A Blue View for Escondido: Beware of developers bearing gifts of golf courses

Ready Creek Golf Course

So, it seems the Escondido Country Club saga has a new chapter, with New Urban West the protagonist who will come to the aide of the golf course in distress.

Last October the City Council had settled their lawsuit with Stuck in the Rough (SITR). Their settlement included the provision that while SITR would remain the owner of the golf course, another developer “will act as the lead representative on any future development application for the former Country Club property and to accept proposals for development from the surrounding community.”

(I wrote about that meeting: https://ablueviewescondido.com/2015/10/07/ecchos-in-the-council-chamber/ )

The Escondido Country Club debacle isn’t the first time residents became upset by the closing of a golf course.

Back in the 1980’s, there was a golf course by the intersection of Rincon and Ash called Osbrink’s. In the words of someone who made their first eagle on the course, it was “[p]ossibly the worst-designed and maintained executive-length course in the history of golf, but what do you want for $5?” http://www.4gea.com/forum/lmessages.php?webtag=GEAFORUM&msg=30220.47

Regardless of its shortcomings, Osbrink’s was very popular with seniors and students. The privately owned course was eventually developed into residential housing. Osbrinks’ patrons begged the city council, at the time, to buy the course to keep it open.

That didn’t happen, but there was a vague promise made to Osbrink’s patrons that the city would eventually build a public golf course in the northeast of the city. Never happened.

Then, in September of 2000, the City of Escondido approved a Development Agreement with Ironwood at Escondido L.L.C. for development of Brookside. (New Urban West [NUW] was the managing member for Ironwood.) The copy of that agreement is not available on line, but I was able to receive it through a request for public records.

It makes for some interesting reading.

Article I, “Recitals”, section 3 “Intent of Parties” (a) (1) “Providing the city and the community with a public eighteen-hole executive golf course that will be owned by the City, (ii) with flood control facilities that will help alleviate severe periodic flooding conditions along North Broadway and Jesmond Dene Road, (iii) with habitat protection and mitigation areas including buffered, enhanced, revegetate and maintained wetland areas in and directly adjacent to Reidy Creek and (iv)with roadway improvement to the north half of Rincon Avenue, including curb, gutter, sidewalk, equestrian trail, and landscaped parkway…”

Curbs, gutters, sidewalks, equestrian trails and landscaped parkway were also to be constructed for the south half of North Avenue, east half of North Broadway, and Cleveland Avenue around the proposed development.

Sounds like a wonderful deal for the City until you look at who’s paying for what.

While NUW was “contributing” 32 acres to the “golf facilities”, designing and building a clubhouse “not to exceed 2,000-square-feet,” rough-grade the total area for the golf course and build a fence between the golf course and their housing development; the city was to pay for the design and building of the golf course, and the storage and maintenance buildings.

The city reimbursed NUW for all their costs building the detention basin, habitat restoration, and culverts under North Broadway. The city shared the cost of many of the other flood control measures. NUW did construct sidewalks and equestrian trails, if you can consider trails that are less than three-foot wide, to be equestrian trails—goat trails would be more descriptive.

And so, the gated, 222-home Brookside Community was built.

In 2001, the City Council voted to float a $6.3 million bond to build the Reidy Creek Golf Course. The City has spent hundreds of thousands a year to service that bond, and in 2013 refinanced $4.83 million to pay off the bond and secure new bonds.

The cost to the city for that bond service in the 2013/14 budget was $360K. http://escondido2014.com/2013/12/09/clarifying-the-facts-on-reidy-creek-golf-course/

When the Council approved the bond in 2001, they anticipated that revenue from the new course would pay both the operating costs and the service of the bond debt. By 2004, it was apparent that would not be the case. Not only did the city pay $415K to service the bond in 2004, but $120K to cover operating expenses as well. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2004/jun/20/city-owned-reidy-creek-golf-course-has-tough/all/?print

There has not been one year since its construction that the Reidy Creek golf course revenue has done more than just about cover its operating expenses. Hopefully the current council will be aware of this history they are reminded of every time they approve budgets that cover the cost the golf course bond, and will beware of NUW bearing gifts of golf courses.

But, NUW has some very persuasive sales people, and who knows how attractive they can make their version of a Trojan horse.

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