Save Our Neighborhood

$2,555 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 16 people in 2 months
Created November 5, 2018
CS
Connie Smeyres
on behalf of Ben Gage
For over 50 years the Escondido Country Club (ECC) operated as the social and recreational center-piece of Northwest Escondido.  With good reason, the ECC homeowners believed they would always live with green space around a golf course. Then, in late 2012 a bully from Beverly Hills came to town threatening to steal our green space and literally spread "raw chicken manure" and causing us to form ECCHO (Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization) to protect our community.

After 6 years, we have now been forced to file a lawsuit against the City of Escondido to hold its management accountable for approving a development plan that ignores zoning, environmental issues, and Prop S requirement to submit such a development to Escondido residents for public approval.  

As a result of our resistance and challenge of a defective plan and EIR in accordance with State Law (CEQA), the property owner filed a frivolous lawsuit against the 5 volunteer directors of ECCHO for $200,000,000 each. He purchased the Golf Course for $2,500,000 in 2012. These lawsuits are typical of the "dirty tricks", bulling and intimidation tactics employed by the Beverly Hills Chicken (see the cartoon below drawn by one of our supporters that depicts this greedy developer that thinks he can make hundreds of millions of dollars by destroying our community.

Please read our sad story reflected below and help us hold corrupt politicians in the pocket of developers accountable for their deeds. 

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 What happened to ECC:

·         Because of poor business practices by the former owner, a Beverly Hills real estate speculator was able to purchase the 110-acre property in a bankruptcy sale.

·         Michael Schlesinger’s ‘Stuck in the Rough’ (SITR) then claimed the business was losing money.  This lie was documented by ECCHO members.  When people called for tee times or about membership, the staff told them there weren’t any times available or they weren’t taking new members. 

·         This practice caused the financial decline of the business, which shut down the operation, not long after SITR purchased it.

·         Because we were fighting him, he then erected a cheap rent-a-fence (a spite fence) and allowed the landscape to die. A bully-strategy he has used in all his golf course acquisitions.  Yes, there are many others he’s doing this to; currently about 7 other courses.

·         All of this was part of Schlesinger’s carefully orchestrated plan made up of arrogance, deception, and his initial intention to build as many houses as possible on the 109 acres where the Escondido Country Club had successfully operated for more than 50 years.  

How this affected the residents:

 Driven by greed, for more than 6 years Schlesinger has pursued his goal of building upwards of 380 closely-packed homes on reduced size lots. His plans would double the density allowed under the 2012 Escondido General Plan.

·         Schlesinger's $2.4M investment could result in the transfer of close to $100M in property equity from the people in the community to someone from Beverly Hills.

·         That leaves many elderly homeowners holding an empty bag. Currently, California property values and the demand for new housing is skyrocketing, while our community has flatlined well below comparable North County neighborhoods.

·         Many of our older neighbors have been forced to sell at reduced prices, just when they needed their equity the most.

·         Our situation is more than a property dispute, it is a human tragedy.

·         To spite our community, SITR spread raw chicken manure all over the golf course.  When asked by reporters why he did this, he stated that it was fertilizer for the grass.  Grass that he hadn’t watered in over a year?

·         They filed a $250M frivolous lawsuit against 5 volunteer directors; he paid only $2.5M for the entire property.

·         They filed a $100M suit against the City for implementation of the initiative passed by city wide vote of 61% of voters

·         They bought City politicians to change their votes, along with the puppet developer

·         Politicians ignored Prop S which requires a public vote before proceeding.

·         The City is engaged in a cover-up by refusing to produce essential records in an on-going law suit

·         Critical environmental issues (traffic, air quality, etc.), ignored in approving the Villages Plan

·         The only recourse by the community was to file a law suit to hold the corrupt city accountable. PUBLIC CORRUPTION! OVER BUILDING!

·         Escondido Chicken Cartoon: Warning this could be coming to your neighborhood!

·         He was fined $100k by the Air Quality Control Board for the chicken manure incident

Two examples of our bewildered neighbors:

1.    We had a neighbor who volunteered to help ECCHO.  He was then sued by SITR, along with 60+ other neighbors around the course, for encroaching on SITR property.  In his case, the wall in the back of this property was 4 INCHES on the golf course. He spent $14k to move that wall those few inches – not very neighborly to make him do this.  After fighting for several years alongside ECCHO, he decided to move back east, rather than fight the Beverly Hills bully any longer.  He gave up his golf course retirement dream; selling at a reduced price.

2.    Another neighbor that was also sued for encroachment, had a more tragic outcome.  He was fighting cancer and the chicken manure forced him from his home, as he wasn’t able to breathe properly.  Rather then enjoying his final days on his patio looking over his beloved green space, he had to move from his home.

What we’ve been doing:

It turns out that our situation is the tip of the spear, and we have had to battle this assault by ourselves. Since we were his first golf property acquisition and presented Schlesinger with serious resistance, ECCHO has faced a playbook of dirty tricks and developed numerous strategies to counter the speculator's well-funded "Greedification" plans.

 We estimate SITR has spent upwards of $5M on this project while we have funded all of our resistance through private donations. So far, we have:

·         Gathered signatures for a City Council vote by an all-volunteer force, gathering the signatures in record time.

·         Received a unanimous vote by City Council to stop his efforts (3 later caved – we’re still curious why they changed their minds)

·         Defeated his bypass-the-planning-process Proposition H initiative, by a vote of 61% against his initiative, where he used paid signature gatherers. 

·         Detoured his lawsuits to 'chill' our community outreach

·         Publicized his dirty tricks and bullying tactics
 
We have suffered, but at the same time, we have learned a lot about how citizens can effectively resist community exploitation. Now, we are at a legal turning point, fighting the bully’s efforts in court.  With some recent victories, we are encouraged but we need to continue this fight. We are compelled to set a precedent for all communities that may eventually face similar challenges.   

How YOU can help: 

 All of this takes money.  We need your help!  We are in a battle with a financial Goliath and surviving to fight on will require additional funding.

·         To date, we have survived with the contributions by neighbors, most of which live on a fixed income.  We need more money for the legal challenges facing us.

·         The assault on the Escondido Country Club Community is a microcosm of golf property repurposing efforts popping up all over our Golden State, and across America.  Exploiting financially troubled golf courses is a growth industry. Is your community safe?

·         Why should you contribute?  Our community is filled with retired people who spent top-dollar for their homes, to have a peaceful retirement.  Now their equity is being stolen!

·         We can offer valuable lessons for other community leaders when they face an assault on their homeland!  We offer that advice for free to those who stand with us!

·         We need your financial support to meet our legal costs.

Schlesinger and his accomplices have now spread their property-flipping plans to at least 7 other golf course properties throughout California and Nevada, and they have their sights set on many more…that's why you should pay attention and help us out.

 Please click on the DONATE tab and donate what you can.

Please share on Facebook or Tweet to your friends and family.

THANK YOU!

For any other questions, visit our website at:

www.escondidohomeowners.org 

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$2,555 of $100,000 goal

Raised by 16 people in 2 months
Created November 5, 2018
CS
Connie Smeyres
on behalf of Ben Gage
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