This has been a good month. Escondido had ribbon cutting ceremonies at two looooong awaited projects. We’re talking a couple of decades in waiting. The first was a first class hotel in the La Terraza development adjacent to I-15 between Valley Parkway and 9th Avenue.
As a Planning Commission member in the late ‘90’s we approved the much ballyhooed development which included a hotel and a sit-down restaurant and other office uses. We finally have the hotel but the restaurant site was taken by an Infinity auto dealership. OK, one for two not bad. As you may recall, the AAA building was built first and stood as an only child for many years.
The neighbors living in Howell Heights above La Terraza were very much involved in the eventual design being concerned with the height of the buildings and other aesthetics such as concealing HVAC equipment on the rooftops. I had the pleasure of meeting with the chief advocate and spokesperson, the late Sue Coombs and the other residents many times. They were a great example of positive community involvement.
The Marriott brand Springhill Suites was a very well attended event even though the hotel actually opened in May. The next ribbon cutting was at the Quality Inn on Centre City Parkway which consisted of a major overhaul of the Mt. Vernon Inn. Good riddance to one of the biggest eyesores in Escondido and the site of too many calls for service to the Escondido Police Department. When I moved here in 1973 the Mt. Vernon Inn was Escondido’s premier hotel (actually by definition a motel since it does not have interior room entries). It was up for auction about 20 years ago and there were a few rooms open for inspection. You couldn’t pay me to stay one minute in a room there and it didn’t get any better.
Both of these new hotels offer needed rooms for performers at the Center for the Arts staying in town rather than going to RB or San Diego and the teams playing in major soccer tournaments held at Ryan Park every year. We also host major softball tournaments at Kit Carson Park drawing teams from around the state. And let us not forget the much appreciated additional TOT, Transient Occupancy Tax and sales tax revenue from the guests as they spend more time in Escondido dining and shopping.
And now something good to say about our Regional Planning Organization the San Diego Association of Governments, SANDAG. They have teamed up with the US Navy and the Airport Authority proposing a grandiose plan for a Grand Central Station near Lindbergh Field. I don’t know where the money will come from but if San Diego is to maintain its status as a premier destination along with the convention center expansion and SDSU West project this is the type of visioning that is needed. Something iconic such as the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building, Golden Gate Bridge—you get the picture.
When I served on the North County Transit District Board former Vista Councilman Bob Campbell in 2006 spoke about having such a hub to create a more efficient way to get passengers to and from the airport and at the same time reducing vehicle traffic on specifically I-5 and also reducing the traffic congestion along Harbor Drive. Numerous discussions have been held by all agencies since then and now we have something to sink our teeth into. Let the gnashing begin.
The negative comments have already begun with one comment I heard about the people mover and the tunnel under the runway. These are not new concepts as airports in other cities already employ both. Not to sound trite but if you want to play with the big boys you have to, as Emeril Lagasse says, kick it up a notch.