The City Council compromised with the developer of Tract 894 and Tract 889 tonight. The city staff had recommended a $17,000 per lot fee for traffic and drainage improvement infrastructure needed for the new development. Dave Ferguson, who was representing the developer, suggested $12,000 as a more agreeable fee. The majority City Council (with Councilwoman Olga Diaz the lone dissenter, as usual) agreed to compromise at $12,500. This was an increase of only ten percent of the $5,000 difference between the two proposals. So, taxpayers of Escondido, and surrounding neighborhoods, there’s where the interest of the male majority of the Escondido City Council rests—ninety percent for developers, ten percent for residents.
I had addressed the Council, noting that on the momentous August meeting regarding the Escondido Country Club Homeowners petition to preserve the country club as open space, the Council had unanimously voted to preserve an implied (never specifically stated in any General Plan) intention to preserve that golf course as open space. The representative of the developer of Tracts 894 and 889, Dave Ferguson, had, at that August meeting, expressed his opinion that such tacit intention was as valid as any written validation of keeping the area open space. I suggested that Ferguson’s argument that the parcels involved in these tracts had never been specifically mentioned in the North Broadway drainage improvement areas, when these tracts were obviously part of the North Broadway/Reidy Creek watershed area, was a bit hypocritical. I also reminded the Council that at that August meeting, they had all countered the owner of the Escondido Country Club’s argument that his proposal for building a housing development on the golf course would enrich city coffers, by admitting that housing development fees, property taxes, etc., never covered the infrastructure and service expense such a new development cost the city. Councilmember John Masson tried to counter my argument by saying they only said that the fees did not provide income, but that property taxes, etc., would, indeed, do so. He was later corrected by Councilmember Diaz, and by mayor Abed!
Earlier, the Council had unanimously approved the city’s voting districts drawn up by the Independent Districting Commission. Diaz praised the performance of the commission, noting that the city’s involvement in the process had been perfunctory. Councilman Ed Gallo noted that the task had been agonizing, and felt it was one of the (if not the) significant event in the 125 years of Escondido’s history. Councilman Mike Morasco also thanked the commission for a job well done, noting that there could be no question about the integrity of the commission. However, he went on to express his opinion that the districts would create an unfair playing field, without really explaining why this was the result of the process. Councilman John Masson also thanked the commission for a job well done, going on to observe that splitting up into districts would not do any good for the city. Mayor Sam Abed also thanked the commission, and the citizens who had participated, including Escondido’s primary news source, Pat Mues (www.Escondido2014.com). Abed went on to say that he felt the formation of the districts would be a setback for Latinos because it would somehow isolate their interests. He went on to say that future councilmembers would be more concerned about what would be best for their individual districts than what would be best for the city.
Somehow, I think that having councilmembers who are more interested in their district’s constituents than they are in developers will be a good thing.