Thursday, July 30, 2009 | I congratulate Olga Diaz for changing the makeup of the Escondido City Council. However, as a homeowner in the city, I understand the concerns of my established neighbors about the spread of urban blight.

My Oak Hill neighborhood has changed drastically in the 14 years since I bought my home. From my front yard, I can see a half-dozen homes that have been foreclosed upon in the past 18 months. Toward the end of the last real estate boom, those houses were selling for $500,000. Today, they are going at auction for less that $200.000.

Two years ago, generally, my older white neighbors were cashing in and leaving the city, and the buyers appeared to be younger and Latino. Often, it appeared that more than two wage-earners were moving into the homes, based on my observations of the number of automobiles parked in the driveway and street and the number of adults routinely going in and out of the homes.

Anyone could do the math on what a house payment for a $500,000 home would be, and I was not alone in wondering how any two adults could make those payments without having taken out an adjustable rate mortgage. To me and many others it was an obvious ticking time bomb.

The bomb exploded about two years ago and many of my new neighbors have lost their homes since. Subsequently, neighborhood houses have stood vacant, driving down my property’s value and attracting the kind of trouble seen in Detroit’s decaying neighborhoods. Making matters worse for me, the city had expanded the boundaries on the part of Escondido covered by its gang injunction to within one block of Oak Hill. Gangsters can read a map.

In the past two years, there has been a big meth and weapons bust across the street from my home in what had recently become a rental property, and a marijuana growing operation was recently shut down by police in flak jackets and carrying automatic rifles just up the street.

My new neighbors’ adolescent children flash gang signs to passing automobiles, and there is increasing litter and graffiti in the streets. My two older children attended the local public elementary school, but gang activity and plummeting test scores have encouraged me to put my youngest child in a private school.

So, here’s my question: On that anti-immigrant council majority, how many were taking campaign donations from the folks making a killing selling the homes and adjustable rate mortgages in my neighborhood and throughout Escondido as the housing bubble expanded? Because, to my way of thinking, much of our city’s blight was a result of banks and mortgage companies putting folks in homes they clearly could not afford, and the politicians who turned a blind eye to the obvious consequences of such irresponsible stewardship.

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