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.