There is an old saying in residential real estate, "Buy the neighborhood, not the home."
You can change many things about the house, but you can't do much about the kind of neighborhood it brings with it. There might be an airport nearby, or a chicken ranch. I have even recommended prospective buyers sleep in their car overnight near the house they are interested in. You don't want to find out too late that the neighbors five dogs bark all night.
My point is, every neighborhood has an identity. Ideally, you look for one that fits your lifestyle. A place you can call home, make new friends, walk your kids and your dog through, a place that feels safe and offers a sense of community. For me and many of my neighbors, that place is the Country Club area of Northwest Escondido.
I moved here in 1984. I have enjoyed every minute of it. Though my home backs up to interstate 15, and though the traffic noise has increased exponentially since 1984, I knew when I bought my house that I was trading a spectacular view for a little traffic noise. I went in with my eyes open.
For many of my neighbors, they wanted to live next to the Escondido Country Club. It offered a quiet, serene landscape and a strong sense of community. Many joined the Club to find new friends, to partake in recreation, and other community events.
There may not be any other neighborhood in the Escondido area that is so closely knit.
Then the Great Recession came along. The fabric of our close-knit neighborhood began to fray. In 2007 American Golf Corporation, who had successfully managed the Club for many years, made a corporate decision to downsize and consolidate. They sold the course to a group of investors, who later admitted they had no prior experience running a golf operation. After a couple of years of destructive, ill advised management decisions, membership deteriorated.
The Great Recession drove home values down dramatically, pushed older members out of the workforce, and put many others under pressure to double or triple their workloads to stay employed. Leisure time was eroded, and the Club suffered dramatic financial loses. The new owners walked away from their loan, creating a huge vacuum.
Real estate speculators feed on these scenarios. That, in and of itself, doesn't make them bad guys. But just like a doctor, there is a way to make a patient understand their diagnosis, and to properly take their medicine. You don't just say, "Sorry, your gonna die!" But that is precisely what the new owner did. And that was the first time he introduced himself to the community.
Then, his bedside manner got worse! Besides letting all of the grass and trees die, he started suing people. Then, he attacked the Escondido City Council and the City Manager, depicting them as greedy and incompetent. Recently, he hired someone to dump truckloads of fresh chicken manure on areas of the golf course just to make life miserable for homeowners he felt were too active in the movement to stop his project.
Our neighborhood, in our view, is under assault. The very heart of the community, the reason most of us moved here, has been declared dead by a LA speculator who wants to turn the abandoned, and now fallow golf course property into a high-density, zero-lot-line, patio-home housing tract.
And one more interesting aspect: our 'doctor' has no experience. He has never built a housing tract in his life!
Escondido residents who don't live in our neighborhood have no idea how harmful this turn of events has been. They have their lives to lead, their personal challenges with job losses, increases in the cost of living, raising their families. The past few years have been tough on all of us. Many of my neighbors have lost their nest egg, as they have been forced to sell their homes at drastically reduced prices due to the uncertainty of the outcome of this battle.
So the people who are most affected by the potential destruction of our neighborhood have banded together to fight off the proposed project, and to get the message out to our fellow Escondido citizens.
We may sound like a bunch of spoiled, rich, retired golfaholics who are complaining because our private playground is being converted to much needed housing.That is what the LA speculator wants you to believe, and with his millions to spend on public relations experts and advertising, he has managed to characterize us as just that.
Please, think about that for just a minute. If that were true, do you really think we would spend a minute of our precious, self serving time fighting a public relations war with a billionaire? If we were busy playing golf and counting our investment income, why would we want to be bothered?
We have no public relations experts, little or no budget, just our own volunteered time to tell our side of the story. We are trying to keep this part of Escondido from succumbing to urban sprawl; to leave a great place to live to our children and their children. What motivates our community is Pride. We love our town, just like you love yours.
Will the ultimate result of this battle end up another golf course, or just a vacant ghostly reminder of days gone by? That remains to be seen, but those of us who live here know one thing for sure: Cramming a massive amount of mobile home sized patio homes onto what was narrow fairways that snaked through clusters of attractive, proudly maintained existing homes will not improve our little corner of Paradise. It will destroy it.
Please join us in our battle to keep Escondido the quaint, serene, semi-rural little piece of paradise it has always been. Help us keep our town the kind of place that drew us here in the first place.
The claims made by supporters of the 'Escondido Open Space Community Revitalization Initiate' are not only inaccurate, they are outright LIES because the LA real estate speculator bankrolling it KNOWS they aren’t true!
IT IS VITAL THAT VOTERS BE AWARE OF THE DECEPTIVE NATURE OF WHAT WILL INEVITABLY BE AN INITIATIVE ON THIS NOVEMBER'S BALLOT.
Besides the obviously deceptive name of the initiative, here are some other things voters should consider:
SITR Claim: Project ‘preserves’ 27 acres of open space.
Truth: Most of those 27 acres will actually be asphalt/concrete driveways and roads or ground rock walking paths. The new homes will occupy all of the property that is currently covered by golf course grass and vegetation.
