Lake San Marcos developer not fined for years of building violations
Nicole Tyau - May 3, 2018
Diego County has warned and cited a developer four times since
2014 over building violations in a Lake San Marcos community
of more than 2,000 homes. So far, the county has taken no
action to impose fines that could reach more than half a million
residents are frustrated with the county for not doing more
to make the developer fix the violations.
issue is the construction of luxury glamping tents, a pavilion
and a trail built by Citizens Development Corp., the owner
of Lake San Marcos, a man-made lake surrounded by homes southwest
of the city of San Marcos. Citizens Development never obtained
building permits during construction four years ago, and at
least one of the structures was built on land owned by a homeowners
Development and the homeowners association Varadero
Maintenance Corp. have been in litigation over the
dispute since 2015. The developer said the case is whats
stopping the company from correcting the issues.
just as frustrated if not more that we cant
take it up to code, said Rob Reinhart, public relations
director for Pacifica Enterprises, a real estate investment
company that manages Citizens Development. Unfortunately,
you can stall on things with the courts, and theres
nothing we can do.
homeowners started complaining to the county in 2014, saying
the developer was encroaching on their land.
tried to stop it, said Kip McBane, an architect and
former developer who lives in the Varadero community. We
went to the county and complained while it was under construction.
And the question that we have always had is, why didnt
the county come out (with) code enforcement like they do everywhere
else and stop the construction before it was completed?
land the county says Citizens Development encroached on is
part of an open space easement a legal designation
that means the space is preserved for a specific purpose.
In this case, the easement is on Varadero property and was
kept open as agricultural land and natural habitat. The county
says the developer built a glamping tent platform and a hiking
path that crossed onto the easement.
open space borders a portion of the Lake San Marcos shore
and is only accessible by boat or a gravel path. A dock and
a pavilion are along the shore.
Development did obtain one permit for the construction it
did along the shore, but it was only for rebuilding the pavilion.
Vince Nicoletti, a deputy director of the county Planning
and Development Services Department, said the companys
renovation exceeded the scope of the permit. In addition,
the company installed unpermitted wooden platforms for the
glamping tents, Nicoletti said.
county notified Citizens Development of code violations in
2014 and ordered the tents removed, which the company did.
The company also closed off the pavilion.
all, Citizens Development has been notified four times by
the county of violations. The first warning came in March
2014, and the second two months later. Then the county issued
the first notice that it would be charging Citizens Development
civil penalties on Aug. 3, 2016. A second notice was issued
on Feb. 17, 2017. Each one was for different violations on
the property. If imposed at their highest amount, the penalties
would total $550,000.
said Citizens Development hasnt been fined because the
way the land is being used hasnt changed. The former
glamping tent structures are now picnic platforms, and the
pavilion will be restored to what was permitted originally.
going to bring the space up to the code of the existing permit,
of what it was historically. Not turn it into a different
use, Reinhart said. Were going back to a
picnic area that [residents have] enjoyed for 60 years.
declined to comment on the lawsuit, but he said the company
cant fix the violations until the lawsuit filed by Citizens
Development against the Varadero homeowners association is
say they arent opposed to the developer improving the
space, but they want some safety concerns addressed.
Georgens, who bought a home in the Varadero project when she
retired in 2012, said she is frustrated that the county and
the developer are taking years to restore the open space.
deserve to be treated fairly and honestly, and thats
really what Im asking from the county and from
Citizens Development, Georgens said.
said trespassers using the hiking path have posed safety issues.
Once, a group of young female hikers got lost on the trail
and ended up on her patio knocking on the door at night, Georgens
said the county has not intervened more because of the ongoing
litigation, and the hope that the developer and homeowners
group will reach a settlement.
goal is compliance, not necessarily citations, he said.
So up to this point weve heard both sides routinely
saying that they are working actively together to try to find
lawsuit by Citizens Development claims Varadero is violating
the terms of a land lease between the two entities by not
cooperating with the developers attempts to resolve
September, the case was taken out of court in favor of arbitration.
Everett DeLano, Varaderos lawyer, said he became aware
of a potential conflict of interest in November between the
arbitrator and one of the lawyers for Citizens Development.
DeLano said he requested a new arbitrator on Nov. 28, and
the case has stalled since then.
Whitton, the lawyer for Citizens Development, declined inewsources
request to comment on the lawsuit.