Was the war worth it?
Since 2012 the ambience and future of the community has been in a state of war as the Beverly Hills-based property speculator battled the self-funded non-profit homeowners organization ( ECCHO ) for the right to redevelop the property as a housing development. By now we all know what the dispute was all about. The argument boiled down to what degree of influence should the settled community have on designs to reinvent their homeland.
Some will say in America property rights are sacrosanct: If the owner has the proper zoning, or if he can get it from city planners after the fact, then stand aside and let the process play out. Others will say, wait a minute, shouldn't the people who have sculpted the appeal of the neighborhood since 1964, have some influence on the direction their new neighbor takes their community?
During the battle, it became clear that the war of attrition would come down to financial considerations. The community group was made up of hundreds of long term residents who were living out their retirement on limited incomes. But they dug deep and contributed thousands of dollars to the defense fund. But compared to the deep pockets of the property owner, they were outgunned. Fortunately, there were a few determined ECCHO members who had the financial wear-with-all to keep the issue of community integrity in the news, to hire quality legal council, and to push for some sense of balance in the ultimate legal disposition of the 109 acres of prime North County real estate.
Now that the parties have settled, the question is who won? Is this settlement just a delayed pre-ordained outcome or did ECCHO actually win any substantial concessions?
The answer is mixed. Many will be disappointed that the developer will be allowed to build just under 400 residences. Most of those folks would have been a lot happier with something like 200 units and lots of open space preserving the established tree stands and natural habitats. Others are very happy that the plan New Urban West Inc. (NUWI) developed will be built.
The reality is that both parties did have to compromise. NUWI promised to contribute $750K to a compensation fund for those that donated to the resistance effort. By doing that they acknowledged the nobility of the residents efforts. They also agreed to major upgrades to traffic mitigation efforts, and to require unfettered public access to community parks and walking trials that will eventually be built by other builders. In return, ECCHO dropped their legal appeal and stepped aside, allowing NUWI to move ahead immediately on their already approved redevelopment plans.
The moral to the story is that David stood up to Goliath but suffered some serious trauma. The golf course and the beauty it brought to our community is long gone, and we have all come to grips with that fact. The loss of the comradery of club membership, the golf, the pool, the tennis and special community events tore us apart. Many folks were forced to move and take deep discounts on their home equity as property values sunk from the undetermined future of the golf course property. The Escondido Country Club Community passed away in 2012.
On the other side, the owner/speculator will have a nice return on his investment, and because New Urban West worked with the local residents, after some hard fought legal leverage was applied, we can only hope that their experience in these kinds of projects ( i.e., Brookside/Reidy Creek) will pick up the pieces and put our broken community back together.