The planning commission's decision to approve 'The Villages' plan submitted by New Urban West was predictable. I hoped against hope that they would return the submission with recommendations to reduce the density.
But it was clear to me, after listening to nearly fifty 2-minute community pleas, followed by the commissioners comments, that the whole thing was preordained.
In hindsight, the truth is... MONEY TALKS.
As a community of mostly blue-hairs, we never stood a chance against the powerful forces of gentrification.
Watching my neighbors stand before the commissioners, it was impossible not to notice the generational divide; the pro-plan supporters were nearly all younger, family-oriented millennials who have taken advantage of the suppressed property values since the whole mess started five years ago. Most of them have taken up residency in that interim, so they have no connection to the wonderful community spirit we had for almost a half a century. All they have experienced is anger and resentment.
They talked about their dreams of building a 'New Community' as though the 'Old One' was outdated and falling apart. I found that to be insulting and insensitive. The only part of our neighborhood that is dysfunctional is the purposely desecrated fairways. There is only one person responsible for that, and his decision to make the place look terrible, allow graffiti and crime to exist, and to kill off the natural habitat, was the cornerstone of his strategy to divide and conquer the community.
As many of the pro-plan speakers said, they want to come home to a place that is safe and attractive. We had that for a long time, and when it was purposely destroyed so a developer could realize a personal fortune, it was heartbreaking.
Are many of us bitter? Of course! Who wouldn't be, we lost a loved one….
With so many millions at stake, the property owner paid professionals to make the recalcitrant homeowners out to be the 'Villains'. But give the PR pros credit, they did a great job! They painted us as obstructionists, selfish and narrow minded. They created a whole storyline of how it is time to move on, to create A New Little Corner of Paradise, where the old one once was. Talk about pouring salt into an open wound!
As for the newcomers who have adopted our neighborhood as their future? They didn't build this community and have to watch it die an unnatural death, so maybe we can forgive them for blaming us for it's demise. They don't know what they don't know. They just got here, relatively speaking. We absolutely cannot blame them for finding this area to be a wonderful place to build a future! On that we are all in agreement!
They said they were sad that this situation had split the community, then turned around and voiced their support for a plan to divide the community into a series of fenced villages. We will see how that works out...
We are living in a different time; people are looking for a different lifestyle experience than we were. Sitting at stop lights for ten minutes at a time doesn't seem to be a problem. It is to be expected, according to one of the planning commissioners.
I have never felt any animosity towards those that want to redevelop the old golf course. Their future is not at the center of the conflict. Perhaps the existing, long term homeowners had an unrealistic fantasy that in some way we could pass along the same kind of poetic, Rockwell-painting lifestyle we enjoyed for so many years. Believe it or not, our intentions were very noble and might I say, unselfish. Most of us won't be around long enough to see the completion and maturation of the new Frankenstein.
Our community hasn't been the same since the Country Club was put out of business. As I said in my book 'The Neighbor Hood Hijacker: The Heroic Effort to Stop the Plundering of Our Community', all things must pass.
If the Escondido City Council chooses to accept the commission's recommendations, the neighborhood will be transformed into an urban landscape mirroring those in the overcrowded, traffic congested conglomeration of discordant communities up in Temecula. A variety of little enclaves with no connection to each other, all with different architectural styles and a huge price and demographic differentiation between the old and the new.
The iconic Escondido Country Club neighborhood is going to assume a new identity at some point. I guess a good moniker might be "The Beverly Villages" as a 'tribute' to the driving force behind it's creation.