This Hatfield and McCoy standoff is not good for anyone. All of the litigants are spending money they will never recoup. The basic problem, the fact that the former Escondido Country Club had to be sold at auction to pay off liens is now, largely, a moot point.
No one really thinks that that facility, in any similar shape or form, will be saved. The property is financially obsolete. It is a very big pothole in our community.
So, it is time for a reality check, by everyone involved.
The developer has visions of making tons of money. He has the means and the title to the property. The City is now the defendant in a property rights lawsuit because recently adopted the Citizens Initiative that legally re-classified the zoning to disallow residential construction on the 120 acre parcel.
The developer claims the City has unlawfully ‘taken’ the potential profit, thereby damaging the developer financially, and is therefore liable to pay up to $100M in restitution.
So now it is up to the courts to sort it all out. Not a good way to fix a pot hole.
Time is a big factor here. Even if the builder was to prevail in court, the best guess by experts I know in the industry, it may well be five years before all of the decisions and their appeals are passed down through the courts. Then, the process of entitlement, environmental studies, and all of the other issues that would have to be mitigated before one piece of dirt could be graded, would begin. Add another 2 to 5 years for that process to unfold (see link to similar situation eight years later in Florida).
There is at least one area all parties may come to agree on: it makes sense to explore ways to reduce that time frame dramatically. Currently, the most damaging element is the uncertainty, but next in line is the time it will take to regain some semblance of community ambience.
Right now, there exists a huge amount of anger, resentment, and distrust between the parties. If Escondido could find a third party to intervene (i.e., like a Middle East peace initiative), maybe there would be enough incentive to quietly, in a very private and out-of-the-spotlight way, explore some compromises that would break the gridlock, save face, and move everyone’s interests forward, to a point where the courthouse and the lawyers could be removed from the process.
This is based on some huge assumptions; One, that the developer is willing, for the sake of saving maybe a decade of time, and some serious current legal expenses, to accept maybe $60M in profit instead of $90M.
Isn’t $60 Million in 5-8 years far better than $90 million in 13-15 years and millions in litigation and aggravation?
Second, that the local residents recognize and accept the undeniable need to redevelop the property. It is not realistic to think that the old business model will ever be viable in today’s economic climate.
The evidence of that fact is quite overwhelming. Golf courses all over the country are facing a changing demographic, a slow economy, and increasing maintenance requirements that in and of themselves are forcing the industry to reinvent itself. The fact that there is much less demand now than just ten years ago, illustrates how overbuilt the golf course industry is, especially here in North San Diego County (see link to San Diego Reader article ‘Golf is in the Rough’).
There are no less than six golf properties in San Diego currently under great financial duress. I know of one in particular that will soon be sold to a builder who will build homes on the property. Many more have recently changed hands in an effort to survive. Green fees have plummeted due to decreased demand, and membership fees have dropped dramatically for private clubs struggling to attract new members to replace aging members.
The world is a different place than it was a decade ago. Young upwardly mobile adults are not interested in a game that takes 4-5 hours to play. They don’t join clubs and group activities, except for professional reasons or online. The old-school neighborhood Country Club, for many reasons, is just not a realistic business model going forward (see article about changing demographics from the Wall Street Journal).
The overall solution lies somewhere in the proverbial middle. The better way is to put this project on the fast track to that middle ground ASAP!
We could all use an improved neighborhood, stabilized property values, a larger tax base, more usable recreational facilities, walking trails and healthier greenbelts!
And I know one Beverly Hills developer who could use a major public relations overhaul too!
(This Flyer was circulated among local small business owners)
As many of you may know, the Escondido Country Club area is fighting to maintain the now-closed golf course from being turned into a high-density housing tract by a Beverly Hills developer whose goal is to cram over 500 homes onto the 120 acre site.
The Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) was formed to give local residents legal representation to save their neighborhood from being torn apart and their property values crushed. Paving over the greenbelt would create enormous problems for city police and fire services, adding thousands of new students to over-crowded schools, increase parking and traffic problems, drain water resources, and chase away hundreds of species of indigenous wildlife.
The Escondido City Council unanimously adopted our Save the Green Space citizen’s initiative, which by law, states that the existing golf course greenbelt was never intended to be used for homes and cannot now be subdivided for new home construction. However, the developer has deep pockets and his visions of a $100M jackpot means the new law will be challenged in court.
This citizen-driven effort must raise $250,000.00 within 90 days!
The ECCHO group has already raised an equal amount, but the group’s attorneys estimate it will take a total of $500,000.00 to match developer Michael Schlesinger’s legal challenges. Any amount, from any source, will be helpful and appreciated!
It is Good Business to give back to your neighborhood.
Local homeowners are the lifeblood of small business.
They need your help now!
Go to www.escondidohomeowners.org > You Can Help tab.
The double-truck full color ad that appeared in the Union Tribune Local Section on Sunday pleads for Escondido residents to call their City Council representatives to avoid facing a $100 million judgment that threatens to force Escondido into bankruptcy.
After threatening to wreck the Northwest area of Escondido by cramming hundreds of houses in the middle of a quiet and settled neighborhood, Beverly Hill’s speculator Michael Schlesinger filed a $100 million lawsuit against the city, and now claims to want to save Escondido…from himself!
This is the modern day equivalent of a Protection Racket. First, create a threat. Then offer to ‘protect’ your victim if they will just pay a ‘small fee.’
Mr. Schlesinger, you are the threat. You don’t live here. Over 9000 registered Escondido voters who signed the ‘Open Space Initiative’ do, and they know a scam when they see one. Stop your self-righteous, sanctimonious and misleading media onslaught and stop pretending to speak for Escondido.
RE: Golf Course War Heating Up Oct 17 by David Garrick
When the new owner met with the community early on, he promised to revitalize the Escondido Country Club. He painted himself as ‘Mr. Nice Guy’ to the rescue.
Soon thereafter he launched an all out war on the community. Nice guy he is not!
He is currently filing a $100 million lawsuit against the City of Escondido. After losing the right to build a concrete jungle of zero lot line homes on the golf course property, Mr. Not-So-Nice Guy has let the property, which the City Council declared a protected Greenbelt, turn into a ‘Deadbelt.’ The recreational facilities are boarded up, abandoned and overgrown with weeds. Every tree, shrub, and blade of grass is dead or near death. The lakes and ponds were drained and all of the wildlife, fish, turtles, ducks and birds are dead or gone.
The whole neighborhood looks like it was torched by napalm.
Last Sunday he placed a full page ad in the UT threatening the leaders of the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Association (ECCHO) with legal action and claimed the whole purpose of the ECCHO organization is to protect a few members self interests. The ad wrongly claims that ECCHO has recklessly spent money raised for no specific purpose.
The truth is every cent raised was donated to specifically fight this mans attempt to completely redefine and redesign a neighborhood that has been settled and cherished for half a century!
Mr. Not-So-Nice Guy wants you to think this is just a battle between rich golfers who want to preserve their private playground for themselves and a benevolent developer who would rebuild what he considers a dysfunctional neighborhood.
What he doesn’t want you to know is that while the broader San Diego real estate market is recovering, the North West Escondido resell market is in collapse. As a direct result of the efforts of Stuck In The Rough, LLC. many people are trapped, unable to sell their homes at any price,. Older residents, who had planned to use their home equity to pay for assisted living expenses, have been financially ruined.
It will only get worse, because this legal stand-off will take many years to get settled, unless public pressure can persuade Mr. Not-So-Nice Guy to back off.
This is not just a land use controversy. For many of us who live in this once wonderful neighborhood, this is The Alamo.
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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