In September of last year, Rick Elkin, a member of the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO), pondered the idea of seeing an end to the four-year saga that has blighted our community and resulted in a toxic morass of lawsuits, public fighting, inaction and decay. Elkin’s conclusion was startling. He wrote on his blog that if ECCHO cannot stop new residents from moving in, we must conduct a “guerrilla campaign” to “be the most unfriendly neighbors, who will make new homeowners very uncomfortable” and further stated that existing residents “must pursue a ‘last in first out’ policy”.
Elkin himself recognizes the immense costs associated with his call to action. He rightly notes that his plan means “we continue to fight, to spend sweat and property equity, and to live in a community of dysfunction and disease.”
Dysfunction and disease? Continuous decline of property values? Fighting with our neighbors? ECCHO and Elkin’s twisted vision of our future is something we cannot support.
It’s no surprise, then, that Elkin’s recent column (“Why is the Escondido Country Club situation still unresolved?”) starts and ends with a fact-free take on the current proposal to renew our neighborhood and end this mess that has now defined our community for the past four years.
As Country Club residents who have been actively involved in this issue, we’d like to set the record straight.
First and foremost, Elkin states that the current proposal – known as The Villages – is “nearly identical” to a former proposal known as Proposition H. The reality is, The Villages proposal includes 70% more open space, three times as many parks, and double the amount of trails as was included in Prop. H. And the number of homes is also less than what was included in Prop. H – in fact, it’s 35% less than what is allowed by the city’s General Plan.
More importantly, the current proposal was developed in close consultation with the community over the past year in an open and transparent process. In stark contrast to Prop H, which attempted to bypass environmental review of the plan via the ballot box, New Urban West has committed to spending millions of dollars to conduct an exhaustive environmental impact analysis that fully addresses issues like traffic, water, schools and protecting existing habitat.
Speaking of traffic, Mr. Elkin and ECCHO claim that the current plan “does nothing” to address traffic impacts. This is just plain false. The fact is, our group – Renewal of the Country Club, or ROCC – has been working with New Urban West on a comprehensive traffic plan which will include lane widening, synchronized traffic lights, round-abouts, new striping, dedicated bike lanes, enhanced landscaping and other improvements on Country Club Lane, El Norte Parkway and the I-15. These measures will be fully detailed in the project’s environmental impact report, which will be released by the city in a few months.
Furthermore, Elkin states that “The Villages plan is incongruous and incompatible with the nature of the existing housing stock.” Yet again, another claim clearly divorced from fact. If one were to drive around the Country Club area today, they would see a wide variety of housing options, including a mix of condos, duplexes, townhomes and single family homes. The Villages plan provides a similar mix of home sizes and styles and reflects what already exists in our community today.
Mr. Elkin is, however, right about one thing. ANY builder, no matter who, will have to deal with the demands of the property owner. Working within this reality, New Urban West has made a good faith effort to listen to our concerns, incorporate our feedback, and design a plan that can finally end this nightmare while bringing real value to our neighborhood. It is clear, however, that instead of engaging with New Urban West to make the plan better, ECCHO has decided to pursue a “just say no” strategy – no matter what the facts.
Sadly, instead of using their energy to get the property owner out of the picture by working towards a viable plan, it appears ECCHO is committed to keeping our entire neighborhood ‘stuck in the rough’ for decades to come.
MIKE FINSTERBUSCH AND SCOTT TIPPETT, Escondido
Finsterbusch and Tippett are members of Renewal of the Country Club (ROCC) a group of Escondido Country Club residents.