Mike Marasco, the Council member who joined the Abed and Diaz coalition to reach the legal agreement with Michael Schlesinger, has told sources he held his nose and did what he thought would get everyone to the finish line the fastest. He felt that if the City continued to fight the 'takings' suit, and if they decided to appeal the Maas decision, the community would be held in a state of suspended animation for many, many years. The costs could hemorrhage and the results impossible to predict.
The three prevailing Council members felt that the only immediate relief they could offer the homeowners was some sense of direction. That if the residential zoning was restored, at least everyone could move on, and in the ensuing building process the City would have much more influence on the direction of the development, as would the community because any new building applications would engender required community meetings and studies. Input from the Country Club community would have the most effective influence at that stage of the process.
OK, there is some logic in that line of thinking. But...
This narrow, mostly symbolic settlement betrays the fact that a superhuman community effort successfully qualified a constitutionally guaranteed voter initiative to reaffirm and to protect, the planning intentions and the settled historical success of the neighborhood. In other words, how can our elected officials simply overlook what the entire voting population of Escondido so clearly demanded?
By submitting and winning the Council's unanimous endorsement of the Citizens Property Rights Initiative, which simply confirmed and reaffirmed the long held zoning conditions that specifically excluded residential building on the golf course property for all 'current and future owners,' the voters said no new housing tracts, no increases in resource eating population, no new demands on public services, and no new traffic inconveniences caused by hundreds of new homes in the area that has been settled for fifty years!
The community played by the rules, made their wishes known by a fair election process, and in the end, were disenfranchised by legal parsing and political power brokering. The perfect recipe for voter cynicism.
The agreement dismisses the astonishing fact that a neighborhood of mostly older, semi or fully retired seniors, could put together a totally self-financed and self-directed fund raising and signature gathering referendum campaign; to overcome a multi-million dollar counter initiative campaign, and to do it with a sense of class and restraint when the opposition used every nasty political tactic ever invented...
All of their heroic efforts were secretly and quite shamelessly disrespected and eviscerated by this legal agreement.
The agreement simply tells Mr. Schlesinger to stay in Beverly Hills while someone else does his bidding. So it minimizes the personality conflict, but it does nothing to help the local population to recover from his purposeful campaign strategy to undermine our local quality of life and property values. The settlement takes into consideration none of the major concerns expressed by the community. It does nothing to offer relief to the dozens of homeowners dragged into expensive and intimidating property lines lawsuits over minor encroachments, most of which were inadvertent and many of which are over forty years old!
At the precise time when the City had the most leverage, it essentially got nothing substantial in return. And then one of the council members had the temerity to smile and wink at the angry audience, as if to say, sorry, but I am done with your annoying populist activism.
The Council didn't ask for any property maintenance or weed abatement. They didn't require the owner to save the iconic eucalyptus stands, or any of the existing trees. There is no provision to clear the cracked and overgrown sidewalks.They are apparently OK with 110 acres remaining an eyesore for the foreseeable future.
If the condition of the property isn't blighted now, I don't know what is.
You would think, as a gesture of good faith to his neighbors, the owner could volunteer to water some of the trees, to clean up the dead and decaying former lakes and drainage basins. While the redevelopment process unfolds, which by most expert estimates could take 3-5 years, why not do something that would help raise the appeal of the neighborhood you plan to build homes in?
It takes a big man to be magnanimous, so don't hold your breath.
As the property continues to deteriorate, and there is still no timetable for any kind of immediate renovation or maintenance of the landscape, the resulting depression of home values continues. The issue of the abandoned property attracting and providing breeding grounds for coyotes, racoons and other varmints, for it's lack of security from children, thrill seeking teenagers or homeless vagrants, and for being a fire hazard, was not addressed in the settlement. The increases in crime, in transient occupancy and in vacant or abandoned properties grows unabated.
The Escondido Country Club Community is no longer.
Welcome to the El Norte Projects.