Following an enthusiastic kick-off on May 11, a petition drive by the Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization (ECCHO) gathered 9360 signatures for its Citizens’ Property Rights Initiative and delivered the petition to Escondido City Hall on July 10.
The goal of the initiative is to thwart the plans of the current owner, Stuck in the Rough, to build 450 homes on the 100-acre property, the former Escondido Country Club.
At City Hall on July 10, in front of a festive crowd of about 100 volunteers and supporters, ECCHO board president Jerry Swadley said, “The original developer was allowed to build extra homes on smaller lots in return for providing a golf course with its green open space. Through this initiative, we are just asking that the bargain be upheld and we get what we paid for, which is a neighborhood centered around green open space…. Stuck in the Rough bought a golf course. It has the right to operate a golf course. If it doesn’t want to, sell it.”
In his remarks to supporters, country-club boardmember Jim Ahler said, “This kind of participation from a volunteer organization is unheard of. If adopted, this is your law. This is an exercise in direct democracy. You should all be congratulated!”
Once submitted to Escondido city clerk Diane Halverson, the petition will make a 21-mile drive south to the Registrar of Voters office in Kearny Mesa for signature vetting. To count toward the minimum 5956 signatures required to put the petition on the ballot, each signer must be a registered voter and reside in the City of Escondido. The Registrar of Voters has 30 business days to submit their count of valid signatures to the City of Escondido for further action.
Once the initiative is validated, the city council will then have three options: (1) Pass the ordinance as written in the petition, (2) put the ordinance to a vote in the next general election in November 2014, or (3) order a report to determine effects of the proposed ordinance prior to acting on option 1 or 2.
In a later statement, Ahler said, “We now pass the torch to the mayor and Escondido City Council, and we are confident that they will take the next appropriate step to preserve this iconic Escondido neighborhood and they will do so promptly. There is no need for a public vote on this issue.”
On June 27, Stuck in the Rough filed a lawsuit to invalidate the initiative. The company named both ECCHO and the City of Escondido and claimed the initiative was illegal and that no signatures should be validated.
When asked what effect the lawsuit would have on the initiative, Swadley said, “The city clerk is following the law and the office she was elected to, which says that when you receive a petition, you get them [signatures] and you count them. Until somebody tells her. ‘No, don’t do it,’ they will go forward.”
City Councilmember Ed Gallo stated that the city has no comment regarding the lawsuit at this time.
Stuck in the Rough, LLC could not be contacted for comment.