Saturday mornings were usually quiet affairs at the Escondido home of Gary Johnson, board member of Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization. However, Saturday morning, May 11, was different.
At 9:00 a.m., about 200 Escondido Country Club area residents–turned–community activists gathered at the Johnson residence to kick off the next phase of the battle to save Escondido Country Club’s golf course from being developed into houses and condos.
The activist/volunteers were there to organize a petition drive to gather at least 6000 Escondido voters' signatures. The intent is to prompt a city council measure or ballot measure that would restrict the use of Escondido Country Club property to either green space, golf course, or both. Many volunteers will knock on doors throughout the community; others will set up petition sites at local intersections and in front of businesses.
Homeowners organization board member Jim Ahler said that although they have six months to gather the necessary 6000 signatures to create a ballot measure, he thinks they could reach that goal in two to three months.
“All these people showed up to save their neighborhood," said Ahler. "This is fantastic. Here we are under the First Amendment, assembling, speaking our mind, and then going out to meet members of the community and participate in direct democracy. It’s an awesome responsibility and a great opportunity.”
Escondido City Council member Olga Diaz was on hand and spoke to the group. “I’m really here to be nosy. I needed to see this for myself. I’m always excited when people notice that they have rights and that they can speak their minds. It makes me proud to see civic activism.”
To address the role of the city council in this turf war, Diaz stated, “You know the city doesn’t own the property. Many members of the city council have been distant because we really don’t know how to intervene. We’re waiting for some direction, some clear opportunity to be fair to everybody involved.”
Concerning the country club area and the general plan, Diaz said, “There’s a lot of very complicated material involved with property, with ownership, the general plan. I can tell you quite honestly we didn’t discuss this part of town as part of the last general plan review because in everybody’s mind this area was already built out. So, you’re forcing us to double back.”
Stuck in the Rough, LLC, a Beverly Hills–based corporation, purchased Escondido Country Club out of bankruptcy in December 2012. Although they have not yet made any applications to the City of Escondido, their publicly declared intention is to develop the country-club acreage into a housing development.