Why can't the editorial board at the UT get a grasp of the essence of the dispute regarding the Escondido Country Club? Their myopic view is based on twisted facts and a biased logic that is stubbornly out of touch.
In their opinion, Escondido voters are ignorant of property law and therefore should not stand in the way of how an out of town developer wants to remodel the entire community (UT Editorial 'Welcome Compromise' Jan 24).
'Step aside and let the powerful, knowledgeable pros take over! You people are too old, your community has deteriorated, and your selfish desire to save the golf course are simply an impediment to progress. Get out of the way Escondido! You don't know what's good for you!'
The Beverly Hills developer that purchased the land in a bundled troubled property transaction in late 2012 has generated a public relations template that remains unchallenged: that the now vacant and abandoned golf course property was originally zoned for single family home development.
That is a false pretense that Mr. Schlesinger's Team of legal eagles, property rights and entitlement consultants, and public relations experts have promoted relentlessly for over two years. It resulted from the discovery that 1960's era City of Escondido planning department clerical errors had left a crack in the definitions of zoning permits recorded on behalf of the original golf course and country club community developers.
When the consultants to Mr. Schlesinger found them, it was like striking gold! It represented a way for the developer to turn an onion into an orchid.
It is a red herring that has legs. But we have yet to see any documents that support those claims. All we get is rhetoric that presupposes the idea that the property was originally planned to support single family homes if and when the golf course should ever become obsolete.
If that were true, why didn't the other previous owners, several of whom filed for bankruptcy, abandon the financially troubled golf business and redevelop the property? The golf course has changed hands many times, are we supposed to believe that all of those owners knew it was zoned for houses and simply decided to take financial losses rather than subdividing? Come on, man....
The claim amounts to a "It depends on what the meaning of is, is" type of legal maneuvering and parsing of language and intent only a wealthy carpetbagger could dream up and have the resources to fortify. If you say it enough times, it becomes accepted fact.
But it is not. And the editors at the UT have lapped it up like a thirsty dog in the middle of July.
They continually repeat the dogma: The developer has continually compromised, dropping his proposed housing units from 600, then 430, and now 270. Those claims are all based on Mr. Schlesinger's template, that the property is zoned for 600 homes...not!
We can't allow the issue to be defined by the one person who stands to benefit the most from the outcome.
So my question remains, why is the UT hellbent on supporting, even promoting, this single minded solution? Could it be that UT owner Pappa Doug Manchester has a sense of loyalty to other property developers? Could be....
Could it be that the board leans toward large advertisers who spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on mudslinging, full page, color ads that attack community organizers, City of Escondido supervisors, council members and their legal advisors? Could be...
Maybe it is just a sense of empathy for the 'Underdog' since the people in Escondido made it clear they didn't buy any of the false pretense when they crushed Mr. Schlesinger's November initiative that he said would show just what the people in Escondido actually wanted. Not likely...
Most likely it is a basic tenet of conservatism to honor property rights and the freedom for property owners to add value to their investments. On the surface, that is a right that is hard to oppose. In fact, I would argue that most people totally agree with the premise and with both Douglas Manchester and Michael Schlesinger on that point.
The question is in the details. Details like zoning agreements that occurred over fifty years ago that are now being subjected to modern day interpretation and legal parsing. The details are in what those zoning agreements were intended to accomplish. And how much legal and political influence one has to affect a subtle reinterpretation that would flood Escondido City Hall with new tax revenues.
Finally, I question what the motives are for the UT to be weighing in so strongly on what amounts to a very regional, community dispute that has been vetted and voted on and has consistently shown that the community is not comfortable with ANYTHING this particular developer has offered. There is a clear and ever present toxic atmosphere that the developer has engendered. It is a matter of trust....
The UT insists that the locals have it all wrong and as a group are showing poor judgement. In their view, the victim of all of this is the owner. A man who sees the project as simply a small part of his portfolio, who has stated that no matter what happens, the golf course property will not change his life in any way, and who as a matter of principle could care less about the effects his business efforts will have on the rest of the community.
What a noble alliance! The man is not an underdog, he is an Alpha Dog.
The UT would be better suited using their resources to report the news instead of using a media hammer on the Escondido community to try to shape the news.
Just a few months after his Prop H initiative to turn the Escondido Country Club property into a housing tract was totally rejected by the voters, Michael Schlesinger is back with another housing tract plan (UT/Local Jan 20th 'A new Plan'). He calls it a compromise, and says it will increase the value of the surrounding homes.
That is exactly what he said about The Lakes project the voters trounced.
The message is clear: the people of Escondido don't want to strip the area of it's identity.
Why are we going over this again now? Is it a last ditch effort to get the housing option back into consideration before a judge has a chance to codify the open space designation? Is Mr. Schlesinger concerned that if he waits to see which way the proverbial coin lands he may end up capitulating to the city? Something that would really burn him?
He won't entertain offers to sell the property because it would undermine his position that by designating the property open space the City rendered it 'worthless.' So he has doubled down that Judge Maas will decide that the 'open space' designation is not compatable with the Escondido General Plan, which would overturn the City councils
decision to adopt the community sponsored open space initiative.
Another missed opportunity to actually ask the community what it would like to see happen.
There are a number of ways the property could be redeveloped that would serve Mr. Schlesinger's interests as well as the interests of the community at large. If he won't accept other alternatives, there are several other developers eager to buy him out.
Now is the time to get serious about hashing out a great new plan that Escondido will support.
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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