEGO ) LOYALTY GAVE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY FOR 56 YEARS. FUTURE IS GOING TO BE FOR YOU TO SEE THAT YOU MADE THE WORST DECISION THAT A BUSINESS PERSON CAN MAKE, WHEN YOU HAVE TO SPENT ALL THAT MONEY TO BE A ” SECOND ” TEAM A ” TENANT ” AT A CITY WHERE YOU DON’T BELONG (RAIDERS / RAMS). YOU COULD HAVE BEEN THE ” KING ” OF YOUR OWN TEAM / CITY ” SAN DIEGO “, AND IT MAY BE THAT WHAT RUMORS ARE OUT THERE, THAT YOU JUST WANT TO DOUBLE OR TRIPLE THE WORTH OF THE TEAM TO SELL IT IN THE FUTURE WELL GOOD LUCK ( NOT ). YOU SHOULD HAVE SOLD THEM WHEN YOU WHERE IN SAN DIEGO AND LEFT THE TEAM THERE AND NOT MESSED AROUND WITH THE FANS LOVE FOR THEIR TEAM. NOW YOU ARE GOING TO SEE WHAT IT IS LIVING IN A CITY WHERE THEY ( RAIDERS AND RAMS ) FANS DON’T WANT YOU. WISH YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ALL THE WORST AS ON ORGANIZATION HERE IN L.A LONG LIVE THE “SAN DIEGO CHARGERS “.

  • Howie

    Reply

    So I finally know how you spent most of your time: Golfing. It certainly wasn’t running an NFL team to be the best it could be. And working to create a brand or legacy for yourself. You’re a punk, maybe a rich one, but a immature, spoiled punk all the same. Now get lost and take your wimp sons with you

  • Nathan

    Reply

    You are nothing more than a greedy person. Take your team and your money to LA, but give San Diego the name (Chargers).

  • ben

    Reply

    how does it feel to be the most hated man in San Diego dean o? beat it and never come back you golden spoon piece of crap.

  • Nico

    Reply

    Dean, even your dog doesnt like you. You can tell by the look in eyes. He’s screaming on the inside, “please, someone save me from this greedy, chocolate chip muffin stuffin, golf cheatin, sorry spoiled brat” Don’t let the door hit you on the way out of SD.

  • Mike Carr

    Reply

    Get the heck out of San Diego, fight for LA in LA. You are not welcome here.

  • Dennis Sanchez

    Reply

    Dean,

    I can say that it took a lot of courage to move your team to Los Angeles. It is clear that a city does not own a football team, the exception may be the Green Bay Packers. I hope that both you and San Diego fans can forgive each other some day. There is already too much hatred in the world. I wish you and all SD fans peaceful days and nights.

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