At the ECCHO Community Meeting last Tuesday night, the emphasis was on our determination to stop New Urban West's "The Villages" plan from being approved by the Planning Commission and rubber stamped by the City Council. It has to have their approval because it is asking for an amendment to the General Plan, which currently shows the old golf course property zoned as R1-7 ( or seven residential units per one acre).
The latest New Urban West plan, 'The Villages' wants to double that density restriction, ostensibly to provide more 'open space' and to make the project cost effective. But that is just a smoke screen for increasing the owner's Golden Circle Payday.Builders are hamstrung by what they pay for the raw land.
This point is important because the Great Unknown is what will NUW be paying per lot? That is the defining element that dictates what it will take to make the project pencil out. Currently, NUW is testing the waters because they do not have an agreement to purchase the land, unless or until, they can get some sort of plan approved and then come to terms with Schlesinger on the price.
We can only guess what the Beverly Hills Flipper wants for his Golden Circle investment opportunity. When NUW says it will take 392 units to make it work, it tips Schlesingers hand: he wants about $50-80K per lot!
That would 'pencil out ' to nearly $30M return on his $2.3M investment.
Good, if you can get it!
But bad for us, because it forces the builder to squeeze too many homes onto too small of space. It also requires the houses to have zero lot lines, meaning 5 foot setbacks along the sides and 20' set backs on the front or back, depending on which end the garage faces, which will be right on the street.
This whole plan is inconsistent with the existing neighborhood, and it attracts the wrong demographic for our retirement oriented community.
It would divide the community up into three 'Villages' with walls and fences protecting the 'Open Spaces' from public access. The majority of what's left will be managed by HOA's which will not allow access for anyone that doesn't live in the specific community associated dwellings.
ECCHO speakers, President Mike Slater and Community Coordinator Pat Hunter conveyed these issues to a restless and mostly impatient audience. They have watched their home equity evaporate for the past four years and are incensed that so little progress has been made.
So we have to remind ourselves that all of the blight, the delays,and the uncertainty has been purposely hoisted on us as a tool to break down our resistance to the outright plundering of our treasure by the neighbor hood hijacker.
When I spoke to the audience of nearly 300, I wanted to make two points:
First, we all know there is a massive, Schlesinger funded Public Relations Campaign
designed to demoralize us. The website 'Vision For Escondido Country Club' is fake news. It should be named, 'Visions of Dollar Signs at Escondido Country Club!' It is a professionally managed media campaign designed to move the needle on public acceptance of 392 homes. Plain and simple.
But even with all of the money being spent, Stuck-in-the-Rough is not winning the PR battle!
LET ME TELL YOU HOW I KNOW THIS...
I remodel kitchens for a living. The company I represent is located here in Escondido. I go out everyday and give kitchen remodeling estimates to people all over San Diego County, north, south, east and west.
When I mention our business is in Escondido, the subject of the Country Club comes up quite often. When it does, people say:
"That situation is just awful!"
"I feel terrible for the people who live there!"
"I have driven by and I can't believe what has happened there!"
Though they may know few of the details, their perception is that
A GREAT INJUSTICE HAS OCCURRED. They have seen the dead fairways, the ugly fencing, and the boarded up clubhouse on TV.
AND THEY REMEMBER THE DISGUSTING CHICKEN MANURE STUNT!
Second, when you see the pro-builder media hype just remember that we are not alone.
Resistance to legal bullying by developers is happening all over San Diego, and all around our country.
In land use conflicts in Del Mar, in Carlsbad, in Santee, in Valley Center and San Marcos, aggressive developers have encountered strong resistance. In those cases, and in golf course repurposing battles all over the country, citizens resistance groups are prevailing!
I believe if we voted on Proposition H tommorrow, we would win again by a similar margin! And I think our City Council knows that!
When people question why we are resisting plans to build high density housing where the golf course was, I explain it this way…
As a kitchen remodeler, I coach people about how to achieve a good result. I tell them that a new kitchen, should look and feel like it was always there. It needs to reflect and enhance the architectural heritage of the home and the community. You don't want the new kitchen to look so different, or so contemporary, that it makes the rest of the house look outdated.
The same principles should apply to remodeling an entire neighborhood..
Our entirely self-funded citizens group just wants a good remodel, based on what's best for the future of the community.
WE ARE FAMILY!
This community is the house we built!
All we want is to have some say about how our house is going to be remodeled!
So stay strong, stay focused and stick together! Keep a positive attitude!
Together, we can make our community great again!
Dear neighbors, we are now at a Cross Roads. We are at a red light, and it is looking like the green light is never going to come our way.
What do I mean?
After years of fighting the good fight with honor, we have been disenfranchised by a very questionable court ruling and our City Officials have decided our cause does not justify any further expense.
They say they don't want to spend any more taxpayer money to defend the taxpayers!
So, we are now on our own, and stuck at the intersection of Country Club Lane and Golden Circle Payday Street. The light is stuck on red and City engineers are not coming out to fix it.
We have been urged to fight by making our feelings known to our City Council representatives and the Planning Commission.
We have been doing a pretty good job of that for nearly five years now.
I think they know what we want. Or better stated, they absolutely know what we don't want. Yet here we are, looking at a plan that ignores all of the ideas we have put forth for the past four years!
So what am I suggesting?
