• Letter to Editor
  • Pin it

Could a political contribution by any other name smell sweeter to San Diego Republicans?

That seems to be one of two persistent questions for Los Angeles developer Michael Schlesinger, who has been battling nearby residents over elaborate plans to convert the old Escondido Country Club into condos.

The other is about his recent spreading of chicken manure over the defunct links, causing further discomfort among the project's indignant neighbors.

As previously reported here, Schlesinger's development entity, Stuck in the Rough, LLC got a warning letter from the California Fair Political Practices Commission last month for failing to identify itself as the true source of $37,000 it had given to the GOP Lincoln Club and the county Republican party.

The money had falsely been reported by both the Lincoln Club and the Republicans as originating with Touchstone Golf, a Texas-based course-management outfit.

A major portion of the funds was spent by the Lincoln Club on mailers that helped destroy the mayoral hopes of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher and his employer Qualcomm, founded by La Jolla Democratic billionaire and Hillary Clinton–backer Irwin Jacobs.

The club’s take-no-prisoners political operation is widely seen as opening the way for the election of new Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Judging by recent developments, Schlesinger is far from done with name-changing and big-money campaign-giving.

As reported in U-T San Diego, Stuck in the Rough stands accused by neighbors of “creating a public nuisance by spreading chicken manure over several dying fairways, causing a stench that residents and an inspector described as horrible."

The paper went on to report that "several residents said this week they believe the stinky manure was spread as payback," an allegation the developer denied, asserting it had "never been fined or reprimanded in any way by any authority or city or state department.”

Besides the raging smell war, the Beverly Hills–based Schlesinger has taken his battle to court, filing a pending case against the city for illegal "taking" of the property.

Although the U-T's story refers to the course developer as Stuck in the Rough, a news release issued in September by Schlesinger's PR consultant notes that the new name for the project is "The Lakes at Escondido, LLC," an entity formed at the end of last August, as confirmed by state records.

"Nationally renowned land use attorney Michael Berger of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP has been retained as part of the owner's legal team led by Hecht Solberg," the release says. “Berger received distinction in 2014 as one of America's best lawyers."

The full name of Hecht Solberg is Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley, the Robinson in the firm's title belonging to Paul Robinson, downtown San Diego super lobbyist and a longtime Lincoln Club leader.

Besides the Escondido development, the firm's clients include billboard giant Capitol Outdoor, which wants to change the city's sign laws; the Grand Del Mar Resort, owned by U-T publisher Douglas Manchester; and Orange County's Irvine Company, a big real estate owner in both the city and county.

Whether by coincidence or not, on April 7 both the Lakes at Escondido and the Irvine Company contributed to the Republican Party of San Diego County, Irvine kicking in $15,000 and the Lakes coming up with $10,000.

Worldwide Community Forum, Inc., the firm of U-T web personality and fallen GOP San Diego mayor Roger Hedgecock, gave $2500.

  • Letter to Editor
  • Pin it


Visduh April 11, 2014 @ 7:21 a.m.

Schlesinger must be desperate. After trying to associate with some of the bigwigs in San Diego, presumably in hopes of getting his way, he's at it again. This attempt to make life miserable for the neighbors of the golf course may just further enrage them. There is absolutely no reason to "fertilize" fairways that have been allowed to die for lack of water over the past many months. He claims that the course was a money-loser and that he was suffering financial hardship, but he's found the money to fence off the course (the excuse being "trespassing" and "vandalism" to the club house) and have an attorney harass homeowners whose landscaping may have encroached a few inches or feet onto the course.

Just why he thinks that getting involved in the SD mayor's race would have some effect on Escondido is not clear. He obviously knows the difference.

A far more productive approach would have been a compromise with the homeowners, who were willing to negotiate. But his stance was that he wanted the whole loaf, and that was that. It will be most interesting to see how this plays out.


jnojr April 12, 2014 @ 2:14 p.m.

I'm sure you're right about the manure.

But the fencing would be over liability. If anyone were to just stroll on to the grounds, even break into the clubhouse, and get injured, there'd be a huge lawsuit. Especially for anything that could be deemed an "attractive nuisance".

As for "compromising"... should that "compromise" include the homeowners buying part of the property to keep as open space? The whole problem here is that those people like the open space, but they don't want to pay for it, and there is ZERO requirement that the land be kept as such. They say "promises were made", but never in a legally-binding way. And if you buy property, any restrictions that are not codified at the time of purchase and disclosed to you cannot later become your problem.

So, while I don't really think putting up a bunch of condos on what used to be the ECC is the "best" use for the land... it isn't my land to make that call. It belongs to SITR, and they have a perfect right to use it how they want.

I'll be signing the petition for them to retain their property rights.


Visduh April 12, 2014 @ 8:56 p.m.

Disagree. The whole concept of that development was that the course was a course, was a course. The use permits for all of that development were based on the uses as it started off. Literally any joker could come along, regardless of the popularity of golf, and claim that the course was no longer viable, after buying it up. You aver that the promises were in no way legally binding. The homeowners claim otherwise. I'd bet with them, not you. If Schlesinger had been willing to talk a bit, who knows what the homeowners would have accepted and paid for. There was room there for a win-win solution, and this yo-yo insisted upon his absolute "property rights", which do not exist, and no land owner has anything like a "perfect right to use it how they want." It mystifies me as to how anyone thinks that land use regulations are an abuse of power when they go back in US history to the very beginning (1620.) You make another curious claim, nonsensical, that " if you buy property, any restrictions that are not codified at the time of purchase and disclosed to you cannot later become your problem." Actually it is the buyer's burden to learn of any such restrictions. That's why we have title insurance and people who make a career of searching out land use covenants and restrictions and making up abstracts of title passage. No, jno, your understanding of common and statute real estate law are off the mark.

You may be Schlesinger's sock puppet, or maybe just a confused citizen, but his juvenile "stink them out" move, or something out of Animal House, reflects very badly upon him, Stuck, or whatever new partnership du jour name he's come up with. If anyone were to take these efforts seriously, they would have to ignore some highly unseemly behavior from a property developer. I'd not trust him to do anything right, and would advise anyone to avoid his developments.


Sign in to comment