Developer Michael Schlesinger May 6 submitted a community plan to the City of Escondido for the now-defunct Escondido Country Club golf course that would create an upscale neighborhood of 270 single-family homes designed by Rancho Santa Fe-based land planner, engineer and architect Ali Shapouri.
Meanwhile, residents of the ECC area are demanding that the city continue to fight to keep the land in open space, despite a court order to the contrary. They are represented by Escondido Country Club & Community Homeowners Organization (ECCHO).
Asked for a comment, Mayor Sam Abed told the Times Advocate: “I believe that ECCHO should be engaged in the process and provide input to the proposed project.”
Shapouri represents Schlesinger of Stuck in the Rough LLC, who has been battling the city and residents of the ECC for several years now since he purchased the distressed property and shut down the golf course.
Last year Schlesinger unsuccessfully proposed Prop. H, which would have required the city to allow a 430- unit development. That initiative failed in November and round one went to the residents of ECCHO and the city. However, in February a judge ruled for Schlesinger in his battle with the city, declaring that the city’s action that set aside his property as open space was a “taking” and violated the U.S. Constitution. Round two went to Schlesinger.
According to Shapouri, the number of detached homes in the plan is under half the 600-plus units allowed under the city’s General Plan land use designation for the 109.3-acre site. Lot sizes will range from 7,000 to over 16,000 square feet.
The plan includes 31 acres of open spaces and horizontal and vertical buffers for optimum separation between the new homes and those in the adjacent neighborhood. A clubhouse complex that includes a pool, spa, multipurpose room, dining facilities for private events, indoor racquet court and a gym would be operated by a homeowners association for community residents but might be open to neighbors on a membership basis, Shapouri said.
ECCHO is taking the position that the 270 unit development is actually worse than the 430 units proposed last year. According to the ECCHO website: “We can take this opportunity to tell Mayor Abed directly that we want the City to appeal Judge Maas’ incorrect decision. Or tell the Mayor how the proposed 270 home development, while made to sound like a compromise, is actually worse than the 430 homes that we voted down in November. This 270 plan has NOTHING for current residents; the amenities are for the new homes HOA ONLY.”
Shapouri said, “Drainage, water, sewer, and circulation infrastructure upgrades as well as other offsite circulation and infrastructure improvements will address current deficiencies while accommodating the new residential neighborhoods. Several bio-retention basins, designed to 50-year flooding standards, will protect the new and existing neighborhoods from future floods. Three small lakes, supplemented by well water, also are proposed as visual and recreational amenities.
The proposed community plan will be developed in five phases over several years in order to minimize any potential adverse impacts on surrounding property owners during the development and construction process for each phase.
A 2014 study of the Escondido housing market by MarketPointe Realty Advisors noted that new-home developments typically have a “significantly positive impact” on adjacent homes and that property values in the existing country club neighborhood will increase once the newer and higher priced homes in this development are completed.
Shapouri said the property owner has talked to multiple homebuilders, including those with experience in Escondido as well as nationally recognized firms, to work with the neighboring community, participate in obtaining the necessary entitlements, build, and sell the homes. Meanwhile, submitting the plan now is intended to bring certainty to the number of proposed homes and the quality of the development being contemplated for the site.
“There’s been considerable speculation about how many homes are being planned, given the maximum number of lots allowed under the current General Plan designation for this site,” Shapouri said. “Hopefully, this plan settles that issue.”
Shapouri’s firm has designed master planned and other planning projects throughout Southern California, Hawaii, United Arab Emirates, and elsewhere, including the Crosby mixed-use development and Cielo del Norte in Rancho Santa Fe, Christopherhill in 4S Ranch, and the Santa Fe Valley Specific Plan in the San Dieguito Planning Area.