(From my 'Letter to the Editor' / The Paper) Aug 21)
As a veteran of the new home building industry for nearly 30 years, I am a big proponent of building new homes and growing San Diego. I have always felt obligated to provide our children with a chance to raise their family in the same area that they were raised.
Having said that, I also believe building good residential communities is a collaborative effort. The results need to be win-win for everyone. In Escondido, the Reidy Creek/Brookside community is a great example of an exceptionally well planned, well coordinated asset to the community. I worked on that project and it exemplifies the best collaboration of private and city interests.
Michael Schlesinger's The Lakes Specific Plan is no Reidy Creek. It is one man's plan to make a boatload of money.
His November ballot initiative (Proposition H) is not a win-win for the locals or the Greater Escondido area, so I stand firmly with the opponents of this self-serving piece of legislation.
The Country Club issue is not just about the needs or concerns of the locals, it is equally important to understand how the parts of a city contribute to it's whole. Mr. Schlesinger's 'vision' would forever change the face of Northwest Escondido, making it much more urban and stripping it of it's iconic identity of bold rock formations, large stands of eucalyptus and pine trees, and abundant wildlife. The quiet serenity, the resort-like atmosphere Escondido city planners established would suddenly and permanently become Mira Mesa North!
As Kirk Effinger pointed out in his column ('Ballot Box Planning' The Paper, Aug. 7th) we elect planning professionals to help shape and guide development so that we don't end up with a random mass of asphalt streets and rooftops like you might see in less organized cities like Tijuana
Escondido city planning professionals, in 1963, made important and well-informed decisions about how the Northwest part of town was to be developed. They collaborated with the developer to create a balanced and attractive community that would add to the overall ambience of the growing Escondido area. They knew exactly what they were doing. They had a 'vision' and it wasn't to carpet the area with high density, wall-to-wall mobile home sized houses!
By using the California initiative process, which was never intended to be used as a planning tool for major home developments, Michael Schlesinger will legislatively dodge all of the standard community improvement requirements that any other builder would normally have to mitigate in exchange for the right to proceed. He won't have to build schools, fire stations, playgrounds or dog parks; he won't have to improve the on ramps that will be overwhelmed by hundreds of new cars every morning. He won't have to upgrade sewer treatment plants, replace older storm drains or protect large areas of environmentally sensitive wetlands.
Should he win this battle, Mr. Schlesinger will have achieved the perfect formula for flipping property: buy extremely low, minimize capital improvements, and maximize your ROI.
So I say, the ballot issue is really about trust. Do the citizens of Escondido trust one man's self-serving vision more than they trust the decisions of the elected professionals who set the course for Northwest Escondido back in 1963? The same Planning decisions that were recently reinforced when the Escondido City Council unanimously adopted the Citizens Property Rights Initiative to keep the rural greenbelt in place.
Voting No on the Lakes Specific Plan will stop one man from getting a 'carte blanche' building permit to make a 25,000% return on his investment while permanently disfiguring the face of the community and contributing virtually nothing to it.
Certainly, lots of strategic mistakes have been made by all parties, but the one mistake the voters of Escondido can still avoid is handing the proverbial 'steering wheel' over to one man who has no experience building massive housing tracts, one man who knows little or nothing about the history or demographics of Escondido, one man who has shown no concerns about the collateral damage his project would have and someone who made no effort to collaborate with anyone on his plans.
It would be a colossal mistake to trust this riverboat gambler who is arrogant enough to think that he, and he alone, has the best interests of our neighborhood at heart.
This week we have seen all of the news outlets feature a story on the Escondido Country Club property rights battle.
Most focused their attention on the plight of Paul DeLaurentis who has had to deal with a terminal desease of the lungs while the War on Escondido has been going on in his backyard. The fumes from the childish attempt to intimidate the ECCHO Board members with a load of putrid chicken manure literally chased him out of his home. His testimony was heartbreaking and extremely personal. Good news copy for tabloid TV, but pretty shallow with respect to the bigger issue of the eventual outcome of the battle over the future of the community.
As a response, the LA based real estate speculator, who wants to make a killing redeveloping the golf course, had his spokeperson make lame excuses about how the still moist chicken waste was missused and that the incident was mitigated almost immediately by the man that ordered it to be dumped in the first place.
One thing we know about this guy from LA is he is quick to pivot. He has wrecked the neighborhood and then suggests his Lakes Specific Plan would end the 'blight' that he caused. He says the 'manure incident' was simply a mistaken effort to fertilize dead grass that he killed.
The news media, as usual, fails to ask pertinent questions so the average news watcher would think this is all just a petty conflict between a few disgruntled golf course frontage property owners and a genuine, well intentioned neighborhood builder who will save the community from the unfortunate demise of an outdated and untenable golf course. A golf course that had, the new owner says, become a sad and obsolete symbol of an another era.
Let's not forget the media also misses the angle that the golf course's previous owner, (also a developer who may well have had similar redevelopment plans) had systematically run the operation into the ground.
As for the news media... has as anyone ever asked owner Michael Schlesinger about his prior successes as a residential community builder? Can he point to another example of a golf course redevlopment in the middle of a settled community anywhere in California? What makes him an expert on community renewal? What does he know about running golf courses and the financial viability of a country club operation? What does he know about the history and evolution of the City of Escondido? Did he involve anyone from the community in formulating his plans?
Maybe I missed something, but I don't remember hearing ANY of these questions asked of the man who wants to come into our town and completely remake it.
It seems only logical for a local news organization, who is supposed to be the watchdog of major economic events that affect huge numbers of citizens in a community, to look into the bigger picture of the who, what, where and when of the players involved.
The LA based real estate speculator who has managed to get his 'Specific Plan' legislation on the November ballot that would essentially give him carte blanche to reap an eight-figure payday from his highly speculative and strategic purchase of the mismanaged Escondido Country Club property in 2011. His initiative would overrule the legislation that by unanimous vote was passed by the Escondido City Council that declared the golf course property to be protected open space, based on their interpretation of the original intent of the City permits for the construction of the course back in 1963.
Maybe sometime before the election, some one in the media will actually ask pertinent questions about this man, why he thinks the people of Escondido should trust him with such a high impact facelift of the iconic Northwest Corner of Escondido.
After all, if you were about to have you face rearranged, wouldn't you want to check out the credentials of your surgeon?
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....
You might also like:
What happened on November 9th, 2016? Can anyone tell us how Donald Trump became leader of the free world?
Will Progressives ever own up to how they have divided the country? They whine and complain, but the truth is their policies always result in unintended consequences.
I explore how Trump's Reckoning with the Cult of Progressivism is the only medicine that can restore the American Spirit of Exceptionalism, and how the world needs Americanism to thrive.
Click here to buy it now!