SITR Claim: New home project will improve existing home values.
Truth: SITR sites a study of new developments, claiming they raise existing home values. What is omitted is the fact that THIS NEW DEVELOPMENT WOULD BE BUILT IN THE MIDDLE OF A SETTLED NEIGHBORHOOD!
Other studies show when newer homes are wedged into older neighborhoods, older home prices plunge. Older homes can maintain their value, but much of that is based on the desirability of the neighborhood. What makes Escondido desirable is the semi-rural atmosphere, precisely what the City and the original developer agreed upon when the Country Club project was approved in 1964.
HOW DOES BULLDOZING THE EXISTING NATURAL LANDSCAPE OF TALL EUCALYPTUS AND PINE TREES AND INDIGENOUS FLORA, ROCK OUTCROPPINGS AND GREEN SPACE, AND REPLACING IT WITH URBAN SPRAWL INCREASE THE DESIRABILITY OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD?
SITR Claim: The design and lot size of the new homes will closely resemble the existing homes of the Escondido Country Club community.
Truth: The average lot size will be less than 3600 square feet; about the size of a typical mobile home community or about half of the average lot size of existing single-family homes. In other words, UNLIKE THE EXISTING NEIGHBORHOOD, the new project would be mostly high density, wall-to-wall patio-style tract homes.
SITR Claim: Influx of new students will have little or no impact on public schools.
Truth: The local school district has been asking for more capacity for years; in some cases using portable classrooms! Adding nearly 1000 new students will simply overwhelm them.
SITR Claim: Thousands of additional travel hours added to local drive times will not increase traffic delays.
Truth: Caltrans estimates Northwest Escondido residence already lose 40 hours a month fighting traffic on Highway 78 alone! That is a week of lost productivity per month! Imagine adding 1000 more cars to our local streets? Cars that will have to access the main transition corridors of Highway 15 and Highway 78, adding more traffic to what Caltrans already rates the worst bottleneck in the County. Everyone in Escondido will feel the pain...
When the Golf Course was sold …..
Shortly after acquiring the Escondido Country Club in March of 2012, Michael Schlesinger told the community that he would have kept the golf course operating it if he had known it was insolvent.
If you believe that...why would you want to place the future of Northwest Escondido in the hands of someone so naive?
Or could it have been a lie?
The ECC Days of Our Lives drama has quieted down since the developer decided to try to erase the decision by the Escondido City Council by putting his own initiative on the November ballot.
The ECCHO homeowners group has stepped aside because the legal battle is now focused on the City and a few secondary suits against golf course frontage homeowners who are accused of encroaching on the developer's property.
Unfortunately, the environment is taking a beating. Rome burns while the Aristocrats sip wine...Will there ever be a resolution?
Which begs the question, if the City should prevail, what then?
Here is an idea (I just keep dreaming them up because nobody else is...):
...Our country faces all kinds of environmental challenges, especially in the San Diego area because we have built a large urban community in what is basically a desert environment. Escondido has traditionally been known for grapes, oranges and avocados. All of which are too thirsty for current economics and have basically disappeared from the scene. Instead, those farms are now housing developments. The desire to live here has superseded the need for local agricultural goods and services. The land has become worth more than the food. Food requires something very costly, whereas homes pay for themselves. So the entire reason many people moved here, to escape urban creep, has now been undermined by the economics of water.
In other words, we need an inordinate amount of water to maintain our lifestyle; water we have to take from some where else. This dilemma puts everything we do under intense scrutiny and financial pressure.
Who needs another golf course, or greenbelt, for that matter, that will soak up water, require massive amounts of weed abatement and chemical control of insects and fungus, and other maintenance costs that would otherwise be handled by individual homeowners in a new housing tract?
Why should the City, or some other entity be involved in exacerbating our already dire environmental challenges?
So I suggest we turn the 110 acre open space into a agricultural college specializing in golf course and recreational open space agrobiological research! That way we can actually do something positive while also preserving the asset the community has vehemently expressed an interest in preserving! A world-class fully functioning research facility to apply all aspects of golf course vegetation development and preservation including decease control and water and soil preservation that coexists with a public access golf course and other recreational and service facilities ( meeting rooms, food service, swimming pool, etc.).
There are studies going on all the time trying to understand and develop better ways to grow grass that isn't so thirsty. Learning how to match turf with the indigenous soil and do so with less water and chemicals. The Northwest area of Escondido is representative of many similar climates where golf and recreational facilities exist, simply because the weather allows. All of which could benefit from further research.
We have the weather, but we don't have the water. We have the desire to maintain our semi-rural lifestyle, but we are under economic pressure to cement it over. We have built a paradise but are struggling to defend it from an industry designed to consume open space purely for profit. So the obvious answer is...serve the greater need by using the open space to find ways to return open space to its proper place in our world. A place where it can coexist with, and service the needs of the community!
Got a better idea?
