The 'resolution' reached with Michael Schlesinger by the Escondido City Council is a shameful capitulation to legal bullying. Jeff Epp, the Escondido City Attorney, held up the white flag of surrender when the City agreed to give Stuck-In-The-Rough, LLC.(SITR) Schlesinger's company, everything they wanted.
Schlesinger never wanted anything other than to re-establish the decades old residential zoning template for his abandoned golf course property. As a distressed property flipper, his mission is to buy low and sell high.
The agreement reached yesterday hands him a multimillion dollar award for having a better prepared legal team, and having an enormous financial advantage over the local homeowner resistance effort.
Mayor Abed ran for reelection on a promise to 'let the voters decide' the zoning issue. The election results crushed Schlesinger's attempt to amend the Escondido General Plan with his Proposition H measure. Yesterday, the Mayor sat in front of an audience of locals just minutes before meeting with Schlesinger's group, and said, " Don't worry, this Council has nothing other than the best interests of the Escondido Community" at heart.
Only an hour later the Mayor and the Council handed out an obviously pre-prepared summary of the legal agreement. It clearly omitted every single element that the local resistance had asked for in any new development deal. Essentially, all of the surveys that the homeowners organization had done, and there were several, indicated that at worst, other than a restored golf course element, they wanted to see senior housing, a boutique hotel, clustered multi use facilities, and recreational elements, with a particular emphasis on open space, and to avoid increasing current residential population density to preserve the semi-rural ambience of the neighborhood.
By handing SITR a residential R1-7 zoning classification, the City effectively blocks any chance of those non permanent residential elements from ever being CONSIDERED in the future!
That is capitulation, and in my view, Total InEPPtitude!
In hindsight, it is obvious that our Escondido City legal team was outgunned. From the moment they stood before Judge Earl Maas to defend the Citizens Property Rights Initiative (CPRI), it was clear to observers, the City lawyers were ill-prepared and inept. Their characterization of the 1963 Resolution that declared the golf course property as permanent open space 'for all current and future owners' was unfocused, poorly documented, and halfhearted at best. They seemed baffled by Schlesinger's 'spot zoning' challenge, which ultimately lead to Maas' 'unconstitutional' discrimination judgement.
Observers left those proceedings wondering if the City really wanted to win the case, because had they prevailed, Mr. Schlesinger's $100M 'takings' case would be emboldened, and we now know Escondido doesn't have the legal firepower to defend itself.
When Prop H was overwhelmingly defeated, Mr. Abed acted as though he understood the citizens preferences, and asked us to trust him. Now he happily claims "we are now back to Square One."
Like that is a good thing!
No, Mr. Mayor, Square One would have been the day after the Citizens Property Rights Initiative was adopted unanimously by you and the entire Council. Where we are now is right where Schlesinger wanted to be when he came into town, and like a firestorm, wrecked havoc on our community.