The Escondido Country Club hostage crisis is now 736 days and counting.
Just as the 1980 Iranian Hostage Crisis was based on a phony pretext that the United States was plotting to return the deposed Shah to power after the Islamic Fundamentalist Revolutionary Regime had taken control of Iran, the Escondido Country Club was most likely purposely run into a financial ditch to establish a phony narrative that it was obsolete and would never be feasible as a golf business. And further, suggesting that the original intent of the Escondido Planning Department was to eventually build homes on the golf course property, which had only existed as 'open space/golf course' under a 1964 special use permit that the new owner claims was purposely never legally memorialized by the City of Escondido.
Since August 14, 2013, the day that the Escondido City Council unanimously adopted the Citizens Property Rights Initiative, which affirmed the golf course properties zoning as open space or park/golf course only for all future owners, the defunct country club property has been held 'hostage' by a real estate speculator bent on winning a windfall property rights struggle that he thinks is worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million.
When the new owner announced he would close the Club and turn the land into a high density housing tract, he ran up against a stubborn and determined local resistance. He refused to redevelop the Country Club golf business, to water the landscape, to protect the wildlife and the iconic eucalyptus and pine tree stands. He still refuses to sell the property to someone who will save it (there are several buyers waiting in the wings) and declared that he would take the whole community down by suing the City for $100 million 'takings' if that is what it takes to get his way. His suit to do just that is currently underway.
In many ways, the Country Club Hostage Crisis has evolved along similar lines to the Iranian Hostage Crisis in 1979. What was initially a low level demonstration led by a student movement sympathetic to the Iranian Revolution, their hostage 'demonstration' ended up creating a vast chasm between the US and the Iranian theocratic regime that has grown more and more isolated and antagonistic ever since.
An Iranian student leader told reporters that their initial intentions were modest. "We intended to detain the diplomats for a few days, maybe one week, but no more." But the situation quickly grew out of control, became an international sensation, and destroyed an American President's legacy, while the hostages stayed locked up for 444 days.
But the intent of this property speculators 'demonstration' was never modest. The owner said all along, he would 'fence off the property and let it rot for 300 years' if he didn't get his way....it is now 736 days later, and the outcome of the future of the Escondido Country Club Community is still years from any resolution.
As for Iran, 34 years later, relations with the US is at its worst and most dangerous levels and the world watches as the Iranian regime promises 'Death to America' and the annihilation of Israel, and continues to march towards nuclear armament.
The similarity here is that since the beginning, when for all intensive purposes, the new owner had the attention of the local homeowners and Escondido City leaders, and his opportunity to redevelop and rejuvenate the entire community stood before him. Instead, he alienated the community, antagonized the Mayor and the City Council and created a dangerous confrontational atmosphere. His hostile actions have cost the collective community hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars. And as of now, the ambience of the formerly resort like community has been all but destroyed.
He has relentlessly stoked the anger of the villagers by filing no less than 18 property encroachment lawsuits against his neighbors, who over fifty years had innocently allowed landscape or fences to creep onto golf course property. All of which could have been easily remediated, but when forced to be dealt with in court, becomes a costly and extremely intimidating battlefield strategy.
Then, of course, there was the infamous untreated chicken manure-bomb attack on the Leaders of the Resistance. Denials and apologies notwithstanding, the War of Attrition was on.
Currently, community Refugees continue to deal with the painful side effects from three years of conflict. Property values have tanked, and transactions slowed by the uncertain future. The soul of the community has been devastated by neglect, and the populace has become much more transient as many owners have opted to rent rather than to sell at depressed prices.
The City, meantime, ponders its legal options regarding the recent court's decision to vacate the Citizens Property Rights Initiative (CPRI). Escondido leaders carefully evaluate every move they make because they have this 'takings' anvil hanging directly over their head. Convinced that the planning department never contemplated building additional, high density homes in the neighborhood whose population is at planned capacity, City leaders have taken the high, but difficult road to protect the current density status of the Country Club area.
Meantime, our community battlefield emits a silent but deadly cloud of uncertainty while the local Refugees continue to suffer financial collateral damage, finding solace only in the fact that no massive housing tract has yet appeared to further defile their once peaceful and bucolic neighborhood.