With the news that San Luis Rey Downs Golf Club course is about to close, on top of the Days of Our Lives drama over the proposed redevelopment of Escondido Country Club, and the yet unreported redevelopment of several other golf course properties on the endangered species list in San Diego and around the country, it is abundantly clear that golf, and those who play it, are rapidly becoming a forgotten and abused stepchild to our San Diego culture.
Or so you might think were you to only read the mainstream media.
In many other parts of the country this turn of events might seem trivial, but in San Diego County, the Golf Capital of the World, it is absolutely unacceptable. Here's why:
>The golf industry is one of the largest employers in our County. Major golf manufacturers have consistently grown by constantly introducing game improvement technology to golf equipment ever since Ely Callaway and Tom Crow started Callaway and Cobra Golf back in the mid 70's. It has been their engineering and design innovations that have made golf so much fun, and laid the foundation for the worldwide growth of the golf industry and the proliferation of major manufacturers in this area.
> San Diego draws millions of visitors every year, many of whom come here to enjoy golfing in room-temperature weather all year round. Torrey Pines Golf Course is as intrinsic to the golf landscape and important to our tourism as any icon in California.
> Within a very short drive, golfers can find virtually any kind of championship caliber golf landscape from oceanfront to desert, links style to mountain top, only San Diego offers it all.
> Unlike other golf resort communities, San Diego golf is available at very reasonable prices, and visitors can enjoy a bountiful selection of additional attractions that appeal to every member of the family.
Unfortunately, if you listen to the building industry dominated mainstream press, you would be lead to believe that we don't need golf courses, we need more development. More concrete, more traffic, more trash, and we have more than enough places for golfers to play than we need. Golfers are typically characterized as old, selfish, wealthy recluses who could care less about the water the courses use or the need for more local tax revenues new residential development would bring.
So their answer is simple; bring on the bulldozers!
But wait just a minute! What about our culture? Isn't the identity of our community important to our future? Shouldn't we be concerned that in response to a worldwide economic downturn we might be throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Just who are we, as a place to live and raise our children, as a home for local business development, a place to be born and retire to, and of course, as a place to visit?
Do we want San Diego to become the next Orlando Florida? The little brother to Santa Monica? Venice Beach or Las Vegas?
Is the coastal community concept of transient party goers and door to door bars what San Diego aspires to be?
If we are to believe the idea that we need fewer courses in San Diego, what will the working class golfer do? Green fees at the premier course are already in triple digits. Aviara, La Costa, Maderus, and others are upwards of $200 on weekends. And they are busy. They are healthy: La Costa just finished a multimillion dollar renovation.
With fewer courses, we can expect that trend to continue, potentially making golf in San Diego a sport reserved for the rich. Just like Las Vegas.
In Las Vegas, the locals avoid Las Vegas Boulevard. They rarely spend time among the glitz and glamour, the casinos and stage shows, fighting the traffic and the crowds. They live in the suburbs and feed on the tourist economy, taking what they need from the hoopla, providing supporting services, but they stay insulated from the Strip. The live in Las Vegas, but they don't identify with the Cultural Brand.
We can do a lot better!
We need to do a lot better, but if we aren't careful, greedy businessmen who are constantly trolling for the big buck payoffs, will quickly and permanently remodel our beautiful San Diego landscape into a concrete jungle of tile roofs and double parked cars. And just a few very elitist and exclusive golf courses.
Is that what San Diegans want to happen to their Brand?
Golf is experiencing some hard times, as are most middle class families. We are, as a country, a long way from complete economic recovery. But we will recover! We are already seeing the real estate industry turning the corner. Most of the value homeowners lost in the 2007 meltdown has bounced back. The tourist industry has seen double-digit increases this past year, and the high-tech medical and electronics business continues to expand.
Keeping golf courses busy is a function of the psychological health of our economy. When people have disposable income, they want to recreate. What other outdoor sport is as accessible to individuals as golf? Name one...OK, surfing...also important to our community. But there are huge differences too.
You can play golf by yourself, or with a group, as a team or as an organization. You can play golf until you are very elderly. It is good for you and seldom incurs serious injury. It makes you appreciate nature, and offers opportunities to meet new people. Golf courses provide open space, habitat for wildlife, trees and indigenous plant life, a habitat for birds, ducks, and many other wildlife. Golfers spend on room and board, food and entertainment, not to mention equipment.
Golf is rich in history and engenders good sportsmanship, community spirit and charity.
We have all enjoyed playing in fund raisers for our Military, our schools, churches and hospital and other community service organizations.
As a community, we need to keep this indigenous sport, and all of it's courses of play, alive and healthy. We need to do whatever it takes to strengthen the immune system of the sport, the business, and the landscape of golf.
Golf is our offspring! It is in our blood,
and it is written all over our hometown identity.
It has been good to us, and it will continue to be if we recognize and support it's importance to the health of our communities.
Letting golf, golf courses, and the golf culture in San Diego become an Endangered Species is counter intuitive to the best interests of our greater San Diego 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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