Since the Escondido City Council passed the citizen-generated initiative on August 14, 2013, preventing development of the former Escondido Country Club property, the land-use battle moved into the court system for final resolution. But in the meantime...
In early October, in response to minor vandalism damage to the former clubhouse area and numerous perceived trespassing infractions, property owner Stuck in the Rough erected a six-foot-tall chain-link fence around the perimeter of the 110-acre property.
Around the same time the fence was being constructed, Stuck in the Rough commissioned an engineering survey to exactly define the property’s boundaries. The survey results allegedly found that numerous homeowners had walls or landscaping that encroached onto former golf-course property.
The company then sent letters through their attorney to about 64 residents who had property adjacent to its property, threatening legal action if the encroachments were not removed within one week of the date of the letter.
In the letter, the company threatened to cloud the titles of homeowners, possibly preventing sale of their home, if not immediately removed. The deadline given to homeowners was in some cases before they received the letter.
Many of the encroachments were small borders or walls that allegedly encroached only a few inches or a few feet. Richard Sheeders, a 93-year-old WWII vet, was told that his four-inch-wide embedded concrete garden divider extended onto the company's property by about a foot.
“Many years ago, I asked the country club if I could place the divider there,” said Sheeders. “They said they had no problem and that it wasn’t on golf-course property, so I put it in. After I got the recent letter from the lawyers, I had it taken out,” he stated.
Jacqueline Vinaccia, a partner of Lounsbery Ferguson Altona & Peak, LLP, represents several homeowners in this encroachment action. She stated that Stuck in the Rough recently engaged the law office of Ronald Richards (located in Beverly Hills, where Stuck in the Rough is based) to pursue the property-encroachment remedies.
The detailed biography on Richards’s website claimed that in 1999 Richards successfully defended numerous date-rape and drug cases. “In 2010, Mr. Richards started off the year getting dismissed major felonies such as kidnapping for extortion and attempted murder, both through legal arguments, and large amounts of narcotics through legal arguments and suppression motions. In 2011 he resolved a major 43 Kg cocaine case with $2,000,000 in currency for two Canadian nationals, for less than two years.”
In civil cases, “Mr. Richards handles specialized matters for business clients who want an experienced attorney with a no holds barred litigation style that achieves resolution of the problem facing the civil client.”
Some homeowners are going to remove the offending bushes, walls, or shrubs. Others, like Bob Fawley, whose wall allegedly encroaches three inches, will fight to keep their property boundaries as they have existed for the past 40 years.
“All the encroachments are similar,” Fawley says. “They built their little walls that stick over a bit, but nobody has cared for 40 or 50 years. But now [Stuck in the Rough is] making a big deal out of it for no reason at all. If I had to take this down and move it three inches, it would be a $15,000 job, and [the company] would gain nothing — it’s crazy.”
Calls to Stuck in the Rough principal Michael Schlesinger and his spokesperson were not returned.