Escondido, CA

Yes, developers have rights

~ Editorial

This is the year of one set of rules for the powerful and one set of rules for the little guy.

Well, actually, every year is that year, and always has been, but for some reason it’s a little more in your face THIS year.

Over the past few years the Accretive Group (YOU thought I was doing an article about Hillary, didn’t you?) made a fairly successful attempt to game the system and was able to persuade a fairly compliant San Diego County Planning and Development Services department to recommend its 1,743 unit project out on I-15 near the intersection of West Lilac, even though the project violated the county General Plan.

They allegedly had Supervisor Bill Horn on their side, and when the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission last fall made it plain Horn would not be allowed to vote on the issue, the entire “fix is in” mentality at the planning department evaporated like a sheen of sweat on a prospector’s forehead in the Mohave Desert. Suddenly career planners — and a lot of other people who had bet their future careers on what seemed like destiny, were running away from the light like cockroaches under a sun lamp.

Two things are true about the Accretive Group’s attempt to do an end run around the Board of Supervisors. One is that they have every right to do it. The other is that they will be resorting to what many critics think is an unfair tactic, that of using all of the money at their disposal to persuade a bunch of people who have no stake whatsoever in whether they build their huge development that they not only have a stake but have a right to tell the people of this area that their opinions should prevail.

That’s called the First Amendment. You may have heard of it, even though it’s considered kind of a rude stepchild by a lot of people who used to defend it in the day.

Well, it may be unfair that the voters of the rest of the County can decide the future of a development that is in Escondido and Valley Center’s backyard, but it’s no more unfair than, say, the people of Southern California having a say in the snowpacks that fall on the Sierras in Northern California.

It’s no more unfair than that the Board of Supervisors, if Horn had been allowed to play, would have decided the fate of the development.

San Diego County is an entity. It is a oneness, a gestalt, and everyone who lives in it has a stake in that. Up until three years ago I lived on the top of Palomar Mountain, and may again. About twenty years ago a bunch of environmental nut job busybodies mainly living in San Diego got together and put an initiative on the ballot that shut down density on the mountain. Did they have the right to tell the people on Palomar Mountain what their density should be? No! Did they do it anyway? Yes.

I only mention that because there are a lot of soreheads out there who argue that it is unfair for corporations to be able to fund initiatives that benefit them and then try to persuade the voters to support them.

This is a major problem with California’s initiative process, they say. Big evil corporations shouldn’t be allowed to do what labor unions, environmental groups and other interest groups do all the time.

For some reason it’s OK for a labor union to put a measure on the ballot that will raise the minimum wage and greatly benefit unions. But it’s not OK for a developer to put a measure on the ballot that will greatly benefit his pocketbook, and probably will screw everyone else in the county.

Hey, that’s called democracy. Which, as Winston Churchill once said, is a crummy system, except for all of the other systems.

If Accretive is able to buy the votes (uh, excuse me, campaign successfully) from people in the rest of the County, more power to them I say. At least, at least, it’s all out in the open this time, and not under the surface of a dark and murky sea, like it was when Accretive had the fix in at the County.

At least the residents of the communities that will be affected, like Escondido, especially Valley Center and even Bonsall, will have a fighting chance to convince the voters that maybe this is not a measure that they ought to support.

So get out there and fight! The people in Great Britain recently proved that it is possible for “the people” to prevail against the elites, the decision-makers and the big money. If they can do it, you people in North County certainly can do it.

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

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