As a rookie in the San Diego new home development business, it would have been helpful if Michael Schlesinger had met Ure Kretowicz a few years ago. As the CEO of Cornerstone Communities, Ure could have mentored Schlesinger and helped him to avoid the rough he is currently stuck in.
I know, because as a rookie cabinet manufacturers representative, Ure invested in me a long time ago. It was back in the mid eighties, and Ure was running Sunland Communities, an up-and-coming company building homes in Rancho Penasquitos. I sold his company a couple of cabinet contracts that were completed successfully. As a relative newby in the tract home building business, he and his team always encouraged me, and offered me tons of great advice.
Advice that I used latter. For example, I learned the importance of honesty.
After the recession of 1990, I took employ with a brand new Escondido cabinet operation, hoping to ride it up as the building industry rebounded. In 1993 I won a contract with a prominent San Diego based builder. Just days after struggling to install the four model homes, I went to their purchasing agent and told her I thought she should cancel the remaining contract, because I had no faith that the new company could properly meet its contractual commitments. I had watched the management flounder in the first delivery, and I now knew they were not ready for prime time.
She looked at me in bewilderment, and said she had never had a rep tell her to do such a thing. I said I would rather lose the deal than ruin my professional future by causing their company financial loses. She agreed, said they had planned to fire us anyway, and I left the new company the next day.
I had learned a tough lesson from Ure: Be honest with my clients, no matter what. No one wants to do business with liars. It was a lesson I never forgot, and I always felt Ure's advice was solid, and though it may have cost me some commissions later, I made it a habit to be brutally honest about what I said and how I represented my products and services.
It is a couple of decades later and Mr. Kretowicz is a leader in the San Diego building industry, and has managed to succeed and grow in a market that periodically suffers setbacks and that historically wipes out developers with impunity.
Ure does things right. Look at the latest example, his Old Creek Trails project in Carlsbad. The project has had it's share of issues, but the Cornerstone company has worked closely with many interest groups to find solutions that satisfy all of the parties involved. From density to product mix, from park and recreational amenities to the preservation of Native American artifacts, Mr. Kretowicz works with people!
Unfortunately for the people of the Escondido Country Club area, Mr. Schlesinger, the rookie residential developer from out of town, has been unwilling to collaborate with his new neighbors, to learn from the pros like Kretowicz, and the result has been, and is, a textbook example of how uncoachable rookies make things difficult for themselves.
Goliath finds himself Stuck In The Muck.
The San Diego County Air Pollution Control District imposed a huge $100,000,00 fine on the Escondido Country Club property owner for spreading nearly 5 tons of untreated, freshly expended, chicken-blank 'soil enhancer' along the seventh and seventeenth fairways at Escondido Country Club. That stunt has turned into a public relations disaster for the beleaguered developer.
Even his highly compensated team of spin doctors weren't able to disguise the arrogance, stupidity and sheer pettiness of such an act of petulance. Mr. Not-So-Nice Guy's attorney, Ronald Richards said, “The money is going to be used for improving the air quality in San Diego. Because the money is going to be used for a good purpose and there is absolutely zero admission of wrongdoing by anybody, we felt this was a good way to end this matter and move forward and not backward with the county.”
OK, 'not moving backward' is one way to put it.
If the act of intimidation hadn't been penalized, I guess you could say it would have set the public's perception 'back' to a point where only local insiders were aware of the volume and tone of the constant threats, misinformation, and intimidation that were occurring ever since the new owner decided to close the golf club and replace it with a massive, high-density housing development.
Those who have fought this assault on the community have been keenly aware of the level of angry vitriol spewed out by Mister Not-So-Nice Guy's team for a long time now, and how any hope of working together to find solutions that would enhance the neighborhood have long ago been rendered hopeless.
Now his team says this decision by the Air Board, allows us to move forward. Except now, everybody knows about the 'incident.' This news story has been picked up all over the country. Why? Because in many other cities, powerful interests are attempting to strong arm their way into new property development enterprises, often using misleading press and public relations releases, legal maneuvering and lawsuits, intimidation and any other device they can find to allow them to overcome local citizens groups who are, without the strong support of their elected government officials, powerless to stop them.
Some would call that 'NYMBYism.' As Yogi Berra was famous for saying, this 'sounds like Deja Vu all over again.' But when it comes to the conflict of new developments inside existing communities and specifically, land use and population density issues, we live in an era of severely limited resources, global warming, enormous and out-of-control government debt, and quality of life challenges much more pronounced than just a decade or two ago.
Here in San Diego, for instance, we have several new development battles going on; we have Del Mar Highlands One Paseo, a hybrid retail, residential and commercial highrise project, the Carlsbad Agua Hedionda Lagoon shopping complex project, the Lilac Hills mixed residential project, the Safari Highlands Ranch single family residential project, for example. Conflicts with land development and how it affects the people already living in an area is not new. What is new is the ability of special interests to override local government planning and environmental controls using various legal maneuvers, such as putting the plan on the ballot as an initiative, as the Country Club owner attempted to do with Proposition H, which was soundly defeated, thanks to an amazing and unprecedented all-volunteer effort of local homeowners.
The point is, citizen homeowners have few remedies other than the local city government. And in some cases, those governments have their hands tied. If a developer has enough money and time, it is near impossible for citizens to have much say in matters of real estate development, and the problem is exacerbated by deep pocket spending on media influence.
So when a band of locals wins a small victory, even if it just a moral one, people in other small towns want to hear about it. And so in the case of the Escondido Country Club battle, the Chicken Is Out of the Bag....
other news coverage....
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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