For over 50 years the Escondido Country Club Community was one of the premier developments in the Northwest corner of Escondido. Newcomers purchased homes in a premier resort-style, low-density recreation-oriented neighborhood. Many paid premium prices for downsized frontage properties, or for overviews of the valley and the golf landscape. Most hoped to stay as long as their health allowed, banking on growing property equity to help fund end-of-life elder care.
On the basis of countless developer assurances and local zoning representations, the entire Country Club Community believed they would always share a golf course, enjoy the camaraderie and build equity.
All of that is about to be bulldozed.
Because of poor business practices by the former owner, who happened to be a developer with zero golf-business experience, and the cumulative effects of the lingering Great Recession, in 2012 a Beverly Hills real estate speculator was able to purchase the 110 acre property in a bankruptcy sale. He had only one motivation: to pack the abandoned fairways with as many residences as possible, and walk away with an enormous profit.
Starting in early 2013, the new owner from Beverly Hills shut down the operations, erected a cheap rent-a-fence and allowed the landscape to die. Poor security measures allowed teenagers to abuse the abandoned clubhouse which eventually caught fire and burned to the ground. Property values in the area have been depressed.
It didn't take long to recognize his methods and motives: He would hijack the economic vitality of the community until he was granted permission to build as many homes as the landscape would allow.
It was out of these events that a small group of homeowners formed the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) as a non-profit corporation dedicated to preservation of the quality of life in the our community.
For more than 6 years the property owner has pursued his goal of building upwards of 380 closely-packed high-density homes. His plans would double the density allowed under the updated 2012 Escondido General Plan.
Currently, an ECCHO lawsuit is under way claiming that the City Council's approval of a high-density project violated Proposition S in the 2012 General Plan (a provision that requires any and all density increases to be approved by a vote of the citizens of Escondido) as well as other provisions required by CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act).
The bottom line is, the proposed housing plan could result in the transfer of close to $100M in property equity from the people in the community to one investor from Beverly Hills. That leaves many elderly homeowners holding an empty bag. While most of San Diego has enjoyed huge increases in property values since the Great Recession, our community has flatlined.
Many older neighbors have been forced to sell at reduced prices, just when they needed their equity the most. Our community has been invaded by speculators, buying homes at greatly reduced prices and renting them out. We have seen a deterioration of community appearance and an increase in crime. Coyotes roam the abandoned fairways and prey on our pets.
Our situation is more than a property dispute, it is a human tragedy.
Now, we are at a legal turning point. With some recent victories, we are encouraged but we need to continue this fight. We are compelled to set a precedent for all communities that may eventually face similar challenges from the "Greedification" of their neighborhoods.
ECCHO needs your help! This is Our Alamo!
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