San Luis Rey Downs turns hotel over to renters

But is it legal?

San Luis Rey Downs. Crain says each room has a bathroom but no kitchen.
  • San Luis Rey Downs. Crain says each room has a bathroom but no kitchen.
  • Image by Hotels Combined

In 2014, the San Luis Rey Downs golf resort in Bonsall closed. Some 118 acres was purchased by the County to augment a public riverpark, and another 71 acres is in the process of being turned into a mitigation bank by the Conservation Land Group of Mill Valley.

But there are about three acres of the old San Luis Rey Downs Golf complex that has neighbors in bucolic Bonsall concerned. It’s the property right off Golf Club Drive that was home to the restaurant, clubhouses, offices and 24-room hotel. One real estate agent who did not want to be identified says the group of buildings perched over the closed golf course was on the market for $4 million but was actually sold for $1.5 million. (The broker who handled the sale, Rolf Rawson, said he was not at liberty to disclose figures).

Neighbors are surprised to learn that the hotel units are being rented out as residences.

Records show that the property was bought by Bell & 63rd Investments, LLC, whose principals are George Bien-Willner and his son Jerry from the Phoenix area. A sign in front of the property announces leasing opportunities for “restaurants, shops, offices and hotel studios.”

A call to the Phoenix area number on that sign indicates that the hotel room rentals are being handled by Mike Crain of Fallbrook Mission Realty. Crain says that the owners are handling the leasing of the restaurant property but he is charge in filling the hotel rooms with tenants.

Crain says the rooms (approximately 400 sq. ft.) go for $985 a month and are being leased on a month-to-month basis. “That includes electricity, water, and sewer… we also ask for a $985 security deposit and a credit check fee,” Crain tells me.

He says there is a door that adjoins some of the rooms and that depending on demand, that door could be removed to make a larger rental. Crain says each room has a bathroom but no kitchen. He says he has had plenty of offers from prospective tenants interested in a Bonsall studio.

Only problem: the county of San Diego says that that address is not zoned for residential use. Jeff Melo of the Planing and Services Department says that turning hotel rooms into residences is not legal on that parcel.

When notified, Crain says he was surprised to learn of the zoning restriction. He said he would reach out to Melo and find out what the status was before moving forward. He says he already has three tenants.

Meanwhile one non-residential business, an art studio known as Green Art House, has moved into one of the rooms. Crain says that the property owner has had many “nibbles” from prospective restaurateurs who would want to bring the eatery back to life.

On May 1 Phoenix TV station ABC15 aired a report on a hotel that police claim was “dilapidated,” “abandoned,” and “crime infested” that was plagued drugs, squatters, a dead body and a sex assault and was in danger of being taken over by the city of Phoenix.

The station reported the “nuisance property” was managed by Jerry Bien-Willner who is the vice mayor of Paradise Valley. While the Bien-Willners declined comment for this article, Jerry Bien-Willner reportedly told ABC15 “…the claims you are making are disputed.”

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Comments

The County of San Diego code enforcement has starting looking into this. But what's noteworthy I think is that Supervisor Bill Horn's office never even bothered to return a call about this. They could have made up anything, really, if they wanted to blow it off. But press officer Anita Lightfoot never even bothered to call back.

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