City council candidate Michael Odegaard should be happy that local activist Nadine Scott sued a developer who wanted to build the “prison hotel” development in his neighborhood. Scott sued in June over plans to build a 99-room, five-story project called Fairfield Inn and Suites at Oceanside Boulevard on a sloping ridge west of I-5 on Oceanside Boulevard and Vine Street that was approved by the Oceanside Council May 9.
Every single neighbor (about 50) who spoke out against the proposal at City Council said the hotel was too ugly, out of place, and would ruin the neighborhood with too much traffic and an ugly, sterile façade including a 17-foot wall. Some 31,000 cubic yards of native hillside would have to be removed to accommodate the 55,167-square-foot hotel.
Scott’s writ of mandate lawsuit was filed officially on behalf of two groups, Oceanside Neighborhood Alliance and Friends of Loma Alta Creek. The legal work was handled by Escondido-based attorney Everett Delano who admitted that Scott was his major contact with regards to those two groups but declined to name any other group members.
The lawsuit says it was filed to save Oceanside from “environmental impacts,” “incompatible development” and to “protect the environment, community and aesthetics in and around the…vicinity.”
That lawsuit was just settled by Delano under the direction of Scott. That settlement now allows the Fairfield Inn project to proceed.
The law firm Delano & Delano took on both the proposed Gregory Canyon landfill near Pala and the Agua Hedionda Lagoon project in Carlsbad. Both projects collapsed. This time Delano's legal impact is different.
The fact is, the changes to the Fairfield Inn project that Scott and Delano signed off on make little difference. City Attorney John Mullen says that the settlement only resulted in “minor changes” to the original plan and that there are no changes to the amount of rooms or height of the project.
The City of Oceanside staff or elected officials were not involved in the Fairfield Inn lawsuit settlement.
There was a financial payout that went to Scott and Delano but Delano says that amount is a confidential amount which he does not have to disclose.
Attempts to reach Scott via email were not successful. Attempts to find out more about the two groups that filed the lawsuit were futile. Neither Oceanside Neighborhood Alliance or Friends of Loma Alta Creek are legal non-profits. Oceanside Neighborhood Alliance has no internet presence at all. The Friends of Loma Alta Creek has a website with just a front page that lists campaigns it was involved in 2006 and 2009.
“Nadine is an opportunist who doesn’t give a damn about this neighborhood,” says Michael Odegaard whose family owns an apartment complex on Vine Street near the development. “This is what happens when you let lawyers and developers come in and ruin your neighborhood.”
Odegaard ran for city Council in District 1 last November, losing to incumbent Esther Sanchez. He says Sanchez took advantage of his neighborhood before. “Esther supported the Tides complex [now under construction] in our neighborhood which is 58 townhomes slammed up against one another.” Odegarrd says that based on the city’s master plan his neighborhood should have gotten a local park out of the Tides deal. “Instead, Esther saw to it so that the fees the developer paid to the city instead of building the park here went to build a park in Esther’s [Eastside] neighborhood. Everybody is ripping off our neighborhood. We’re not being listened to.”
Delano says the money he or Scott received was not the point. “This case was never about money,” he maintains. But since there were no changes to the number of rooms or the height of the Fairfield Inn project, what was the point, I asked? “”You will have to look at the new plans and see for yourself.” He would not spell out any changes agreed on by Scott and her groups that actually made the plan better for the neighborhood.
Delano says there are other members of those two groups beside Scott. But he says even if this case would have gone to trial, he could not divulge who they are. Delano corrected me when I asked about keeping details secret since this was a public project that involved the city of Oceanside. “These items are confidential, not secret.”
I noted to Delano that he was involved in a similar lawsuit involving the Villa Astoria senior community development near Oceanside's Mission San Luis Rey, and that that lawsuit brought about no major changes to the plans. “I understood there were several changes,” he said without elaborating. “I understand there were funds made available to provide for emergency services.”
One local close to the Villa Astoria development said that the Scott/Delano team accepted a $100,000 settlement. But Delano says that that settlement, just like the Fairfield Inn settlement, is “confidential.”
Attempts to reach developer Oceanside Bluffs Investment LLC or representing attorney Brian Fish of San Diego were not successful.