LILAC HILLS: WHY PLUNK A CITY IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE?

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Originally Published on the ECOreport

By Roy L Hales

On October 14th, or possibly the 28th, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will decide if they should rip up the dreams of a rural community so a developer can get a lot of money. As County Planning commissioners Peder Norby and Michael Beck recently pointed out, if the Lilac Hills project goes forward it will destroy 13 years of work, and close to $20 million, that went into San Diego County’s General Plan.

The project spreads across 608 acres in the Valley Center area. There are currently 16 “dwelling units” and a total of  just 110 are allowed under current zoning. Accretive Investments wants to build 1,786 units over the course of a decade. This would support a larger population that the city of Del Mar. Why plunk a city in the middle of nowhere?

 Rural Values Vs Development

Lilac Hills is embroiled in a conflict between rural community values and “development.”

The project’s developer, Randy Goodson, did not return my phone call.

According to the project’s website, “Lilac Hills Ranch will be a cutting edge green community, offering the latest in green technology and building practices.  Residential and commercial design will look to incorporate solar, recycled water, rain water harvesting, onsite composting, green building practices and sustainable housing components, maximum insulation, high efficiency water and electric devices.”

Some believe their real motivation behind this project is an entirely different kind of green. According to Mark Jackson, one of the residents opposing the project, agricultural land is worth about $25,000 an acre. The value per acre can double, if you are approved to put a house on a 4 acre plot. “Nothing more than the paper, the same land.”

“If you can build urban density on it, the master developer buys land for $25,000 an acre, makes what-ever improvements are required and puts in the basic infrastructure. He has to put in the roads, the sewers, all of the utilities and whatever improvements the county forces them to do. (If you do this) it is worth between $300,000 and $400,000 an acre when you sell it to the builders, who put up the residential and commercial structures,” said Jackson.

He added, “They can make ten times the value of the farmland if the county makes the exception that will make this happen.”

There are reputedly more than a dozen projects like LiIac Hills wanting to set aside the General Plan.

Peder Norby told his fellow Commissioners that if this project proceeds will blow “an absolute hole in the General Plan that will sink the General Plan as we know it.”

Partnership With Simon Malik

Accretive’s involvement in this project goes back to 2005, at least,  when Goodson’s partner Simon Malk was Lilac Creek Estate’s “agent for service of process. Four years later, Accretive Investments LLC filed a Plan Amendment Authorization (PAA) to put “1,746 dwelling units, a school, a neighbourhood-serving commercial village center with retail uses, and an active park on 416 acres” of Lilac Hills.

Malk appears to have dropped out of the story around the time they were were turned. He is still President of the “Accretive Group,” and lists Lilac Hills Ranch as a “past project” on his website.

Goodson carried on with Accretive Investments, LLC and in 2010 the Planning Commission gave him the go ahead to submit a plan for 2010.

Enter Ranch Capital

His next close association is mentioned in some papers obtained through freedom of information. Ranch Capital “is a private equity firm …  that specializes in unique real estate investment opportunities.” Lilac Hills Ranch is listed as one of their “Pedestrian Oriented Communities Under Development.” One of the company’s founders, Lawrence S. Hershfield, met with three members of San Diego County’s Planning & Development Services, to discuss Lilac Hills Ranch’s development, on November 4, 2013. According to Ranch’s website, Goodson was their “Director of Real Estate.”and someone from Accretive Investments LLC was also present.

Though county tax records show that Ranch Capital LLC once owned land in Lilac Hills,  it exited the scene by the time Goodson signed an ownership disclosure on July 20, 2015.

Current Investors in Accretive Investments

There is only one company had more than a 10% share listed in the disclosure. LHR Investment Company, LLC,  was incorporated in Delaware on June 13, 2014 and registered in California three days later.

“The disclosure also had 59 entries with numbers like "128-280-27" and "129-010-72" representing parcel numbers and another 18 entries with the names of people with ownership interest. A comparison of those names with those from tax records reveals that there has been a turnover in ownership.”

Campaign Contributions

A couple of articles in the local media state that Accretive, and at least three of its investors, have made significant campaign contributions.

