Final ruling on future of Escondido Country Club housing project
due within week
J. Harry Jones, November 9, 2018
judge will decide next week whether a housing development
can proceed on the land of the former Escondido Country Club.
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.
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
have given me a lot to chew on, although Ive already
chewed on a lot, Frazier told the attorneys.
after the council voted 3-2 to approve the project last year,
a citizens group called the Escondido Country Club Homeowners
Organization (ECCHO) filed a lawsuit challenging the citys
action on a number of grounds.
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.
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.
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
said the city wanted a diversity of housing types and the
changes were needed to conform to the clustering requirements
of the citys General Plan.
importantly, Dillon said, the changes did not impact the footprint
of the project and therefore caused no significant new environmental
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.
just a change in type of ownership, he said, comparing
it to the difference between leasing a car and buying a car.
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.
there were no significant environmental impacts, there is
no need to recirculate the report, he said.
Everett DeLano, representing ECCHO, said nowhere in the project
description of the draft report were condominiums mentioned
and he agreed with the judges logic in his tentative
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
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.
Urban West has an agreement with the propertys owner,
Michael Schlesinger, to buy the land and develop it only after
all legal hurdles have been cleared.
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.
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.