Lawsuit challenges Escondido Country Club project approval
Harry Jones,, December 14, 2017
battle to develop the abandoned Escondido Country Club property
is heading back to court.
group of residents in the surrounding neighborhood filed a
lawsuit Thursday in Vista Superior Court challenging the projects
City Council voted 3-2 on Nov. 15 to approve a plan calling
for the construction of 380 homes on the 109-acre property
in the northwestern part of the city.
decision to sue now raises the question of whether development
company New Urban Wests project is in jeopardy.
Club owner Michael Schlesinger last month threatened to end
his relationship with New Urban West should the Escondido
Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) sue. He
said he would find another developer who could take advantage
of new state laws going into effect next year that could allow
for far more homes on the land.
did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Everett DeLano, who represents ECCHO, said the lawsuit
challenges the adequacy of the environmental report. The group
also contends the project violates Proposition S, the Growth
Management and Neighborhood Protection Act adopted by
city voters in 1998. The act requires a citywide vote of residents
for certain zoning density increases.
said the city is claiming it can avoid Prop. S because the
number of units in the plans are allowed under current zoning
law for the property.
problem with that is that Prop. S. has very specific limitations
when youre allowed to use clustering provisions, and
even staff acknowledged that the project isnt consistent
with those provisions, DeLano said.
project calls for a number of attached homes to be grouped
together. By doing so, the project could be built with a green
belt separating the existing neighborhood and the new houses.
Urban West issued a statement Thursday saying it was disappointed
with the decision to sue. It also said Schlesinger does have
the right under the terms of their agreement to end his involvement
with the company after a certain date, which they did not
is disappointing that ECCHO has decided to pursue costly and
divisive litigation instead of working to improve the neighborhood,
New Urban West Project Manger Jonathan Frankel said in the
this lawsuit has run its course, we will continue to work
with the majority of residents in the area who wish to implement
our plan, restore property values, eliminate the blight and
bring this long-suffering community back to life."
ECCHO board of directors, which has seen a shift in its makeup
recently, has been debating whether to file a lawsuit the
estimate it will cost $60,000 to $100,000 to pursue the litigation
and they know that the end result, even if a judge agrees
with certain parts of their complaint, could well be that
the same number of homes will be allowed after various measure
are taken by New Urban West and the city to address deficiencies
in the environmental report.
City Councilman John Masson, who represents the part of Escondido
where the country club is located and who voted against the
project along with Mayor Sam Abed, said Thursday it is quite
possible that after litigation, the community could still
end up with the same project.
far as Prop. S, I dont know what way that may go,
Masson added. I still think its the wrong number
of units and the wrong type of product for that space. Im
not against development. I still think we need something to
happen there, but I just dont think it fits into that
day after the council approved the project, in response to
threats of possible litigation, Schlesinger sent a news release.
have had significant interest from a variety of developers,
particularly overseas developers, who are excited about the
opportunity to utilize state density bonus legislation that
would allow for a much denser project, he said.
would welcome the opportunity to enjoy a significant economic
windfall created by this legislation and if New Urban West
is unable to close escrow due to continued litigation by ECCHO,
I will not hesitate to select a new developer with the ability
to fully exploit this updated legislation and not be tied
to a two-year-old deal based on old economics and outdated
to the lawsuit, the investigation into the cause of a fire
that destroyed the main building at the country club on Nov.
22 is still ongoing.