The professional signature gatherer wasn’t real busy, so when he asked me to sign it I said ‘No, I am a resident of the area and the last thing I want is for the Open Space Initiative that the City Council has already made law to be overturned.”
He looked a little puzzled, so I added, ”This redevelopment plan is very misleading.”
He said, “Why don’t some people want to redevelop what is a rundown ugly old bankrupt golf course? Wouldn’t they want to fix up the neighborhood?”
I said, “Just listen to yourself. Why would nearly nine thousand registered Escondido voters plead with the City Council to stop this guy from building and to protect the open space the golf course occupies if they thought it would really fix up the neighborhood? Why?”
“That’s right. Why?” he asked.
“ Because the locals know how valuable the open space is to the entire town.Besides being a beautiful community asset for nearly fifty years, the golf course provided a framework for the Northwest area of Escondido. It was symbolic of the ambience of the area, the huge groves of Eucalyptus trees, the giant boulder outcroppings, the lakes and ponds, all of which supported a rich collection of wildlife. The Country Club area is an Escondio landmark and has been settled for several generations now, and people enjoy the great weather to walk their dogs, to bird watch, and to hold weddings and graduation parties at the Country Club facilities. Over the years they have hosted Jazz Concerts on the Green, Veterans fund raising golf tournaments, and all kinds of activities for children.
The idea that the golf course was completely obsolete is a fraudulant construction of the developer who, when the course was hit hard by the Great Recession, saw an opportunity to steal the property at an enormous discount, and then cash in a hundred million dollar payday by building zero lot line tract homes throughout a quiet, well established older neighborhood.”
“So what happens if the new owner can’t build at all? Who is going to pay for the maintenance of the property?” asked the signature gatherer.
“That remains to be seen.It is a good and fair question. The problem for the residents is that they had to stop the developer before he got the project so far along it would be irreversible. Where we all go from here depends on Mr. Schlesinger. As of now, he has chosen to be confrontational.”
“So why don’t you want the issue put up to a vote?”
“In our minds we already have. Having collected 9000 signatures is a powerful statement by registered Escondido voters.But the other part of that is that the developer has very deep pockets and we do not. We are just locals who are struggling to keep our property values from plummeting.He can spend an enormous amount of money, and we all know how that influences elections”
“His plans call for a lot of nice things, a pool, a clubhouse, and lots of open space. Isn’t that pretty attractive?”
“It would be if none of that were already here. This is not a new development on the outskirts of town. He wants to drop 430 homes literally right in the backyard of a well settled, and fairly densely populated community. The last thing this community needs is more cars, more students crowding our schools, more demands made on fire and police services, and water and sewer resources. He is misleading uninformed voters by packaging his project as saving the neighborhood by counting the new streets he would need to build as ‘Open Space.’
I am very pro development, having made my living over the past 30 years in the new home construction industry. I was deeply involved in the Reidy Creek project. I understand the need to provide new homes in San Diego, just to serve the needs of our children, and their children. But it serves no one to wreck a well established neighborhood, to put downward pressure on the value of the existing home inventory, just to serve the bottom line of a rich speculator.The Great Recession has done enough damage to our economy, but allowing this kind of unrestrained profiteering to destroy the community would be a travesty.”
This Beverly Hills speculator does not have the best interests of Escondido at heart. He is seeing green alright, but it is in the form of dollars not trees.