The Escondido Country Club community has been under assault for nearly five years.
We have been forced to hunker down in war zone trenches, turning to each other for moral support when our elected officials and judiciary have emasculated our effort to save our neighborhood from a violent financial rape.
Some will say I am insensitive to use such an analogy, but like that barbaric crime, once a woman has had her virtue compromised, as unfair as it is, there is no way to restore it. As unfair as it is, once the residential zoning was reimposed on the property, the virtue of our community centerpiece was destroyed, and under the current economic circumstances of our 'new normal' world, it is highly unlikely that a golf club could be made viable.
The problem is that with the rezoning comes nearly $50 million in potential ROI for our friend from Beverly Hills, so there is no pathway for a golf course owner/operator to acquire the property unless they are willing to pay that kind of ransom.
Golf course developers I have spoken to have said, even if they were able to acquire the property for free, they would not risk, under the golf business climate that exists today, the six to eight million dollars it would take to revitalize the entire property.
In our honorable battle, we have taken major casualties. Many of our brothers in war have been wounded by lawsuits, most of which were designed to intimidate, but have had much wider real world impacts on their lives, both emotionally and financially.
Some have decided to relocate, usually at a substantial financial loss due to the depressed value of their golf community homes that are now viewed as 'distressed' properties.Some have rented their homes out, hoping future developments will see a recovery of property values.
We have all lost the ambience and comfort of the resort-like atmosphere and community activities that was the essence of our golf and country club community.
Down in the trenches, we can see little encouragement, because under almost all scenarios, nothing good is going to happen for at least 3 to 5 years! And for many of us, that is looking more and more like a lifetime!
Since the court decided that what the City of Escondido and the neighborhood wants are legally irrelevant and that only the rights of the property owner matter, we will be buried in our trench if we don't find:
A) an incredibly rich and powerful ally willing to pay the owners ransom, or
B) we form an alliance with one of the future owners/developers and lobby for some amenities.
That's it. There is no other choice at this point, as much as we would like there to be, because the result of Judge Earl Maas' ruling is that only the property owner can determine the future of the property.
We fought the good fight, we should be proud. But at some point, you have to cut your losses. It is too bad, because none of this should have happened. But it did, and it is too late to close the barn door, because, thanks to our Mayor, the horses are long gone.
Continuing to block any movement is indirectly contributing to an environmental disaster; the drought is killing the trees, and the absence of maintenance is throwing the ecological chemistry out of balance, and further degrading property values. And it opens up the possibility that the current owner will find a buyer only interested in maximizing their ROI, who would ignore the local owners, and simply exploit the zoning to the max, building low risk enclaves, each with their own amenities, architectural style and typically walled off to their neighbors. This would eliminate any community facilities, breaking our existing community into unconnected, isolated and densely clustered self-contained tracts.
Our dilemma is a lot like the upcoming presidential election. The choices may be undesirable, but at least there is a choice. That is the best way it can be characterized. We must hold our noses and make our choice, or be buried in the dust of the historical changes currently being imposed upon us.
While the selected potential developer, New Urban West of Santa Monica, does their due diligence and continues to speak with and listen to the desires of the Escondido Country Club neighborhood, and to analyze the potential for some sort of redevelopment of the now fallow golf course, another golf course property soap opera is unfolding in Fallbrook.
The First National Bank of Denver, who has been holding the note on the golf course property recently announced that the note had been sold to D-Day Capital, LLC. After a few days of confusion, including a wine and dine trip to Beverly Hills for the current golf course business owner, Jack Lamberson, and some intense negotiations with competing suitor Harold Vaubel, the title to the land is now in the hands of Ron Richards.
Yes, the same guy who has been heavily involved in the transfer of ownership and the rezoning of the ECC property, via Stuck In The Rough LLC.
As I understand it, the Fallbrook Golf Club business owner (Lamberson) is still negotiating with Vaubel to sell the assets of the golf business, and then Vaubel will be obligated to make the loan payments to Richard's company D-Day Capital, LLC. Vaubel, along with some financial partners, says he intends to rebuild the golf business, return the iconic course and restaurant to its place in the community, which for decades was a popular dining room, special events venue, and challenging oak tree lined eighteen hole tract.
There are many legal ramifications, however, and the intrigue continues, though it is obvious what Richards ultimately wants, and that is to control the property, end the golf business, rezone it, and sell it off at a much higher price than he paid for the heavily discounted note, preferably to a home builder. So even if Vaubel is successful closing the sale of the assets, he will be working under a lender who is hostile to his success.
In the meantime, the sleepy, rural, and diverse Fallbrook community holds it's collective breath, waiting to see if the bulls from Beverly Hills will be successful in turning yet another troubled golf course into a financial feeding ground for themselves.
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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