Repost From WarOnEscondido.com
Up From the Ashes
I liken the abandonment of the Escondido Country Club
to the aftermath of a fire. There are some places that
look perfectly normal, and others that are flash burned
from the sun and lack of water. Most of the wildlife,
such as the egrets and other birds that feed on the
water ponds are long gone. Even the large contingents
of crows that used to squawk at each other in loud arguments,
seem to have been dramatically reduced in numbers. Other
creatures have increased, such as squirrels and gophers,
because there is no management systems in place. Rabbits
were always plentiful, but now we are seeing an increase
in predators such as hawks, snakes and coyotes.
Neighbors of the property are losing an increasing
number of small pets. Most just quietly disappear, but
some are devoured by Coyote packs at sunset meals defined
by a sickening screaming and howling ceremony as the
little animals are torn to pieces by the ravaging dogs.
The cheesy rent-a-fence the owner put around the property,
ostensibly to provide security, has lots of openings
where anyone or thing can pass through; probably something
the local authorities insisted on so emergency personnel
would have access when necessary. But the concept of
security doesn't exist. In the meantime, the fence makes
the property look like an inner-city condemnation project
that is still under review.
Most of the neighbors say they would rather see the
property in death throws than to have to watch it be
invaded by an army of surveyors, bulldozers and construction
vehicles. Because of the extended drought, the grounds
have turned a fallow brown, and many of the iconic fifty-year-old
eucalyptus trees are seriously stressed, which presents
serious threats to many of the homes in the immediate
area. Of the several thousand deciduous pine trees,
several hundred have already been cut down, and as the
Chinese Weevil that has been destroying them all up
and down the west coast finds more and more of them
vulnerable, hundreds more will have to be removed soon.
The community image is changing along with the Death
of the Golf Course. What used to have the comforting
appeal of a resort-like neighborhood, with people zipping
around in their personal golf carts, and the large expanses
of green landscape, immense stands of mature trees and
shrubs, has slowly turned into a wasteland that rivals
any area that has recently suffered through a wildfire.
The only difference is that the homes have survived
untouched. By the fire...
But as many of the older homeowners confront a time
when they must move into convalescent care, they have
discovered that the value of their home is nowhere near
what they hoped it would be. Unlike many markets in
the greater San Diego area and specifically those North
County areas nearby, the Country Club area is depressed.
Real estate professionals must advise prospective home
buyers that the future of the abandoned property is
uncertain, so they must accept the fact that there is
the possibility that they may have to confront years
of uncertainty, or possibly construction noise, dust,
traffic delays and changing view lines. The upside for
them is that they are buying at a deep discount.
As the homes are deeply discounted, many are purchased
by investors. They see an opportunity to buy at below
market rates now, rent out the property for a few years,
and when things return to normal, resell for a good
profit. The problem with that is that renters are not
invested in the community. They are transient and often
distant. They are commuter citizens, shopping, working,
or studying somewhere else. They are often younger students,
part-time service workers, or military personnel. They
are attracted by the lower rents, and often team up
to keep their monthly expenses low.
Intentional or not, they traditionally do not upgrade
and maintain landscaping, building exteriors, or participate
in local functions. By their very nature, they are seldom
home, and when they are, they more likely to hold loud
parties. They invite increased crime and bad behavior.
This kind of devolution drags on property values and
furthers the spiral of community decay.
Unlike fire damage where Mother Nature relentlessly
starts reconstruction immediately, the resolution of
the legal issues must be resolved before anything else
begins to happen. When that happens, at some point in
the future, more long-term planning processes will begin,
but each and every step along that path may well encounter
more legal and environmental obstacles. People in the
tract building industry will tell you that it would
be optimistic to think that any new re-construction
will begin in less than 7 to 10 years!
Areas that were devastated by the recent Harmony Grove/Cocos
fire are already turning green and beginning to return
to 'normal.' In 7 to 10 years, no one will be able to
tell that the San Marcos fire ever existed. The Escondido
Country Club property will still look like it was recently
strafed with Napalm.
The sad truth is that many of the ECC areas residents
are currently over 65. The homes they own were not built
to house people of that age. They do not have wheelchair
friendly hallways or bathrooms. Studies show that older
folks walk less when they live far away from shopping,
post offices or doctors offices. They tend to hole up
in their homes, which takes a toll on their health.
Those same studies show that most people in the age
range of 65 to 75 do not want to move. They like their
homes, their neighborhoods, churches, and their social
support groups. They want to age in place.
Wouldn't it make more sense to bring those services
and facilities to them, when possible? Instead of making
them move to a strange place, forcing them to reconstruct
their lives, why not rebuild the neighborhood that has
served them for over fifty years? Why not redevelop
the land that is now fallow
and bring senior housing into the area. Use the greenbelt
to construct a new senior-oriented addition to the existing
community. Bring some strip centers into the mix with
services needed by seniors, such as outpatient clinics,
The smaller footprint that a senior housing project
would occupy allows more freedom to compliment that
with multifamily condos, strip centers, recreational
parklands, and community resources like swimming pools,
walking paths and dog parks too. Thus, the density required
to offset new construction costs is achieved while providing
lots of green space to maintain the ambiance and character
of the community.
Senior centers are in high demand in a greying nation.
They house people who use very few natural resources,
who don't drive, or wash cars, or go to school. A well
designed mixed-use redevelopment plan can add to the
community by keeping long-term residents nearby while
opening up their previous residents to first time buyers
and young families. The increased diversity of the neighborhood
will help local businesses and smooth out the generational
Then maybe we can rise like a phoenix, up from the
WarOnEscondido, June 2015
May 8, 2018
"We have been forced to hunker down in war zone
trenches, turning to each other for moral support when
our elected officials and judiciary have emasculated
our effort to save our neighborhood from a violent financial
rape...Some will say I am insensitive to use such an
analogy, but like that barbaric crime, once a woman
has had her virtue compromised, as unfair as it is,
there is no way to restore it."
Reputations are under assault and the verbal abuse
continues. According to one recent PR report, a few
ECCHO members have "taken over ECCHO" in a
hostile attempt to hold the neighborhood hostage for
personal revenge on the property owner. According to
news stories, the new board members are "rich"
and "selfish" obstructionists. But the truth
is quite the opposite. The change in ECCHO leadership
was dictated by legal and financial exposure. The personal
risks outgrew the ability of same neighbors to continue
the fight. Legal bullying is a strategy to wear down
the resistance and is a tool the owner is quick to employ.
The property owner has filed dozens of lawsuits, but
when a neighbor fights back, he is accused of abusing
the legal system!
"In our honorable battle, we have taken major
casualties. Many of our brothers-in-war have been wounded
by lawsuits, most of which were designed to intimidate,
but have had much wider real-world impacts on their
lives, both emotionally and financially...Some have
decided to relocate, usually at a substantial financial
loss due to the depressed value of their golf community
homes that are now viewed as 'distressed' properties."
This is a war. One side is fighting a moral battle,
an unselfish attempt to preserve a community identity.
The other is in it for a boatload of money, plain and
simple. It doesn't take courage to use financial weapons
to overrun a distressed community. It takes courage
to stand up to overwhelming odds and stare down a bully.
Rick Elkin is a local author and
blogger. He has written an e-book about our battle,
called The Neighbor Hood Hijacker: The Heroic
Effort to Stop the Plundering of Our Community.
It is available on Amazon for $5.99. You can follow
RickElkin.com or visit
his blog WarOnEscondido.com.