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Fate of Country Club left to voters

ESCONDIDO— The decision on whether or not the Escondido Country Club can be redeveloped into 430 homes by Michael Schlesinger, of Stuck in The Rough (SITR), is officially in the hands of the voters.

City Council unanimously approved the addition of the initiative to the November ballot at Wednesday’s City Council Meeting.

The initiative has yet to be named, but many residents already have a staunch opinion since the debate on the property has been raging since 2012.

“If the development proposed by Michael Schlesinger were to come to fruition, he would make our Escondido look like his Los Angeles,” Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) member Constance Smeyres told the council.

Tensions have been high between Schlesinger, of Beverly Hills, and surrounding Country Club residents after he purchased the site in December 2012.

Within four months, he canceled Country Club memberships and added chain link fences around the property. He also announced plans to build 430 homes on the site.

Residents in the area formed ECCHO to fight the redevelopment plans. The members launched an initiative to designate the golf course as permanent open space in the city’s Master Plan. The initiative passed last year in August.

The new initiative being added to the ballot in November, seeks to overturn the Country Club’s permanent designation of open space.

Schlesinger has been unpopular with residents because he has made “no friendly contact with the natives,” Media Director of ECCHO Colleen Stricker, told City Council.

Last November, Schlesinger filed a lawsuit against the city to try and invalidate the open space designation and seek monetary damages for the city’s “regulatory taking” of his property, according to the staff report issued by the city.

The lawsuit also stated that the Country Club’s zoning allowed for the construction of the homes.

In addition, Schlesinger launched 24 individual lawsuits on residents for encroachment on his land between October and December of last year.

In April of 2014, Schlesinger paid a firm to spread chicken manure all over the golf course, which hadn’t been irrigated regularly. He was then cited by the County’s Air Pollution Control District for a Level 5 odor, which is the worst rating a smell can get.

Council members also voiced their distaste for the 430 home development.

“We just want back what was there,” Councilman Ed Gallo said of the Country Club, “I don’t think that’s asking too much.”

Former state senator Dennis Hollingsworth was at the meeting to represent Escondido Coalition for Open Space, which supports the development of the golf course.

He chastised the report released by the city for being biased and uninformative.

“This report is supposed to provide objective information to better inform the electorate about the initiative,” Hollingsworth told the council, “This report does none of that. Instead it does the opposite.  It appears to be designed to confuse the public by focusing on the property owner and the irrelevant history of the development of the site.”

Both sides will likely start campaigning once the initiative is titled in mid-August.



Patrick Quincy July 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm

It should be clear that Schlesinger saw the land as an opportunity for big profit from a high density development from the get-go. There was no intent to maintain a golf course as it immediately went to shambles and closure. It should also be clear that letting it sit ugly brown with chain link is an attempt to anger residents into succumbing to a “just fix it and build anything” surrender attitude.

The impact of 400+ houses will be a burden on resources and infrastructure to existing Escondido and San Marcos neighborhoods (e.g. traffic, water, schools, shopping, fire and police, etc.) High density is not a fit in this part of the city and will not augment the appearance or value of the surrounding areas. While maintaining an open space is admirable, unless the land offers a community resource for all, it will have no value added for the rest of Escondido residents, who will have the voting privilege.

Re-purposing the land for a community resource such as an olympic pool, center or walking trails would be a great option, but puts the onus on the city to purchase and maintain. Re-zoning to say R2-Low Density where a mix of homes and other land uses provide facilities or services to meet the day to day needs of residents would be a fit for the area, but would severely cut Mr Schlesinger’s profit. Whoa that anyone should work toward providing quality of life over profit. So a fight will ensue no matter the outcome of the vote… though I would hope all would fight first and foremost against high density.

Encinitas4Real July 26, 2014 at 7:54 am

The Escondido Coalition for Open Space is as bogus as the promoters including paid mouthpiece Hollingsworth. They only see open space as an area for them to stack n pack houses regardless of the negative effects on quality of life for REAL Escondido residents. Didn’t Sam Abed support this before he opposed it? Olga Diaz has been a stalwarts opponent from the start. Remember that when you choose your mayor!

Encinitas4real July 25, 2014 at 9:46 am

Oh terrific! Dennis Hollingsworth is pushing this fiasco for Escondido! As if his disastrous Density Bonus legislation was not enough to pay off all his developer buddies! Go try to pave over Beverley Hills! They will run you out on a rail!

Sandy Grasso July 25, 2014 at 6:18 am

Ed Gallo will get my vote. He is on the side of the residents that will have to deal with the problems long after the developer takes his money and goes back to Beverly Hills.

John Brock August 2, 2014 at 6:29 am

Luckily the ENTIRE city of escondido won’t be fooled by a handful of people living on a defunct, blighted, drought infested property looking for a free ride to subsidize their green space. Enough already, we can’t afford to water some grass to benefit 280 plus people at the expense of 60.000 voters. I along with the rest of escondido will support this initiative Especially wih the drought conditions in California

Thedra Adams August 11, 2014 at 12:08 pm


John Brock July 25, 2014 at 12:50 am

Ed Gallo just hung himself at the gallows come November 4th. He is a complete ignoramus

Thedra Adams August 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Ed Gallo is with the residents. He has no worries if you don’t even live in Escondido.

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