Defined as a unified body of individuals such as:
Or, a group bound by
a : a social state or condition
b : joint ownership or participation
c : common character
d : common social activity
As the battle over development rights and plans for the abandoned Escondido Country Club property winds down, and we have the 380 unit The Villages design by New Urban West in place to guide the process of rebuilding, let's look at similar infill projects that have occurred around Southern California.
Oh, that's right, there aren't any!
That means that we are venturing into new territory. There has never been a redevelopment project of this proportion in the history of our county. Please don't misunderstand, there have been plenty of new home developments, many involving hundreds more homes than the 380 proposed under this Special Planning Amendment that the Escondido City Council just approved.
But those new home projects were not built in the backyard of 600 other, long settled homes. None of them invaded an existing community to build another dissimilar community within it.
By doing that, the new community effectively destroys the old one (see above definition of 'community'). Especially when the stated marketing plans of the new homes are to attract young families into what has been for the past five decades a retirement community of senior citizens.
So the conflict has always been about integration; not racial but cultural and generational. The resistance asks, "Do we have to destroy the integrity of the existing community in order to build more homes?"
New home projects in Escondido, like Andalucia (Harmony Grove) and Pradera and Heritage Collection (Rincon Middle School area) are not woven into existing 'communities'. They are, like most new home developments, built on a contiguous parcel. They establish a new community on a large undeveloped plot that may have other homes around it, but the new development does not incorporate older homes winding throughout the newer ones.
They are not imposing a totally different neighborhood context on an already well established older one.
So when I read commentary that those opposed to The Villages, are just stubborn people who want to impose their simplistic and selfish resistance on the greater 'community' I wonder just whose definition of community are they using?
The plans designed by New Urban West will effectively deconstruct the Escondido Country Club community and transform it into a divided, high density urban area, unlike the semi-rural, resort-like community it once was. It will reconfigure the neighborhood demographic, and establish income and age barriers that didn't exist prior to this land use battle. That is a tough pill to swallow if you have spent the better part of your retirement years building a common interest community that will no longer exist.
I would implore the leaders of the pro-Villages people to stop blaming the decaying condition of the community on us, since that has always been a strategic design of the property flipper. And please stop slandering our good intentions. We just wanted to protect something we cherished and wanted to pass on to the next generation of retirees.
Now that your ambitions have prevailed, maybe it would help to extend an olive branch, show a little empathy, and offer to sit down and work on some solutions together. You say you want to 'move forward', but your antagonistic social media comments and newspaper editorials sound like you are all too eager to leave a lot of us behind.
Yesterday's Escondido Country Club clubhouse fire was all over the local news, but for all the wrong reasons.
The larger backstory is that an unnatural catastrophe occurred at the Escondido Country Club in 2012 when it was purchased by a Beverly Hills property flipper.
It may as well have burned to the ground the day he put up the rent-a-fence. The effect on the neighborhood was no different than if the entire facility had been torched by napalm.
Yesterday's fire was reignited embers from a wildfire that started in 2012.
The truth is, that is when the owner turned the golf course into a tinder box of dead trees and weeds, just waiting to explode, as a strategic move to pressure the local residents to accede to his development plans.
Last night's news stories focused on the irony of the timing, just days after the City Council approved a plan to construct 380 new homes in the middle of the settled community. They wondered if the fire had been deliberately set, as though it would somehow make any difference to the future of the community. They never contemplated how fortunate we all were that the Santa Ana winds just happened to be still that early morning, or the whole community would have been threatened, again...
Instead, they revisited the legal history and the recent approval of a high density housing tract. But they failed to explore the devastation that the community has already suffered for the past five years. The loss of property value and community character, since the fairways and recreational facilities were purposely left to die.
They missed the larger story about how the evolution of the property value could go from near nothing, in 2011, to somewhere north of $100M in just five years.
They were looking at the campfire, and missed the forest fire.
Since the property was acquired through foreclosure in 2012, the mainstream media viewed the conflict as a property rights issue. They presented the situation as 'old vs new' and an economic issue brought about by the decline in interest in golf by the digital generation. They completely missed the damages that the property speculator caused to the peace and tranquility of the greater community, and how government malfeasance along with a critical shortage of new home construction, could cause such a perfect 'firestorm.'
So yesterday's fire revealed another truth: The Escondido Fire Department and the news media got to the scene about five years too late.
Never bring a knife to a gunfight.
The Escondido Country Club Community of mostly retirees and seniors, who built their lifestyle around the iconic 18 hole golf course, swimming pool, clubhouse, restaurant and bar, were outgunned from the very beginning in the war to repurpose the 110 acres of prime North County real estate.
We were armed with a ton of passion, of motivation and community spirit, but compared to Michael Schlesinger's ruthless team of legal eagles, public relations agents and political mercenaries, we may as well have been armed with nail files.