In the San Diego Reader‘s 2011 list of contributors to Republican Steve Danon’s war chest, it mentions: “pyschiatrist Steve Rahimi of Pacific Clinics, La Habra ($1000);Nena Zosa of Rio Hondo Pediatrics Associates and Noli Zosa of Rio Hondo Medical Group, Long Beach ($1000).” The Zosas were mentioned in the disclosure, but Rahimi has moved on.

According to a recent article in the Voice of San Diego, Accretive put more than $100,000 into local elections. Most of that went to the Fire Board that will have a significant voice in the approval of the project:

For the November 2014 election, the developers poured $58,800 into the three open spots on the five-person Deer Springs Fire Board, through a political action committee, Public Safety Advocates. Among the committees spending on local elections was $12,370 in support of Fire Board candidates Tom Francl, Robert Osby and Jean Slaughter. All three were elected.

In that one fire board race, the committee spent almost the same amount as the 54 candidates in all fire board elections in San Diego County that year, according to campaign disclosures. Together, all the candidates, including those in Deer Springs, raised a combined $13,166.

The two losing candidates, James Gordon and Mark Jackson, are vocal opponents of the Lilac Hills project. They didnt receive any financial help from the PAC.

Now that the fate of their project is about to be decided by the County Board of Supervisors, it is important to note that Accretive gave $40,000 to a political action committee that supports County Supervisor Bill Horn. Lilac Hills also hired Chris Brown, who worked in Horn’s office more than a decade ago, as their lobbyist. Even if Horn is totally innocent, there could be a perceived conflict he takes part in any approval of the project.

Setting Aside the General Plan

One of the biggest hurdles Lilac Hills faced was getting the Planning Commissions recommendation that the County set aside its own General Plan.

“The General Plan said you should put developments like Lilac Hills in areas where there is infrastructure: roads, sewer, water, ect. It identified smart growth areas and this project is so far outside of smart growth areas … There is no transit. There is no place to get reasonable services,” explained Jackson.

There is little industry, which means that people living in Lilac Hills would have to commute to work on the I-5. This adds up to increased  gridlock and higher greenhouse gas emissions from all those cars on the highway.

“It is not making things any better, its’ making things worse,” said Jackson.

Jackson said the county commissioners added a lot of conditions “that cloud the project’s financial viability” before they voted 4-3 to recommend it.

   •     The developers were trying to shove everyone onto existing roads, now they have to build new ones.

   •     They have to build a major school.

   •     “This is a very high wildfire risk area,” and Lilac Hills will have to pay for a fire station manned by three people.

   •     Jackson said that Accretive’s own studies reveal that an evacuation of Lilac Hills Ranch would take more than two hours.

   •     Lilac Hills promised to institute water conservation measures and also that 30% of their water would be recycled. The problem, according to Jackson, is  that the existing recycling plant would need a major upgrade that could take up to five years and cost (possibly taking five years to build that could cost $40 million and take five years to complete.

“Let’s stick to the plan and reject Lilac Hills Ranch. If the Supervisors allow this project to move forward by approving a General Plan Amendment, there are plenty more offenders waiting in the wings. The Supervisors should reject not only Lilac Hills Ranch but also Warner Ranch, Newland Sierra, San Marcos Highlands, Valiano and any other proposed development that plops down urban developments in remote locations,” said Jackson.

Before the County Board

The County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote on this project on October 14.

According to the Valley Road Runner, "Since it is very likely that two supervisors, Bill Horn and Greg Cox, favor the project and two, Dianne Jacob and Dave Roberts, don't, its fate could very well rest with one member of the board, Ron Roberts." 

The problem with this equation is that a political action committee that supports County Supervisor Bill Horn, whose district the project is in,  has received $40,000 in campaign contributions from Accretive interests backing the project. He should not be allowed to vote.

Comments

Lilac Hills: Politicians Against the Common Man

Too many properties, all counties sell at low prices to developer-politician "scammers." The outcome, expensive housing, nothing for the ordinary man, traffic congestion, no parking, & excessive air pollution. Today, the "Lilac Fire" broke out, ravaged the nearby San Luis Rey Downs Training Center. Barns burned, many horses died a tragic death, others running in panic. Owners/Rescuers were not allowed in by Authorities to save these poor creatures. The County saves Magic Mountain every time L.A. bursts into flames. Are they allowing Lilac Hills and surroundings to burn in order to open the door for these crooked real estate dealers? Just Saying?!!

