Promises to Keep

It was another New Urban West (NUW) lovefest at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting. There was quite a gathering of the usual good ole boys: Dick Daniels, Dave Ferguson, “Coach” Dennis Snyder, past Chairman of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce and member of the Palomar Health Board of Directors Jerry Kaufman and others. Most were wearing green “I support Amanda Estates” buttons (no doubt furnished by NUW.)

Not that there was ever any question of the approval of agenda item number 6,  Amanda Estates Project Annexation, Tentative Subdivision Map, Master and Precise Development Plan, Pre-zone, Grading Exemptions, and Final Mitigated Negative Declaration. The 21 unit development, on 11.2 acres had been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission in March.

Another name for these Amada Estates might be Oak Creek Northwest, as the house plans will be the same that NUW will use for the Oak Creek development about which I wrote: . As Councilman Ed Gallo pointed out, these 3,300 to 4,617 sq. ft., 4 to 6 bedroom homes, will not be starter homes. NUW spokesman, Jason Han pointed out that the 21 homes were consistent with Escondido’s General Plan, and represented a lower density than the 30 some homes that the County’s General Plan would allow. Again, Han did not mention the fact that staying in the County would mean no sewer access. If there’s no sewer access, then septic would be required. Septic would usually require a minimum of one-acre parcels or 11 houses. So, in actuality, NUW can build twice as many homes by annexing into the City, than would be possible in the County—a fact Han preferred not to mention. Han noted that NUW would handle the annexation into the City of three neighboring properties, now in the County. To comply with California SB 244, there will need to be an application to annex eight of the parcels neighboring Amanda Estates, not just the three that would like to annex. For more information on SB 244 go to .

NUW had done its usual excellent PR job, and Han was able to quote several neighbors to the project, who supported the project. Several neighbors, wearing their green buttons, spoke in favor of the project. One neighbor, who lives at what he called “the bottom” of the proposed Amanda Estates, was concerned that the grading exemptions might increase the risk of flooding to his property, but said he was not against the project. Staff tried to assure him that the development would actually decrease his risk. Two other neighbors were concerned about increased traffic on Eucalyptus Ave., but they also were not against the project.

Gallo took the opportunity to once again promote his domino theory of real estate. Councilmen Mike Morasco, John Masson, and Mayor Sam Abed did not try to hide their boredom. Gallo’s words of wisdom for the night were “when you stop growing, you’re dead.” Councilwoman Olga Diaz wondered what the City was doing to encourage the neighbors, who seemed to prefer staying in the County, to annex into the City—since rounding out the City’s borders was supposed to be a high priority item for the City. Basically, the answer she received translated into one word, “nothing”. She also expressed her concern that new developments in the City had no connectivity to the rest of the City. Masson too wondered what could be done to encourage folks to annex into the City. City Manager Clay Phillips assured him that all information sent to the neighbors supported their coming into the City. Abed reaffirmed Phillips’ assertion that there was a general policy of affirming annexation, then went on to praise NUW as always delivering on their promises. And Agenda Item #6 was passed with “five yes votes.”

So, does NUW really always deliver on their promises? Remember Harmony Grove Village, that was approved for 742 house by the County Board of Supervisors in 2007? The recession hit, and things remained in limbo for several years. Then, in August 2010, in what The Wall Street Journal described as “Biggest Deal Since Crash,” Standard Pacific took over the right to purchase the 468 acres in Harmony Grove for some $150 million. . The egg ranches were demolished in September of 2012. . Harmony Grove Village is being built, complete with sewer system and horse trails. Model homes may be up this year. So, even though they sold their interest, NUW’s promise of horse trails is being kept.

But, what about NUW’s other promise, that the “Village” would always be surrounded by rural property? At the northern border of Harmony Grove Village, Integral Communities wants to build a 362 home subdivision on some 50 acres, many more homes than would be allowed under current zoning for one home per one or two acres under the County’s General Plan, so Integral Properties is moving a proposed General Plan Amendment through the County’s planning department.

On the southern border of the “village”, the Kovach Group wants to build some 458 houses on 11 acres—yes that would include multi-family housing. Kovach has also started the process of their General Plan Amendment proposal through the County.

Here is a map of the proposed developments:

Harmony Grove Village extensions

The Elfin Forest/Harmony Grove Town Council have expressed their dismay at these developments. In a letter to the Board of Supervisors on January 25, 2011 they wrote:


New Urban West made promises that had no way of keeping. Let us hope the County Board of Supervisors does better at keeping promises.


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