Even with the huge disparity in weapons, our community effort managed to put up a good fight. All I ever expected to get out of this war was to force the owner to respect the character of the community, to replace the abandoned golf course community identity with something else we could relate to as a 'Club'. To integrate new residences into the resort style neighborhood in a way that preserved the quiet, retirement themed homes, so the next generation of baby boomers would be drawn to the area and seamlessly adopt our lifestyle. I see no reason the whole community needs to change demographics to survive, as the representatives for New Urban West declared.
As the blood dries, people are asking ECCHO leaders if they are going to sue.
In my opinion, the upside is too remote to justify more swings of our nail files. If there is a case to be made that laws were violated, or the environment is endangered, fine. But that is a war for another army.
Mayor Sam Abed
Deputy Mayor John Masson
Councilman Ed Gallo
Councilwoman Olga Diaz
Councilman Mike Marasco
I am writing you today to make a plea for you to carefully review, and ultimately
reject, the Planning Commission's recommendation to approve The Villages submittal.
What we learned at last week's planning commission hearing regarding the ECC:
● Most of the newer residents are typically young families
● They were attracted by the depressed real estate market in the ECC area
● They have no connection to the legacy of our long settled community
But, we also learned:
● Most of the long term homeowners are against the proposed project
● They feel it is being rammed down their throat with little or no vetting
● Even the builder admits the Villages plan is inconsistent with the existing
I also got the sense that everyone in attendance wants to heal the community.
The problem is, we can't agree on what 'healing' means...
We learned that the commissioners were influenced by
● The 'extensive planning' by NUW
● By a sense of urgency to 'put this unfortunate situation' behind us
Neither of which should have played a part in their deliberations. Both issues are incidental, because extensive planning is expected by the planning department on any and all Specific Plan Area proposals that would effectively amend the General Plan. Secondly, the only one driven by a sense of urgency is the property owner who will realize an estimated $80-100M ROI once the builder receives approvals. The staff should not be influenced by pressure or urgency. The residents know it took decades to build the desirability of our neighborhood and it will take some time to properly reinvent it.
The staff's report said the builder had adequately mitigated resource and impact issues, but as I read it, the staff never quantified the costs incurred by existing residents. Their report fails to reconcile the absence of fire threat escape routes, streetside parking issues, current water shortages and existing water use restrictions or how maintenance and operations of 'community recreational amenities' will be paid for.
As for the EIR, one commissioner noted that many negative impacts will occur outside of the influence area, so there may be increased wait times at freeway access points: then he suggested we all need to "get used to it."
Is that the kind of vacuous attitude you want making value judgements on issues that burden your constituents? My point is, this proposed redevelopment does not adequately protect the current residents from multiple negative impacts on their lifestyle and property. It divides and effectively dissembles The Country Club retirement community.
In addition, The Villages plan does not adequately mitigate:
● Increased traffic delays, accidents, and volume on residential streets
● Resource restrictions, noise, air pollution and wildlife displacement
● Loss of home equity, sight lines, privacy and iconic eucalyptus trees
● Loss of community identity
● Loss of a major tourist attraction and visitor spending
● Loss of demographic continuity
As our Council, you have all consistently claimed to have the best interests of current residents in the forefront of your actions. But your actions have not resulted in any measurable improvements or protections for ECC residents. Some homeowners have been forced to move and some are still burdened by property liens over minor encroachments. We have all been affected by the destruction of the environment and dramatic loss of equity. Our once desirable community has recently been referred to as 'blighted'. For the past five years, you have asked for and received the trust of the voters, and what do we have to show for it?
As leaders in our fine city, ask yourselves some difficult questions:
● Is abandoning the senior retirement community theme the right thing to do?
● Why are we in such a hurry to adopt the first plan presented to our community?
● Is it typical for large 'infill' projects to get approved on the first try?
● Why aren't we seeing competing proposals?
● Are we looking at this community redevelopment with an open mind?
Are we to assume that gentrification is unavoidable, despite the current explosion of aging Baby Boomers, adding 10,000 retirees to the populace every single day? Is it wise to impose a young family themed housing development smack in the middle of a large established retirement community?
As I pointed out at the hearing, you have to get this right. This will be your legacy. Please, slow down and consider the long term impacts. The Villages submission is not an all-or-nothing proposition. It has some very good aspects to it, but the overall marketing theme is incongruous with the existing community.
Our community has already weathered the worst part of this assault, so we can afford to wait a little longer if that is what it takes. As you all well know, New Urban West understands how these things work and they will hang in there until proper design modifications can be realized. They think long term, and so should the Council.
Please send The Villages proposal back to the drawing board and require any revised submission respect the nature and historical significance of our very special existing retirement community.
Thank you for helping save our community from unfettered financial exploitation.
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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