Lilac Hills

The "in favor" of group "Save the Downs" aka "Save the Bonsall Golf Course" has been getting big promised favors from the Developer, one of those being the promise to assist with funding the purchase and rebuilding of the Golf Course they have been trying to save for their community with fees from collected from Lilac Hills. The questions is why should, or would the potential homeowners pay for a Golf Course that is not in their community and located all the way across the 15 freeway? Here is their proposed plan taken from their blog Proposed Community Plan to keep the Golf Course POSTED BY CRYSTAL GLEN 29SC ON JUNE 13, 2014 June 6th 2014 Save the Downs “Community Plan” Premise: The San Luis Rey Downs Golf (SLRD) course sells 50,000 rounds of golf annually The SLRD has water rights and the existing wells to the land it owns. The SLRD course has an historic and Iconic history Community Solution The community forms an assessment district that includes Lilac Rd. and Camino Del Rey, east to Highway 15 and west, including Old River Road to the Vista City Boundary. The district will include all the land south of the San Luis Rey River and on 15 will include the development known as Lilac Hills Ranch (a billion dollar development by the developer of San Elijo Hills in San Marcos) The assessment district shall provide the property tax base upon which the community shall finance a bond issue that will raise between $5,000,000 to $8,000,000 for the purpose of: Purchasing the golf course known as SLRD including the club house, restaurant and motel Renovating the existing structures to include, restaurant area, club house area, meeting rooms for community use, 20 motel units and 20 timeshare units. Golf course improvements, including irrigation, new plantings and increased watering. Buying the Golf course by the assessment district and the County of San Diego for $7,200,000. The community will approach the County of San Diego to assist in the purchase of the golf course lands that will continue to be designated as open space, but will be leased to the assessment district to be operated as a golf course for an annual token fee. The assessment district will assume liability and cost of operation and hold the County harmless for expenses and liabilities arising from the operation of the golf course. Existing open space, trails and access will remain open to the public for riding, running and walking where permitted. This community plan is a commitment by this assessment district to keep this area known as SLRD as dedicated open space in perpetuity. Property owners of the assessment district will have special privileges and pricing in connection with the cost of playing golf, meeting room costs and other activities at the golf course. The course shall be a public course, but will also have a special membership arrangement with special privileges and pricing associated with each membership. This special membership will be at a monthly membership fee which is, in addition to services purchased, which include, golf, food, beverages and other services provided. There will be special arrangements for educational activities for the Bonsall Unified School District, as well as other educational institutions, including other High Schools and Colleges. Includes Golfing and instruction Includes Tennis and instruction The assessment district will complete two studies to provide the economic basis and viability of this community plan. Economic study of the viability of the assessment district repaying the bond issued for the plan. Golf Course development study to address the viability of the course and hospitality business proposed. Another opportunity that shall be explored is the opportunity that can be generated by a revenue sharing agreement with a golf course developer (i.e. Landmark Golf) with successful experience in golf course management, coupled with experience in the hospitality business. Since the economic crisis and the following down turn in 2008-2010 hospitality and golf course investments have become an increasingly viable economic reality, as evidenced with increasing occupancy rates, increased restaurant business successes and new golf course investments. Warner Springs, Vista Valley Country Club and the sale of SCGA in Murrieta are a few local examples of the improving economic trends. Mitigation banks are normally in isolated areas where the property has no other viable use. In those cases, the community has no objection. This Mitigation bank is proposed to be right in the middle of an existing development. The proposal has many conflicts with recreational use, existing structures and potential hazards to habitat, schools and residential homes. In stark contrast to the economic downturn from 2008-2010; the continued improvement of the local economy, higher occupancy rates, new residential construction and new planned communities, it makes no sense to create a mitigation bank that will have no economic benefit to the Bonsall Community. This course could never be duplicated ever again and has such potential waiting for a community with a vision to renovate an Iconic and historical center into a viable economic focal point that will generate tourism, recreation, open space, tax dollars, increased property values and provide a buffer from wild fires that are a constant danger for our community. A Win-Win for the Community of Bonsall, the County of San Diego and the Owners of the SLRD Respectfully submitted by the Save the Downs Executive Officers Jon Frandell, Jeri Walz, Jerry Tomaz, Deb Howard and Janine Hogg