Jade and Julie Work may be real, everyday people, but to a lot of Gird Valley and Fallbrook residents who love the rural feel of their iconic community, they are Angels sent from Heaven.
The Work's have just closed escrow on the rapidly decaying golf course property known as the Fallbrook Golf Club. They paid off the debt and purchased the notes on the foreclosed deed held by D-Day Capital, LLC (which is an entity controlled by Ron Richards, who was the legal representative for Stuck-in-the-Rough LLC, Michael Schlesinger's corporation that purchased the Escondido Country Club property in 2011).
The Works did for Fallbrook what we in Northwest Escondido have been praying for; they stopped any chance of the 116 acres of old growth oaks and open space golf course property from becoming an eyesore or a housing tract. They will not be bringing back the money-losing golf business, but they will instead be redeveloping the land into something that will enhance the Gird Valley landscape for many generations to come. They will be building a vineyard, a wine tasting room, a restaurant and a courtyard facility for weddings and special events. They will be placing much of the property into a reserve trust and otherwise keeping the entire greenbelt open and available for the people to enjoy as an indigenous amenity to the North County Bonsall/Fallbrook experience.
This is nothing short of a miracle for all North County residents, and though I could not be happier for Gird Valley locals, I am absolutely brokenhearted that the residents of the Escondido Country Club area were not so fortunate.
In our case, Angels that wanted to help us were locked out by legal maneuvers and the steadfast determination of the Beverly Hills speculator to re-establish the original zoning before the golf course was ever envisioned, which would potentially increase the land's value by tens of millions of dollars.
Our community gave it a gallant effort. We shouldn't feel guilty about coming up short. The painful truth is we never had much of a chance since the day that Mr. Not-So-Nice-Guy got his hands on the deed to the property. Additionally, our City officials were ambivalent about the outcome, and subsequently miscalculated the political realities, overplayed their hand and totally shanked their legal battle to preserve the tenuous zoning agreements forged with the original developers, designating the golf course plots as 'open space/agricultural and golf course/recreational use only' property for all 'current and future owners.'
Three years ago I spoke with some serious investors who represent major wineries that wanted to either lease the land or purchase it for a vineyard, but the Beverly Hills Bully would not listen to their appeals. Too bad, because if he had, he would have already recovered the money he wasted on his ill-fated Proposition H initiative. Had he agreed to a 20/30 year lease of the property, we would be looking at grapevines and tourist activities instead of fallow fairways, abandoned, boarded up buildings and fallen trees.
Had my exploratory efforts been successful, there would be wine tasting and special events facilities open for tourists right now! There would have been vineyard tours and gift shops, and serious jobs made available. The city would be proud to brag about the new attraction, 'The El Norte Winery Villages' just minutes from downtown. The locals would have been looking at green belts instead of brown belts since 2014, and their homes would have enjoyed property value increases commensurate with what the rest of the county has enjoyed in the past two years.
Unfortunately for us, Mr. Not-So-Nice-Guy would not let any of that happen. It had to be his way or the highway, which has turned out to be the slow road to hell for locals.
The newest plan that New Urban West has submitted to the planning department is nothing more than a modern-day residential development project. It is well designed and has some great ideas about rebuilding the neighborhoods, but it offers little towards replacing the asset that the Country Club was for the better part of fifty years. Yes there is a pool and a restaurant, but nothing tourists are going to be attracted too. There are still lots of questions about who will be allowed to use the amenities, and the increased density will inevitably aggravate existing traffic congestion. And there are a lot of walls and boundaries between neighborhoods, the opposite of the unifying, spinal column effect the golf course provided.
For the City of Escondido, there is a huge hole in the image of the northwest corner of the city. To fill it with nothing more than tightly clustered homes is missing an excellent opportunity to add some lustre to our city's unmemorable image. The City of Escondido needs more than just the San Diego Zoo Safari, the Lawrence Welk Resort and the California Center for the Arts to attract visitors and a friendly and enchanting vineyard themed shopping and dining experience would serve as a reminder of how grapes were instrumental to the founding of Escondido while offering another level of entertainment and property value to the area.
So sadly, unless a Heavenly Angel decides to touch and change the heart of Mr. Schlesinger, our 'Little Piece of Paradise' cannot now be saved by real-life Angels like Jade and Julie Work.