(760) 741-1200


104 W. Grand Avenue, Suite A
Escondido, California 92025

< Back to News

Final ruling on future of Escondido Country Club housing project due within week
By J. Harry Jones, November 9, 2018

A judge will decide next week whether a housing development can proceed on the land of the former Escondido Country Club.

Vista Superior Court Judge Ronald F. Frazier heard oral arguments Friday concerning a tentative ruling he issued Thursday that would require the recirculation of an environmental report about “The Villages” project.

If he upholds his ruling, it will likely force the Escondido City Council to reconsider its approval of the project, which would be built on the 109-acres of fairways, holes and greens of the former country club golf course that closed in early 2013.

“You have given me a lot to chew on, although I’ve already chewed on a lot,” Frazier told the attorneys.

Shortly after the council voted 3-2 to approve the project last year, a citizen’s group called the Escondido Country Club Homeowner’s Organization (ECCHO) filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s action on a number of grounds.

Frazier tentatively found in favor of the city and the would-be developer, New Urban West, on most issues, but more significantly found that the draft environmental report that was circulated to the public for comment was inadequate in one particular way.

He said the number of condominiums in the final plans approved by the council equaled 189 of the 380 units, yet the original environmental report talked only about single-family homes being built on the property.

Mark Dillon, an attorney hired by Escondido to defend the lawsuit, told the judge the plans did change between the issuance of the draft report and the final report in order to add new housing types designed to provide for attached senior-living condominiums.

He said the city wanted a diversity of housing types and the changes were needed to conform to the clustering requirements of the city’s General Plan.

More importantly, Dillon said, the changes did not impact the footprint of the project and therefore caused no significant new environmental impacts.

He said where single-family homes were to be built, condos in groups of four, six or eight would be constructed on the same amount of land.

“It’s just a change in type of ownership,” he said, comparing it to the difference between leasing a car and buying a car.

He argued that the changes reduced the number of units from 392 to 380, thereby lessening traffic impacts, and even slightly increased the amount of open space in the project.

Because there were no significant environmental impacts, there is no need to recirculate the report, he said.

Attorney Everett DeLano, representing ECCHO, said nowhere in the project description of the draft report were condominiums mentioned and he agreed with the judge’s logic in his tentative ruling.

In that ruling, Frazier wrote in part: “The Project now contains, for the very first time, the inclusion of 189 condominiums and there is substantial evidence in the record that the developer assured (residents of the area) that no condominiums would be developed.”

Representatives of New Urban West, the would-be developer of the land, attended the court hearing but declined to comment until the final ruling is issued.

New Urban West has an agreement with the property’s owner, Michael Schlesinger, to buy the land and develop it only after all legal hurdles have been cleared.

Judge Frazier said he would issue a final ruling next week. Should it confirm his tentative decision, another court hearing will be held soon to determine the scope of his order. It will be at that hearing when it will be decided if the city will have to scrap its approval and hold a new City Council hearing.

On Thursday, DeLano said that would seem to be the only avenue to take since it would make no sense to recirculate an environmental report to gather public comment, and then ignore the results.


Home | Practice Areas | Firm Background | FAQ’s | News | Resources | Attorneys | Contact | About Your Case
Law Offices of DeLano & DeLano ©2018 All Rights Reserved. Site by Sterling Productions