As I looked around at the audience at our Escondido Country Club community update meeting on Tuesday night, I couldn't help but notice how the people in the crowd are fiercely loyal to their neighborhood.
Over the past five decades, they came here for a reason and got what they wanted: a beautiful semi-rural little town, where services are nearby and the lines are short. A place with lots of open space and a resort-like feel where the trees and lakes support lots of wildlife, and it is only 20-30 minutes to the beach, downtown or even some High Sierra-like mountains and forests.
The community is safe, quiet, and blessed with weather most people would die for. And of course, we had the central point, the heart of the community, our local golf club that provided the glue that tied so many of us together, that gave the community it's identity, and that lent its green landscaping and open space security blanket to the ambience that drew most of us here in the first place.
I am sure many in attendance never played golf, and may never have been members at the club, but they too will testify that the presence of the Country Club was a stabilizing and comforting element that, now that it is gone, cannot easily be replaced with any combination of residences, strip centers or flood retention basins.
When one of the City Council members, who was attempting to rationalize his vote to restore the illusionary residential zoning to the golf course plots of land under dispute, said he couldn't understand why some of us wouldn't want the property redeveloped, I heard several attendees holler, "We already had what we wanted!"
One woman, obviously irritated, asked "Why was this ever allowed to happen? How did our community and our leadership allow this to get to this point?" She was just stunned because the whole tone of the meeting was like a memorial for a child who died too young...
Our local Council representative said, "Who would have ever thought this guy (Schlesinger) would come into our lives? Who thought this series of events about the zoning would ever happen?"
Well, that is exactly the problem! Community leaders were not watching the henhouse and the coyotes came along and now we are all looking at each other asking, "Who is responsible for this slaughter?"
It is, however, disingenuous for our leaders to claim they had 'no idea' this could happen.
The fact is Mayor Abed met with representatives of SITR before they purchased the property, and he confirmed for them that the R1-7 zoning overlay would allow them to build homes on the land. Some members of our leadership may have been asleep at the wheel, but our Mayor knew what was about to happen and he made no effort to head it off at the pass.
After the meeting I got to thinking, when the property went 'under water,' and several of the members offered to buy it, or to help it to improve its operations, the City could have, and in hindsight, should have offered to help those efforts. Once the Mayor knew that an investor had ambitions to convert the property, our leaders could have helped preserve the iconic asset by connecting recently extended recycled water supply lines to the courses irrigation system. They could have offered some tax relief, some support from the business and tourism promotional fund. They could have offered some zoning variances to allow for limited commercial development, like a small boutique hotel/spa, for instance. The golf course was, after all, one of the main attractions for out of state tourism traditionally attracting hundreds of sun seekers from all over the US.All of these ideas would have improved and enhanced the existing asset, and helped raise the tax base for the area. The Country Club was too important to the Escondido Brand to fail...
But none of that happened. In fact, the Mayor never shared his insight with the rest of the Council. Why?
When his business partner, Dick Daniels suddenly switched teams, we started to see the Mayor's true allegiance emerge. Now that the Mayor has shown his true colors by capitulating to the Bully, it is clear that he was in on the deal from the very beginning and all of these political machinations were just a circus act to affect his reelection and pave the way for him to move up the political ladder to San Diego Supervisor.
In my mind, his actions amount to a crime, similar to an arsonist. He secretly played with fire, and it ended up causing havoc in the community. He lied to us when he said he 'had our back.' He should be held accountable for reckless disregard for the security of the community he was sworn to serve and to protect.
He has culpability for the premature death of our community child.
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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