Do you remember in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Veruca Salt at the end of her “I Want it Now!!” rant, jumped up on the Egg-dicator. She was identified as a bad egg and was dropped down the chute to the incinerator. Don’t you wish politicians were required to jump up on the Egg-dicator before they ran for office? If you are a “Career Politician”, what is your number one priority? Is it your constituents or your career? If your main source of income relies on staying in office, how objective can you be?
There are no bounds to the insidious acts of the politically motivated. I respect those who are true to their convictions. I respect an honest and passionate viewpoint and an intelligent argument. But I object when a group misleads and manipulates to accomplish their own selfish objective. When has the protection of a Private Golf Course ever been an environmental issue? How is it that a group of residents, who are not members of the club, have become embroiled in saving a small parcel of land that they can’t use and can’t see?
Jim Smith’s recent letter (SC Times, Vol. 2, issue 40) alleges that Pacific Golf Club’s owner has begun a smear campaign and that “Personal attacks are bread ‘n’ butter favorites”. And if that were true, he would know. He and his group started their smear campaign and personal attacks months ago. He also alleges that general manager Shahin Vosough “tries to discredit an open space supporter”, as he himself attempts to discredit Mr. Vosough. He asserts that Mr. Vosough is trying to fool readers about the size of the boondoggle, while he tries to fool readers about the scope of the project. Confused? You should be. There is a boondoggle afoot, but it rests solidly on the shoulders the faux-environmentalist group “Save San Clemente Open Space”. If their name reflected their true motivation, it would read “Save Muirfield, My Favorite Nine Holes”, because that is the only open space issue they have ever addressed. Mr. Smith refers to the survey that was distributed to the membership as “highly flawed”, citing that the members were never told the land was zoned open space. So when Mr. Smith signed the questionnaire (in favor of the project, by the way) that stated, “I acknowledge that the property owner will be developing a portion of the property and agree to have my name added to a petition requesting the City of San Clemente to approve the rezoning of this land to allow for development”, what did he think? This whole debacle is yet one more instance of a small special interest group with enough money to make a big enough noise using the tried and true tactic of emphasizing imminent doom and pushing your emotional buttons. Don’t be fooled by a few selfish disgruntled golf members.
Isn’t ironic that the group “Save San San Clemente Open Space”, used a Cree Indian prophesy as a moniker on their webpage? And that co-founder Charles Mann would suggest at the March 6th City Council meeting that open space is a birthright? Mr. Mann wasn’t born in the United States. How do you think the Juaneno band of Mission Indians, San Clemente’s original denizens, would feel about that?
In response to a letter to the editor on April 19th, Jim Smith(SSCOS founder) took a statement out of context. When Mr. Rosenfeld said words to the effect of “we’re barely making it” he was referring to the margin on the project, not club operations. Club operations are solidly in the red.
About open space: “Open space” has become a technical term, a category, and it’s interpretive. The definition of Open Space in California Government Code Section 65560:(b) states that “Open-Space land” is any parcel or area of land or water, which is essentially unimproved… which this particular parcel of private property clearly is not. The open space that San Juan Capistrano is buying back is unimproved, natural habitat. Not a developed, graded, private golf course.
The fact is that this project, if approved, falls well below the number of residential units already allowed for in the San Clemente Specific Plan. The fact is, Talega, Rancho San Clemente and Forester Ranch built well below their original targets. The fact is that the predominant use of the property at Pacific Golf Club will remain the intact. Not to mention that the city stands to benefit substantially not only from the funding predetermined in the development agreement, but from the vital resource and integral element to our community resource that this club represents.
The battle has become more important than the cause for the opponents of the Pacific Golf project. Sadly evidenced in this cryptic quote from a petitioner and directed at one of Pacific’s supporters.
You could minimize the intent by saying it was in the heat of the moment, but the truth is that this Pacific supporter was quietly standing near when the opponent in question stated coldly and deliberately, “I haven’t wished this on anyone, but I wish you would just die.” The two had never before met.
Other supporters of Pacific have been called “scumbags”, “cockroaches”, “paid thugs” and a myriad of similar defamations. Sheriffs have been called in, stories were fabricated in order to have supporters forcibly removed, all the while diverting the valuable attention of our law enforcement away from actual crimes possibly taking place and wasting more of our tax dollars.
Jim Smith, Save Open Space (SOS) organizer, was quoted in a Sun Post News article (Thurs. June 21, “Pacific Golf referendum drive heats up”) saying “the democratic process is really being strangled here”. I had always thought that democracy was about choice.
Is the act of offering more complete information, or more sides of an issue strangling democracy? I always thought it was a responsibility. Is he suggesting that democracy exists as long as the other side doesn’t fight back?
There have been a number of one-sided regimes in history, but my teachers had called those forms of government something else. Maybe Jim went to a different school than I did. While only slightly surprised, I am deeply ashamed of the behavior of these individuals. They are not a product of San Clemente’s new component in Talega and they are not outsiders.
Most of these opponents are well into their fifties and beyond, and purport to be long-time residents. Shame on you. And for the misguided few helping this disingenuious lot, read up on the facts, please. But don’t believe me, simply pay attention to these peoples behavior and what they are saying.
