They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see 'em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
'Till it's gone
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot
We are now in our sixth year of the War On Escondido.
In 2012 the Escondido Country Club Community was struck by a virus that has continued to eat away at our soul. It has cost the neighborhood millions in lost home equity, in legal expenses, in human connectivity and in personal health. Many of the people who owned homes adjacent to the abandoned property have seen their retirement dreams turned into nightmares. Some have simply decided life is too short to spend any more of what they have left trying to preserve the community they built for the next generation.
Time passes and the energy it takes to fight change, dissipates.
In many ways, this battle reflects the generational divisions faced by all Americans. The question is, just how far should the current generation go to preserve what many in the next generation simply don't venerate? Are the neighborhood preservationists right to put value in community spirit and tradition? Or are we standing in the way of progress?
A few years after a forest fire, nature rejuvenates itself and soon it is hard to see evidence of past fires. In a community under attack, the neighborhood just keeps getting sicker. The vast expanses of fairway grass that once exemplified our quiet corner of paradise have now reversed themselves into what has become a battered and sickly bargaining chip in a ruthless battle for development rights. Our community is on it's back in a hospital bed, with little or no help to keep it alive. The only folks attending to the patient are a few hundred hardcore homeowners who refuse to give in to the malevolent virus.
The conflict is over visions of the future: One side wants to preserve the sameness that made our neighborhood a united community. The other side wants to divide it up into villages, designed to establish enclaves, all different, and quite the opposite of what currently exists. One is for conformity and a retirement theme, the other is for modernity and urbanity, and creating a treasure chest of profits, too.
The proposed new development would be like mixing water and oil, which is not in and of itself a bad thing, unless you value continuity and assimilation...
Oxygen tanks and all, the resistance continues to rally for life support from a court system that has up until now, been hostile and indifferent. As we approach the end of 2018, will our bedside watch be rewarded? Is there life left in this battle? Can the Spirit of Escondido Past hold on to see a renovated community restore its place in history as one of the premier retirement colonies in all of Southern California, or will the tide of modernity simple wash all of those memories and hopes away?
If history is any indicator...
For over 50 years the Escondido Country Club Community was one of the premier developments in the Northwest corner of Escondido. Newcomers purchased homes in a premier resort-style, low-density recreation-oriented neighborhood. Many paid premium prices for downsized frontage properties, or for overviews of the valley and the golf landscape. Most hoped to stay as long as their health allowed, banking on growing property equity to help fund end-of-life elder care.
On the basis of countless developer assurances and local zoning representations, the entire Country Club Community believed they would always share a golf course, enjoy the camaraderie and build equity.
All of that is about to be bulldozed.
Because of poor business practices by the former owner, who happened to be a developer with zero golf-business experience, and the cumulative effects of the lingering Great Recession, in 2012 a Beverly Hills real estate speculator was able to purchase the 110 acre property in a bankruptcy sale. He had only one motivation: to pack the abandoned fairways with as many residences as possible, and walk away with an enormous profit.
Starting in early 2013, the new owner from Beverly Hills shut down the operations, erected a cheap rent-a-fence and allowed the landscape to die. Poor security measures allowed teenagers to abuse the abandoned clubhouse which eventually caught fire and burned to the ground. Property values in the area have been depressed.
It didn't take long to recognize his methods and motives: He would hijack the economic vitality of the community until he was granted permission to build as many homes as the landscape would allow.
It was out of these events that a small group of homeowners formed the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) as a non-profit corporation dedicated to preservation of the quality of life in the our community.
For more than 6 years the property owner has pursued his goal of building upwards of 380 closely-packed high-density homes. His plans would double the density allowed under the updated 2012 Escondido General Plan.
Currently, an ECCHO lawsuit is under way claiming that the City Council's approval of a high-density project violated Proposition S in the 2012 General Plan (a provision that requires any and all density increases to be approved by a vote of the citizens of Escondido) as well as other provisions required by CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act).
The bottom line is, the proposed housing plan could result in the transfer of close to $100M in property equity from the people in the community to one investor from Beverly Hills. That leaves many elderly homeowners holding an empty bag. While most of San Diego has enjoyed huge increases in property values since the Great Recession, our community has flatlined.
Many older neighbors have been forced to sell at reduced prices, just when they needed their equity the most. Our community has been invaded by speculators, buying homes at greatly reduced prices and renting them out. We have seen a deterioration of community appearance and an increase in crime. Coyotes roam the abandoned fairways and prey on our pets.
Our situation is more than a property dispute, it is a human tragedy.
Now, we are at a legal turning point. With some recent victories, we are encouraged but we need to continue this fight. We are compelled to set a precedent for all communities that may eventually face similar challenges from the "Greedification" of their neighborhoods.
ECCHO needs your help! This is Our Alamo!
Please click on the DONATE NOW tab and donate what you can. THANK YOU!
As Yogi Berra said, " It's like Deja Vu all over again!"
Here are some excerpts from Vellano Greg Norman Signature Golf Course homeowner Mike Konrad's website VictoryForVellano.com. I hope he is OK with me sharing his story but the eerie similarities are just too stark to ignore.
"In February 2017, WGP (Western Golf Properties) purchased the Vellano Golf Course, located in Chino Hills, CA. WGP publicly stated their intent to invest in the golf course and restore the golf course back to a private club. WGP’s CEO Bobby Heath solicited memberships from the public promising increased services and improved conditions. At the same time, WGP began to meet with developers to build homes on the golf course property.
By mid 2017, just a few months after purchasing the golf course, WGP met with the Vellano HOA Board of Directors indicating the golf course was losing money and they need to redevelop the golf course into residential homes. Bobby Heath informed the Vellano HOA Board that the Vellano Golf Course was purchased for its land development potential, seemingly contradicting his assertion that they hoped to return the course back to its former championship status."
That is when 'Victory For Vellano' was formed…
"Victory for Vellano’s purpose is to resist the scorched-earth policies of WGP's Bobby Heath and Michael Schlesinger by informing the public of Bobby Heath’s and Michael Schlesinger's behavior and holding them to account. Additionally, Victory for Vellano will work closely with the City of Chino Hills to ensure the city forces WGP, Bobby Heath, and Michael Schlesinger to obey all city ordinances and laws. The City of Chino Hills has informed Victory for Vellano that WGP, Bobby Heath, and Michael Schlesinger are currently violating city ordinances and laws, and have violated the Vellano Golf Club's Conditional Use Permit (conditions of development) required by the City of Chino Hills.
The City has indicated the golf course owners have violated the conditional use permit established prior to the golf course construction. The City of Chino Hills has informed the golf club that they are violating the Conditional Use Permit and has directed the golf club to restore maintenance including watering the golf course property and to remove the illegal fence.
The attorney for the golf course today demanded that information contained in this website be removed and threatened the HOA if information contained in this website was not removed. The Vellano HOA will continue to provide accurate and timely information to its members even in the face of threatening and bully tactics by the golf course.
Truth always wins."
Notable statements made by golf club owners:
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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