The word 'compromise' is used often in the discussion of the future redevelopment of the Escondido Country Club property. Most often, it is used to describe one of the multiple proposals made by the property owner. You will see it in the press coverage, which gets most of it's content from carefully, professionally crafted 'press releases' that Stuck-In-The-Rough passes around to the local media.
Let's review this case history..Michael Schlesinger, a Beverly Hills real estate speculator, started the battle when, after acquiring the Golf Course through a foreclosure sale, stated that he intended to build some 600 houses on the property. Then, after several contentious city council meetings, he settled on 430 homes in his Specific Planning Area proposal that he eventually placed on the ballot as an initiative (Proposition H).
His rationale for placing his master plan on the ballot, according to Mr. Schlesinger, was to let the 'voters of Escondido have their say.' He was certain that they would wholeheartedly embrace his building plans.
But voters rejected his plan by a 2 to 1 majority, so he then sued. He decided that if he couldn't get his way through the ballot box, he would do it through the courts. I guess the opinion of the voters didn't really matter after all...
Recently, a Judge vacated the Citizens Property Rights Initiative ( that placed an 'Open Space' reserve status on his property ) that was unanimously adopted by the Escondido City Council.. This has had the effect of restoring the residential zoning, so he has now come up with a proposal for 270 homes.
Mr. Schlesinger, or through his public relations agents, has repeatedly said that the new plan is a compromise plan. By changing one housing tract plan for another one with a different mix of homes, the property owner describes his contributions as 'compromises' that the local homeowners should quickly embrace so he can move forward on his self-serving plans to cover the old golf course property with wall-to-wall homes.
There is one very important part of any compromise missing from this equation. The one part that would actually make any new proposal a 'compromise.' That would would be some form of a concession to his opposition:
After two years of confrontation, hostility, and contentious debate, Mr. Schlesinger has not once offered to incorporate ANY of the ideas or suggestions offered by the community. Ideas about maximizing open space, clustering buildings, blending in a golf element, creating a senior center, a boutique hotel and spa, and many other amenities designed to enhance the remodeling of the community that is now missing the centerpiece of it's historic appeal.
Ever since Mr. Schlesinger's Proposition H was soundly defeated by Escondido voters, his opponents have very publicly stated their intentions to sit down and talk about the future of the property.
The problem has consistently been his stubborn insistence that since he is the property owner, he, and he alone, should be free to determine how he develops his land. He has made it crystal clear he is not interested in entertaining any input from homeowners who have organized resistance to his plans. In his view, they are selfishly blocking progress and irrational in their anger and disrespect for his private property rights.
He has listened to interest groups from all over San Diego though. Business and political groups who do not live in, and have had no historical ties to, the Escondido Country Club community (i.e., San Diego Lincoln Club, San Diego Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
He has taken their campaign donations and used their endorsements to try to influence other Escondido residents, who he hopes to rally, based on their fears that fighting his plans will bankrupt the City.
So as a public relations management effort, Schlesinger has clung to his talking points position that only he is willing to 'compromise'. Who can criticize someone who is so magnanimous? By painting the resistance as unwilling to give up their 'personal playground' golf course, he can create a negative attitude towards his opposition. If you keep saying it often enough, people start to repeat it as fact.
This is a political tactic that works! Especially when the lazy media mindlessly repeats it over and over again, without ever questioning its legitimacy.
The media could ask, "Which recommendations that have been made by the local homeowners have you incorporated in your latest plans?"
That would be too easy. And very revealing.....
The sad truth is, in the end, a 'compromise' will be accomplished. The delay is coming from the confrontational and dismissive attitude the owner has for the people who live in the community he is trying to drastically change. His project isn't just one lot in the larger community. No, this property is equal to, or even larger than, the community it winds through.
So no matter what ends up happening, the community, as it has been known, will cease to exist. There is no precedent for this kind of infill project. Building on the golf course property will have a transformative effect on all of Northwest Escondido.
So far, all of his 'houses only' plans would be devoid of any community identity, greenbelt, or landmark amenity.There are no considerations for seniors, for water conservation, for recreation, or for traffic mitigation.
Getting the locals involved in the planning process is simply the right thing to do before this massive project gets underway.
There is a solution waiting to be found. There is a way for all of the goals and aspirations of both parties to be met. But it won't happen unless and until the owner wants it to.
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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