ESCONDIDO — Last week the saga between the city and Michael Schlesinger went to a new level when the city filed 12 misdemeanor counts against the developer.
The charges were filed in Vista Superior Court and Schlesinger, who is the owner of Stuck in the Rough, LLC, must appear March 1 to respond to the municipal code violation allegations. He does not face any jail time, but could face fines.
Two of the charges are in relation to a Nov. 22, 2017, fire that destroyed the country club.
The Escondido Fire Department also responded to calls of a fire at the club on Oct. 8 and 25, 2017, according to City Attorney Michael McGuinness.
The city alleges on Dec. 7, 2017, and again on Jan. 10, about two weeks later, debris and rubbish still lay on the property along with a fire-damaged and collapsed building.
The other charges accuse Schlesinger of not maintaining the property as he allegedly allowed broken windows and doors; broken, cracked or defective walls, fences, patios and driveways; graffiti and an unsecure gate on a property with a pool.
“The City has repeatedly received complaints regarding the dilapidated, unsecured and vandalized buildings, trespassers, overgrown weeds, dead trees, graffiti, broken fences, broken windows, polluted ponds and similar property maintenance issues associated with the abandoned golf course,” McGuinness said. “Since April 2013, the city’s Fire and Police departments have responded to calls for service to the property at least 78 times. Twenty of those calls for service specifically involved criminal activity at the clubhouse. Since May 2013, the city has issued to Stuck in the Rough Notices of Violation … more than 20 times.”
Schlesinger’s attorney, Ronald Richards, slammed the city for “an appalling abuse of discretion.”
“The Deputy City Attorney is aware that the entity is managed by professional managers and that Mr. Schlesinger’s addition as a co-defendant with the entity is nothing more than a crude publicity stunt,” he said. “Besides lacking any criminal intent whatsoever, Mr. Schlesinger was never put on notice that this matter was remotely close to escalating to this level. The muni (sic) code ordinance violation complaint filing represents a poor use of City resources and is the epitome of a prosecutorial overreach simply designed to further a personal agenda at the expense of my client and its manager.”
Schlesinger and the city have had a combative relationship for years stemming from his actions, along with the city’s, regarding the country club. Schlesinger originally planned to develop the property with 600 homes in 2012, but ran into fierce resident opposition, with which the city sided.
Schlesinger scaled back to the project to 270 residences, but the Escondido Country Club Homeowner asked the council to declare the golf course open space. Once they did, Schlesinger sued the city and a court ruled in his favor, and the settlement in 2015 had Schlesinger’s company withdraw any opportunity of being the applicant.
So, the city and Schlesinger agreed New Urban West would be the developer, although Schlesinger still maintained ownership.
Schlesinger was also fined $100,000 in 2014 by the San Diego Air Pollution Control District for dumping five tons of chicken manure on the course. The city also filed a Certificate of Public Nuisance with the county recorder in 2016, issued a $100 administrative fine in 2016 and issued a Notice and Order to Abate in 2017.