In a recent interview with the Times-Advocate newspaper, Mayor Abed said he always viewed the Country Club issue as a fairness issue. "I believe in the democratic process. This (the decision to approve "The Villages" 382 home development) is behind us...The good news is we are moving forward to end that bad situation."
End what 'bad situation'? The one the residents found themselves in when they were told the golf club would permanently close and a high density housing tract would take its place? The one that has destroyed our property values? Or the one where the new property owner sued the City for one hundred million dollars? Which 'bad situation' are you referring too? Because for most of us who live in the area, we are nowhere near ending this horrible situation.
Clearly there are multiple 'bad situations' that would qualify as turning points during the 'Perfect Storm' leading to the demise of the Escondido Country Club golf course and the subsequent devolution of the entire retirement community.
Right now the community is in shambles. Everything that has happened has happened during the Mayor's tenure. The abandoned clubhouse is a pile of ashes, and the whole neighborhood looks like a war zone. Trees are falling down from lack of water, coyotes roam freely, and the rent-a-fence is lying on its side in many places. As property values plunged, investors have rushed in, turning many homes into rentals, attracting more transient and less invested neighbors.
If you drive around any neighborhood in North County, you will see tons of remodeling activity. Not here, because who would invest in a community in so much turmoil?
We have gone from being one of the city's most attractive neighborhoods to one of the least in just five years. Under Mayor Abed there have been a lot of 'bad situations' for the Country Club community. The Mayor says he has provided good leadership, but the truth is he was outmaneuvered by special interests.
Now the Mayor wants us to recognize his leadership by reelecting him.
Mayor Abed says he thinks the issue is one of 'fairness'. Is it fair that a judge has imposed a new building code on our neighborhood? Is it fair that we have had to look at an apocalyptic scene of environmental decay for the past four years? To have lost thousands and thousands of dollars in home equity just because one man has aspirations to make millions by flipping distressed property in our community? Is it fair the our City Council approved the latest plan that is nearly identical to one city-wide voters overwhelmingly rejected in 2014?
When the Beverly Hills property owner put an initiative on the ballot to give himself legal permission to build over 400 homes, the Mayor said he would let the people decide. They did, voting 2 to 1 against Proposition H. Since then, when the legal tide began to turn against the community interests, the Mayor has consistently said he would protect us from exploitation and overcrowding. He said let the system work, and trust us to find an equitable solution. So we did. A four year term later and the Council approved plan is Proposition H with lipstick.
That leaves the community only one alternative: The community defense organization (ECCHO) says the council's actions have violated the Escondido General Plan that clearly calls for a public vote to approve any increase in residential density. So ECCHO has filed yet another suit, which will effectively stop any further progress until their case is heard by a judge.
Mayor Abed called that move 'unfortunate'. Unfortunate for who? For the property owner? For the builder? For the people who have been struggling with this injustice for the past five years? It seems the Mayor has forgotten the promises he made because at this point, the only one whose interests have been protected is the property flipper.
The fundamental question remains unanswered: Why do we have to destroy the existing community identity in order to construct a few new homes? The community has said, they would accept redevelopment, but any project should put an emphasis on open space, and should replace the golf course with some combination of amenities that retains and enhances the appeal of the existing "Country Club" style neighborhood.
"The Villages" is just a more highly refined rendition of "The Lakes" (Proposition H). It has a few dozen less houses, but otherwise, it is still basically a sea of rooftops, and the marketing plan completely ignores the retirement concept of the surrounding long settled community.
The three council members who voted for "The Villages" project do not answer to the district, and though the Mayor and our District 2 representative vehemently disagreed and voted against approval, the planning process failed to stop the owner's desire to pack the fairways with high density housing.
That means the Council's approval is essentially redevelopment without representation. The destruction of the once prominent Country Club Community was treated like a headache. Just pass the Tylenol, and let's move on.
Mayor Abed's interview indicates he has turned the page and is "moving forward". Politicians bank on people 'moving on', but it won't be easy to forget the absence of leadership that allowed this 'Perfect Storm' to wreck so much havoc on what was once a very respected and attractive retirement community.
What Happened to Our Community?
The story of how a quiet corner of paradise has devolved into
To review the timelines of this ongoing saga, just <click> on any Month below....
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