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Repost From WarOnEscondido.com
June, 2015

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, postal services,etc.

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 transition.

Then maybe we can rise like a phoenix, up from the ashes.

WarOnEscondido, June 2015


From WarOnEscondido.com
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 him at RickElkin.com or visit his blog WarOnEscondido.com.

 

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