There was an unusual Oral Communication at the October 11, 2017, meeting of the Escondido City Council. An Escondido Country Club resident actually spoke in favor of the New Urban West (NUW) proposal for building 392 homes, a clubhouse and other amenities, including permanent open space on 44% of the property. The resident spoke of the present vandalized, graffiti-covered, magnet for transients that the old clubhouse has become. He complained about the $500K the city had spent fighting and losing Schlesinger’s case against the city. He pointed out that although Schlesinger had lost his ballot Proposition H in 2014, those who voted against the measure only represented ten percent of Escondido’s total population. He said he was sure that Councilman John Masson and Mayor Sam Abed would oppose the development because they were in ECCHO’s pocket. He could only hope that Coucilwoman Olga Diaz, and Councilmen Mike Morasco and Ed Gallo would vote for the project.
I think that Abed hopes that too—that Diaz, Morasco, and Gallo will vote for the project. At his October 4, 2017 town-hall meeting, he again assured ECCHO members that he thought that 392 homes was much too dense, and he could not support it. I think that Abed would really like to have it both ways—he’d like to have the project approved, and keep his NUW buddies happy, but he’d also like to not go back on his promise to the ECCHO folks.
The ECCHO folks gave Abed a hard time at that town-hall meeting. Why had the golf course never been zoned as open space? Abed said he hadn’t been around when that zoning was developed. No, Abed wasn’t around when the golf course was developed. Nor was he around when several condo projects around the Escondido Country Club were approved, and the zoning increase mitigated by the open space of the course, as one ECCHO member pointed out. However, Abed was around when the new Escondido General Plan Update was developed, and approved by the voters in 2012. He was a big supporter of the update. The committee that developed the plan had been chaired by David Ferguson, the go-to lawyer for developers in Escondido. There was plenty of opportunity to correct the zoning of the country club at that time, but nobody noticed—not the city staff, not the fifteen member committee, not the Council Members at the time.
One Country Club resident asked “how could this happen?” She added that their rights had been taken away, Schlesinger had robbed them, and they just had to sit back and take it?
Abed must have been getting a little rattled. He stated several times that the country club was privately owned, and that the city could not just tell developers not to submit their plans, the plans had to go the planning process, and when they reached the city council, the council could deny the project. Abed claimed that he would only do what was right for the city, he was not concerned about the developers’ interest. (Which is strange since Abed runs Pacific West Consulting, a business that basically helps developers get their project through the planning process of cities or the county.) Then, Abed stated very clearly that, after all, developments did not produce enough in property taxes to pay for the new infrastructure and services the development required. This is on video—available to play back to Abed every time he exuberates over the benefits of new housing developments.