Feather Flags and Noise

I can always tell when I’ve gotten under Mayor Sam Abed’s skin—he refers to me in his comments on whatever issue I’ve commented about. He made such a reference tonight.

The issue tonight was the request by the restaurant folks on top of the Lexus dealership to hold outside events on what was supposed to have been a garden terrace adjunct to the restaurant. Allowing such a change requires a “modification of the master development plan for Lexus Escondido,” AKA changing the zoning, specifically to “establish a higher daytime noise level standard at property lines…” Over the last year, the restaurant had been granted a special use permit to hold a few such events. It did not go over well with the neighbors. They complained.

I supported the neighbors’ argument by reminding the Council that they had unanimously voted to preserve the property rights of the Escondido Country Club neighbors by refusing to allow turning the golf course into a housing development, even though their decision meant spending (probably) millions of City dollars in a lawsuit brought by the owners of that golf course. And, that those rights were embodied in a tacit agreement from the 1960’s—never mentioned specifically in any General Plan. I mentioned that one of the bulwarks of American justice was the notion that everyone, regardless of wealth, race, sex, etc., should be treated equally under the law. I hoped that they would treat the “Good Neighbors of Lexus’” property rights as they did the rights of the Escondido Country Club residents. Not to do so would be unfair, unequal and un-American. Mayor Abed’s conclusion was that since the General Plan would not be changed by their decision, my comments were “inconsistent”. The Council vote was the usual four to one (Olga Diaz was the only champion for the average Joe,) for the “modification of the master development plan’.) Not that it will change the four male minds on the Council, but I did e-mail the entire council:

“Mayor Abed said that I was inconsistent, tonight, so he evidently did not understand (perhaps deliberately) my comments.

I said essentially that if you would not change the zoning rules (even tacit rules from the 1960’s) for the folks of the Escondido Country Club Area, you should not change the zoning rules regarding sound for the folks around the Lexus dealership. You did change the rules tonight, you didn’t August 14—and were willing to pay untold amounts to defend the owner of the golf course’s lawsuit. So, sorry, Mayor Abed, it is you and your male colleagues who are inconsistent. However, I will admit that you are consistent in your treatment of folks. You bend over backward to please the rich and the business communities, while the average Joes, like the neighbors at tonight’s meeting get screwed, glued and collated.“

The discussion before the vote was a bit interesting. Allowing the Lexus dealership to display feather flag signs seemed to be of much more concern to the Council majority than the noise nuisance they enacted. Councilman Ed Gallo doesn’t care about feather flags, but he would like to see more American flags. Councilman Mike Morasco was concerned that some of the noise the neighbors might have to endure would include profanity. It is my impression that the neighbors consider all the event noise a profanity.

So now the Vintana Restaurant folks can have as many outdoor events as they want, from 7:00 am until 10:00 pm, with the only restriction being that the louder events would only be allowed five evenings a week. There was a rather painful discussion between the City Manager Clay Phillips, City Attorney Jeff Epp and the Council about how to define evenings. Phillips and Epp eventually were able to convince the Council that you needed to specify a time when an “evening” started. The Council Majority seemed quite happy that the noise mitigation measures and noise monitoring that would be carried out by the folks at Lexus/Vintana would be sufficient. Well yes, having a business measure its own compliance to regulations should work out just fine, shouldn’t it? And, if the neighbors still have problems, they can go to the Planning Commission then the City Council, after filling out reams of paperwork, spending hours figuring out the maze of City procedures, and get the Council to once again change the master development plan for Lexus Escondido. Of course, if the Council they appeal to is like the current one, their chances of getting such a change are miniscule.

One final thought—one speaker for the Lexus/Ventana folks was former Councilman Dick Daniels. Daniels is one of Abed’s partners in his new venture Pacific West Consulting. Is this not a conflict of interest? Shouldn’t Abed have recused himself?

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