Escondido Arch’s mystery $1 million donor?

Escondido's new welcome arch on the side of the road last week waiting to be installed and lit during a March 12, 2020 dusk ceremony. But who showed them the money to do it?/KGTV screenshot

A giant $1 million arch targeted to loom large over Grand Avenue just east of Centre City Parkway got a giant donation from a mystery donor.

What gives?

The heck with downtown homelessness, health care and community wellness projects.  The Escondido Community Foundation (ECF) under the auspices of the San Diego Foundation has been trying for several years for some reason to spend $1 million to build a so-called “Giving Arch” on Grand Avenue.

This $1 million project courtesy of the mystery donor is no small drop in the giving bucket either. It represents nearly 20 percent of all money raised by the Escondido Foundation since its inception in 2004.

“ECF has awarded $2.4 million in grants to 48 nonprofit organizations serving the community of Escondido and has built a $1.5 million endowment which will provide for community needs in perpetuity,” said Jacquie Skay, ECF Board chairperson.

“The Giving Arch pays homage to the spirit of what we do at the Escondido Community Foundation and the anonymous donor who entrusted us with carrying out a project like this that fosters community pride and identity,” said Lisa Ruder, an ECF board member in announcing a March 12 event culminating in a dusk-time (about 6 p.m.) ceremonial lighting of the 40-foot-by-108-foot structure that says “Escondido” alongside a dome.

And that’s not gaslighting. Although one might ask, what’s the point.

Under “Why” in the event announcement, the San Diego Foundation led with “The Giving Arch complements ECF’s past two grant cycles, which invested in programs and projects that focused on enhancing the Escondido community. ECF was founded to provide community members a vehicle to increase effective and responsible philanthropy in Escondido.”

The mystery donor conveniently donated pretty much the entire project cost. Arch design was billed at $150,000. Construction was billed at $850,000.

Replying to questions about the project, Justin Nunez, San Diego Foundation director of communications, said, “The Escondido Community Foundation Special Projects Committee interviewed potential companies to build the arch and selected Federal Heath, the same company that installed the Carlsbad community sign.”

Notwithstanding the group’s grants, the spirit of the arch seems to be its own reward. In publicizing the March 12 lighting event scheduled to feature “local high school bands, mariachis, ballet folklorico and other entertainment,” publicists said, “The gift is thanks to an anonymous gift from an Escondido resident, as well as other generous community donors. The design of The Giving Arch reflects the architectural lines of Escondido City Hall and the philanthropic spirit of the community and will welcome both residents and visitors to Escondido.”

Since this is such a great project, one might ask why the secrecy concerning the mystery donor? Humility aside, why not some transparency so we know who gave the money and why.

Nunez, the Foundation spokesman, wouldn’t say boo as to who. “Per our legal policies,” he said, “we aren’t allowed to give out the name of the donor who has asked to remain anonymous.”

Pressed again in a subsequent communication, Nunez provided a March 12 update teaser:

“It’s worth noting that many other individuals and organizations have helped fund the project as well, in addition to the anonymous donor. I just wanted to mention that since this was a large community initiative led by the Escondido Community Foundation,” Nunez said.

“With that said,” Nunez continued, “the donor who gave a significant amount is a humble person and wished to remain anonymous, at least until the Lighting Ceremony. At the March 12 event, the Escondido Community Foundation will recognize the donor and all the others who contributed.”

OK. Let’s see who shows up March 12 and, hopefully, owns up. Maybe they’ll kick in another million dollars for something actually useful, like providing services and mental health help for downtown’s numerous destitute and homeless people.

2 Comments on "Escondido Arch’s mystery $1 million donor?"

  1. Maybe the city should look into fixing the roads or supporting small business downtown. If the city was to give each business 50K to improve their storefronts we would see more of an impact yet they waste 1M on a sign that will do nothing in return.

  2. Stupid sign. For a city that did nothing to help my husband and myself when we went to code informent with a apartment problem that caused us to lose everything. We were told to go to San Diego not your problem. Wall heater installed wrong filled us with fiberglass! You suck!

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