It is time to start making noise and filing lawsuits about the property itself, and how the owner has damaged our community, violated our rights, caused us physical and financial damages, and is not living up to his community obligations legally or morally.
We need legal assistance in order to achieve any significant impact, so this is a plea for volunteers to help us find some pro bono support.
The owner has deep pockets, and if he gets what he wants, they will get a lot deeper. I do not hold grudges against successful people, but when their success, or profit, comes at the expense of his innocent neighbors, I have no problem seeking financial relief from someone directly responsible for those damages.
I believe there is a case to be made that our community is being held hostage, and to some degree at least, illegally. The property owner has conspired to drive down property values! We have collectively suffered enormous damage caused by his conscious effort to degrade the entire neighborhood. A conspiracy charge is provable because the same tactics are being used in bankrupt golf property battles all over the country.
If I am right, a result could be an injunction to delay any permits until the case is heard and the community receives compensation.
So put your thinking caps on: do you know of any lawyers who might be willing to at least listen to our predicament? I am not casting aspersions on our fine ECCHO Legal council, but they have their hands tied in a number of ways. They are not the right agents of change for this kind of full frontal attack on the forces behind those holding our community for ransom.
Please let me know if you can offer any suggestions!
Just a few thoughts about the
Vision For Escondido ad campaign tauting the 393 home "Villages' plan under consideration for the old Escondido Country Club property:
Notice how they offer to eradicate the decay, homelessness and grafitti problems the current owner caused?
"Just give us the building permits we want and we will put an end to your misery."
"You can trust us, so don't worry, we have your best interests at heart! "
That is a classic SHAKEDOWN technique.
The project builders illustrations are always of beautiful trees and landscapes and walking trails and Santa Barbara style buildings covered in bougainvilleas? Never any depictions of the two-story houses that will have five-foot setbacks and rear alley garages? That will be wall to wall, detached condos? That will look like the little houses on a Monopoly board? That are DESIGNED to draw young families into a retirement oriented community?
The ads always portrays the folks who are 'resistant' as obstructionists and selfish 'old people' who are afraid of 'moving forward'?
That all of the locals that have made huge sacrifices in their own time and effort to try to get a better deal for the NEXT GENERATION of neighbors are 'haters' who are bitter and never really supported the golf course, so why should anyone care what they think?
And the saddest part is that some of the residents actually believe that the owner would ever allow anything other than dense housing (such as a Beer Brewery) to be built on his property dispite the fact that he himself has said precisely that many times.
They have been suckered by the fancy high-priced public relations campaign waged since 2014, and because NUW (which is a good company) is acting as the surrogate for the owner, some frustrated locals want to believe everyone will be just fine once the bulldozers start rolling across the fairways.
I hate the fact that our community is at war with itself, but it has all been caused by one neighbor, who doesn't live here, coming into our community and demanding to redefine it's character (semi-rural, resort style living), it's purpose (retirement living and recreation) and it's demographic (55 and older), just so he could realize a massive Golden Circle Payday of tens of millions of dollars.
And though we have tried numerous ways to meet him in the middle, it is the owner that has never shown any empathy or interest in working with the people who built this town.
July 1, 2017
Dear City of Escondido Council Members:
The continuing struggle by the homeowners in and around the Escondido Country Club is, once again, in your hands. Our collective community efforts, and they have been honorable and extensive, have gone for naught. We did everything that we could do to save our community from over-development and exploitation.
You agreed with our Citizens Property Rights Initiative, but the courts decided that it was flawed legislation. The courts did not disagree that we had followed the rules, only that retroactively applying the 70's era Conditional Use Permit zoning would be unconstitutional.
We defeated the property owners end-run initiative, Proposition H, by a 2-1 margin, overcoming a multi- million dollar promotional budget. Ever since your settlement agreement with Stuck-In-The-Rough was implemented, the people directly affected by this private property realignment assault on the community have been disenfranchised.
There is not now, and there has never been, any doubt about what the people of Escondido want done with the abandoned golf course property...their preference is to preserve the 'Country Club' retirement lifestyle nature of the Northwest Corner of our great city. They want to move into the future with enhanced redevelopment, not something that serves only the greed of the out-of-town property flipper. They have made it clear they do not want, and do not think it is necessary, to turn the whole property into a wall to wall, ultra high density, unattached condominium-style single family housing tract.
Here we are five years later, after suffering years of legal bullying, individual financial stress, and loss of community spirit, and after being assured that you, our elected leaders were in a unique position to escort the redevelopment process through the planning system to protect and enhance the next generation of citizens living in the Escondido Country Club Community, and what have we gained? The arguments over lot sizes, buffer zones, public access to amenities, and percentages of open space are red herrings. The overall 'concept' is what matters, and this plan misses the mark by a long shot.
After reading the just released Draft Environmental Impact Report, I am struck by how it totally dismisses all other potential development alternatives, marginalizes social, traffic and environmental impacts, and subtly endorses nearly every aspect of the New Urban West submittal. It is as if NUW wrote the report!
Mayor Abed was right when he said recently, that the NUW plan, with 392 homes, is an insult. So, please remember us, and those that will follow us, when you contemplate the future of our cherished neighborhood, and how redevelopment will either rejuvenate the appeal of the Country Club community, or bury it by overwhelming the neighborhood with discordant housing that has no resemblance to the iconic senior oriented, retirement community that drew us here in the first place.
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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