Escondido, CA
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Just you wait

Last week the County of San Diego showed that if you wait long enough and throw enough money at the County you will get what you want.
The Planning Commission unanimously approved moving the Lilac Hills Ranch forward to the Board of Supervisors, who are probably going to pass it—at least that’s the way the smart money is betting.
Next week the Planning Commission will be hearing the massively huge Newland Sierra development, which will create a community bigger than the town of Del Mar near one of the last remaining rural enclaves in North County, Twin OaksValley.
The opponents of the project are being organized by the fat farm for the rich and famous, the Golden Door Spa, which is coordinating the same kind of protest that opponents always muster against developments, complete with T-Shirts and signs, an approach that strikes me as about as effective as Polish cavalry charging against Nazi tanks in World War II, although it looks cool.
Nevertheless, I can just imagine the non-elected commissioners looking over their glasses at the seats filled with folks wearing the same T-shirts and caps, and muttering, “Yeah, yeah, can we get on with it?”
Since Einstein famously defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, one wonders why opponents of developments always play out the same Kabuki theater, like beavers building the same dams that thousands of generations of beavers have built over millions of years? Except that in the case of the beavers the dams they build usually hold water, whereas the anti-development theater at the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors seems to leak like a rotten basket.
It’s kind of amusing to see one kind of highly financed oligarchs, the spa owners, arrayed against another rich organization, Newland Sierra, with their supporters also bused in and provided with free catered lunches outside the hearing room. It’s hard to know who to root for. I’ve been to the Golden Door as a writer and it’s hard for me to muster a lot of sympathy for preserving the Zen lifestyle bought for $10,000 a week—or whatever the going rate is. I mean, if I owned Golden Door I would be fighting the development too, but why should the rest of us care?
The Golden Door has threatened to start gathering signatures to put an initiative on the ballot to overturn the project should the Planning Commission and then the Board of Supervisors approve it, which, given all of the signaling that County staff has been broadcasting on this project and Lilac Hills Ranch, seems to be highly likely.
I remember talking to a friend of mine in the real estate business a couple of years ago when Lilac Hills Ranch was a particularly hot subject. It was after LHR had just lost its bid to leap over the Board of Supervisors and achieve approval at the ballot box, an effort that many readers will recall as Measure B.
My friend Morgan Brown, said, “It doesn’t matter. Something this big will eventually be approved. It may take twenty years, but it will be approved.”
One can imagine the big money guys sitting around in darkened rooms and looking at the big picture. “Yeah, we might have to wait for ten years, but we got the time because the profits will be immense!” Would that our state and national governments were this forward-looking.
So, apparently “too big to fail” doesn’t just apply to the nation’s banks, it applies to any large development, no matter how unpopular it is. No matter how little it fits in with the surrounding communities. I think we can safely say that from now on, ANY development large enough to cost billions of dollars, WILL be approved by San Diego County just on the general principle that something that big must not be turned down.
Recently a member of an area planning group told me, “I am frustrated that 10 years of submission means you get a pass. Last year, the City of San Diego finally gave Doug Manchester his latest downtown project after 20 years of fighting…”
It does seem that the merits of a development are immaterial; longevity and deep pockets are the key. If you are patient enough, you can outwait any adverse decision that anyone makes. No decision is ever final except the decision approving the development. It is irrevocable. Like the wheels of a gear that can only ratchet forward.
It’s annoying to me as a property owner because, if I had a land use issue with the County and they ruled against me, it’s highly unlikely that if I kept returning, day after day, again and again and asking, “What about now?” anything would change. But, hey, I’m not rich and I don’t own great tracts of land, so the rules are different for me and you. But not for them.
One can understand the frustration of the people who are sponsoring the (SOS) Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside Initiative, which would require that any significant change to the General Plan requires a vote of the people. This would basically neuter the Board of Supervisors, taking away one of their most significant powers.
I won’t sign the petition and I won’t vote for it if it qualifies for the ballot. Although I agree with the power of the people to overrule the legislature and the Board of Supervisors, or locally the Escondido City Council, with the occasional initiative, as we in California are doing with the repeal of the gas tax, I don’t go so far as to approve of direct democracy, which is the people functioning as the legislature and voting on each large measure.
I go along with the late H.L. Mencken who observed: “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” The problem is, of course, that the people lack the money and the time to get what they want. That’s why the guys who have those commodities in abundance are most likely to win—at least most of the time.

*Note: Opinions expressed by columnists and letter writers are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the newspaper.

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