Judge's tentative ruling would void approval of Escondido
Country Club project
J. Harry Jones, November 8, 2018
Superior Court judge on Thursday tentatively ruled that an
environmental report for a controversial housing project on
a shuttered golf course in Escondido was inadequate and needs
to be revised.
Judge Ronald Frazier finalizes that decision at a hearing
Friday, then the Escondido City Councils approval of
the 380-unit project on the 109-acres of the abandoned Escondido
Country Club golf course will be voided. A new City Council
hearing would have to be held and a new vote taken.
could also take the matter under consideration Friday and
issue a final ruling later after hearing arguments from attorneys
for the homeowners group that sued the city and the developer,
as well as lawyers from Escondido.
judge said he was troubled by the projects description
in the environmental report.
description provided in the (environmental report) is no longer
accurate, Frazier wrote. 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 the petitioner that no condominiums would be developed.
the report did not contain information about the condominiums,
the public was not given a chance to comment on that feature,
California Environmental Quality Act requires environmental
reports to provide accurate and stable descriptions of the
project, Frazier said in the ruling.
he said, when the project was submitted to the citys
Planning Commission, it had been modified to develop 191 homes
on individual lots and 189 attached and detached condominium
units on 31 lots.
ruling comes as part of a lawsuit filed shortly after the
City Council approved the project in November, 2017, by members
of the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Association (ECCHO),
a group of people who live near the former golf course who
have been fighting development plans since 2013.
lawsuit against the city and the would-be developers, New
Urban West, challenges the approval on numerous levels. The
judge ruled against ECCHO in the tentative decision on most
issues including traffic and zoning irregularities, but not
on the environmental report issue.
appreciate that (the ruling) recognizes we have some significant
issues here, said Everett DeLano, an attorney representing
ECCHO. Its a good start. I still think there are
some issues I think we should have the opportunity to say
for Escondido declined to comment on the ruling since it is
spokesman for New Urban West issued this statement:
are pleased to see that the Court has rejected nearly all
of ECCHOs claims in this tentative opinion. The minor
issue noted by the court regarding the citys 3,000-page
environmental report is not much more than a fix it
ticket. We are looking forward to our continued work with
the city to deliver a great project, said Jonathan P.
Frankel, the companys forward planning director.
the environmental report have to be redone and recirculated,
it would likely take six months or longer before the project
could come back before the council. There is also a good chance
that either side could appeal various aspects of a final decision,
which would potentially delay things even longer.
Urban West has an agreement with property owner Michael Schlesinger
to buy the former Country Club land only after the project
has been approved and all legal hurdles have been cleared.
could not be reached for comment Thursday.
some neighbors dont want the former golf course to be
developed the course has been sitting overgrown and
brown ever since being shuttered in early 2013 others
are in favor of the project saying new homes, rather than
an ugly abandoned golf course, will increase their property
and the community have been at odds ever since he bought the
golf course out of foreclosure in late 2012 and almost immediately
announced plans to build up to 600 houses on the property.
followed was an extensive court battle that Schlesinger eventually
won. It was ruled that the zoning of the golf course did allow
for housing, the result of a zoning oversight made in 1964,
and that the citys adoption of a resolution in 2013
declaring the property permanent open space was a violation
of Schlesingers property rights.
the ruling, Schlesinger collected thousands of signatures
and placed an initiative on the 2014 ballot asking voters
to approve a 420-unit project on the land. It failed by a
wide margin. But then the court ruled in his favor. The city
settled the lawsuit by agreeing to have Schlesinger choose
a development company to pursue the necessary permits.
Urban West, a company with a good reputation and track record
in Escondido, was selected.
hearing before Judge Frazier is scheduled to take place at
1:30 p.m. in Dept. 39 of the Vista Courthouse.