Usually when looking to get approval for a large development, a developer or property owner might work with a community – or at least have the pretense of doing so. That is not the case in Escondido and Poway, where the owner of a pair of golf courses says he could force worse alternatives if his projects aren’t approved.

Michael Schlesinger owns the Escondido Country Club and the Stoneridge Country Club in Poway, and wants to develop the site in Escondido with nearly 400 homes, and rezone a portion of the course in Poway for 180 condos.

The Union-Tribune reports this week that ahead of a City Council vote on the Escondido project, Schlesinger says if the Council doesn’t approve his project, he might use the state’s density bonus law to get around the city’s restrictions and build as many as 800 homes on the site.

The density bonus law allows developers to exceed some local restrictions on development – like density, height or parking requirements – to an extent, if they set aside a certain amount of units for affordable housing, and if the land is already zoned for residential use. It’s been a sore subject in areas like Encinitas, where the city has fought multiple lawsuits over its interpretation of the state’s regulations.

Escondido Country Club covers about 115 acres, according to the city’s parcel maps, and is zoned for 7,000 square-foot lots – the equivalent of about six units per acre.

The site has had a messy history since Schlesinger purchased it. Originally he proposed 600 units, but a citizen’s initiative – with the City Council’s approval – got the land reclassified as open space. Schlesinger then dumped tons of chicken poop on the fairway, causing a foul fowl odor that lasted a month.

In 2014, he got a measure on the ballot to build 420 homes, and given the history there, voters unsurprisingly rejected it. Then in 2015, a judge restored the land’s residential zoning, saying the initiative that classified the land open space amounted to “taking” his property.

Schlesinger’s plan to build 392 homes is just his latest proposal, and ahead of its approval by the City Council, Escondido Mayor Sam Abed told the Union-Tribune that Schlesinger’s threat of 800 homes isn’t credible.

The project in Poway, meanwhile, is headed to a special election this fall to see if a portion of the course can be rezoned for residential use.

That’s a bit of a long-shot considering the failure of other projects at the ballot box – including Schlesinger’s 2014 attempt in Escondido – but a spokeswoman for Schlesinger said without voter approval to develop part of the green, he would be unable to afford to keep the course operating.

If voters don’t approve it, she said, they can expect to see an overgrown, brown, fenced eyesore.

San Marcos Unified Tries to Keep Up With City’s Growth

As San Marcos grows by leaps and bounds, so too does the San Marcos Unified School District.

Maya Srikrishnan writes that San Marcos Unified is facing a rare problem among school districts – booming enrollment – and is trying to be proactive about the city’s turbulent growth.

Between 1990 and 2010, the city’s population nearly doubled, and has grown nearly 10 percent in the last seven years.

That means new schools and renovating existing ones, but district officials say they also have to be careful not to take action for growth that doesn’t happen, like when developments fall through.

“We’re trying to be proactive, but because of how the development world works, we have to be a little bit reactive,” Assistant Superintendent Mark Schiel said. “We don’t want to have a school built and then sit empty.”

Data Shows Minorities Are Stopped Disproportionately by Sheriff’s Deputies

Data released on traffic stops by the San Diego Police Department and the county’s Sheriff’s Department, which provides law enforcement across much of North County, show that officers stopped black and Hispanic drivers at a higher rate than their share of the population.

The information was gathered over a two-week period by the departments, ahead of state requirements to collect similar data to identify and deter racial profiling, Ashly McGlone reports.

Of 322 stops reported to the state attorney general, 39 percent involved blacks and Hispanics, who make up 31 percent of the population in all areas where the sheriff provides law enforcement.

The data can be problematic – some say it’s not the best tool for tracking police bias, and officers mark the race they perceive the person stopped belongs to. Sometimes officers marked multiple races for a person, McGlone noted.

A Sheriff’s Department spokesman told McGlone the data sample was too small to derive any conclusions from; he said the department did not have any wider data sets it could provide.

Also in the News

• Veterans Affairs is ending exams for disability claims at their Oceanside clinic, and veterans will have to travel to San Diego to complete future claims. (Union-Tribune)

• A group of Vista-based businesses will pay $2.5 million to settle a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that they scammed consumers with golf and cooking products. (Union-Tribune)

• Parents are floating the idea of recalling some members of the San Dieguito Union High School District. (The Coast News)

• A report into claims of misconduct and misuse of public funds that resulted in the firing of Del Mar’s head of Community Development Services has only exacerbated tension in the community. (The Coast News)

• Spending a solitary night during this summer’s meteor shower at Palomar Mountain. (Union-Tribune)

• Vistans will vote on an initiative to allow commercial marijuana in their city, but not until the November 2018 election. (Union-Tribune)

• Despite spending the least per person on art in the county, Oceanside is launching an effort to find a future for art programs and funding. (Union-Tribune)

• Unlike its North County neighbors, Solana Beach will continue its red-light camera program. (The Coast News)

• Plans are out for the bluff-top resort in Del Mar. (The Coast News)

Ruarri Serpa

Ruarri Serpa is a freelance writer in Oceanside. Email him at and find him on Twitter at @RuarriS.

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