(At the April 3rd, 2007 San Clemente City Council Meeting, Charles Mann produced a document that he claimed would legally prohibit any development at Pacific Golf Club)
Sabotage, false pretense, fact distortion, grand-standing. The group, “Save San Clemente Open Space”, really should change the name of their website to; www.savethebestnineholesatpacificnomatterwhowemanipulate.com. I submit to you that when Charles Mann said he couldn’t believe that the Pacific attorney had never seen the deed restriction, he knew full well that a quitclaim deed also existed. These are the tactics that this group has been using all along. They are not interested in saving open space, their only concern is saving 9-holes of a private golf course, and they don’t care who they use to achieve their objective. If they are so concerned about “open space”, then where were they on March 20th when the city council voted 4-1 to rezone seven acres of city owned land for residential development? There was a front page article in the Sun Post the day of that particular city council meeting. Surely someone must’ve seen it. Instead, they chose to unveil this latest bit of inconsequential pap at a time that they knew they could garner attention. If the lack of ethics that this group continually displays, and the slimy methods that they employ appeal to you, then by all means, support their cause. After all, as a resident of San Clemente who is not a member at Pacific, think of all you have to gain if the application is denied. For instance, you could go play golf at the club. Well, no, you have to be a member to be able to do that, besides, if the application is denied, Mr. Rosenfeld will close the club because it loses money every single day. Obviously, Mr. Mann and Mr. Smith think that Michael Rosenfeld should continue subsidizing their golf game. Oh, wait, I know…, deny the application so we have more “open space”. Well, actually, the real estate in question is private, so non-members are not allowed on the property, nor can it be seen from the street. Of course if the application is approved, part of the reconfiguration would allow for public trails to be built around the club connecting all the way down to the beach, for all of San Clemente to utilize, but let’s not get confused with the facts. Oh!, Oh!, traffic, that’s it, traffic. As if 300 units inhabited by mostly retired, or semi-retired amongst a community of several thousand family units in Talega, Rancho San Clemente and Forster Ranch would make any perceivable dent in day-to-day traffic. Please, where did common sense go? What percentage of the decisions affecting our city is based on political self-preservation as opposed to what is actually good for the city?
How does it feel to be duped? It makes me kind of angry. The small group of Pacific Golf Club members who orchestrated this campaign against their own club are not interested in Open Space or Traffic. Their intentions are not honorable and their tactics are deplorable. Since when has saving a portion of a Private Golf Course become a noble cause? You’ll have to excuse me, I grew up in the sixties, and there weren’t too many crusades to save Private Golf Courses in those days. And I can promise you that a Private Golf Course was never referred to as “Sacred Open Space”, as it was on Tuesday night at the March 6th, City Council Meeting. The admitted assumption by this group, dare I say “special interest” group, is that the owner will be forced to sell the property back to the bank. Who will in turn sell it to a Golf Course Operator, who will continue to operate the club in its current 27-hole configuration. The assumption is that life will continue as usual, no crowded fairways, no waiting for tee-times, all the luxurious amenities that a Private Club member demands. And they have you, the homeowners in Rancho San Clemente to thank for it. So what do you, the homeowners in Rancho San Clemente receive in return? “O”, goose egg, squat. I’m sorry, you’re not a member, get off my property. Oh, you can see it from afar…well not really. The visual buffer that Council man Eggleston referred to in his prepared dissertation, doesn’t really apply unless they decide to build a housing development in the Dog Park, the Industrial Park or Camp Pendleton. By the way, I was under the impression that our elected officials were interested in what we, the public who voted for them, had to say. I was at the city council meeting, I watched as Wayne Eggleston sat and listened intently to the public hearing, holding his hands together in front of him the entire time by the tips of his fingers almost prayer-like in contemplation. But when he spoke at the end, he read from a prepared written statement. He hadn’t written anything down, save for a few quick notes all night. If you had millions of dollars riding on a vote, wouldn’t you be just a little upset that one of the votes was so predetermined that a multiple page dissertation had been prepared? I mean what’s the point?
They lied to us. They repeatedly told us the housing was high-density condos, but it was never that, public records back that up. They told us that this project would hurl us into gridlock, but the reports from the independent consultants the city hired and our own city traffic engineers indicate that that is far from the truth. They used slogans like “SAY GOODBYE TO THE BEACH” and “OUR CHILDREN ARE AT RISK”. They sent duplicates, triplicates and quadruples of letters and emails to the city council. Before the meeting got started they threatened the council with a lawsuit and a referendum. Less than an hour before the proceedings a 22-page document with attachments was received by the city attorney that was prepared by a law firm in L.A. to debunk the EIR, which the city attorney described as a ploy written by someone who wasn’t familiar with the area or the project. Of course the EIR was completed over a year ago, and there were public hearings, so there was ample time and opportunity to question it then, but that’s not very dramatic, that’s not very “Law & Order”. But don’t confuse me with the facts. The lesson here is that if you need to get something by the City Council, play dirty.
The opposition gets ugly. Suddenly flyers are distributed to the region closest to the club that describes the horrible crime this project is committing. Gridlock, Overcrowding, “A danger to our children”, Loss of Open Space, Bribes to the City… the list goes on. These guys pushed every conceivable emotional button they could find. And they lied. The proof is in the letters they write. Their true motivation is so obvious, yet they were able to convince their neighbors that only the city’s best interest was at heart.
Their own selfish interest was at heart. As they admitted to so many of the members at the club in their attempt to garner support, they were only adamant about one thing. THEY DID NOT WANT TO LOSE NINE HOLES.
How cool is that, huh? You call a local TV station, tell them that the big bad wolf is encroaching on your poor little private golf course, and BAM, they fly down to do the story. I wonder how they pitched it,… “Residents of small beach town fighting against Rich Los Angeles Developer.” The lesson here is, if you know what you’re doing and have enough money, you got a pretty good shot at swaying the media. Here’s a video account of the issue.
On September 30th, 2003, one of the partner/owners of Pacific Golf Club, a private golf course in San Clemente, CA, filed for a Chapter 11 reorganization. The club was sold the following October to the current owner, Golf Investments LLC. The new company created a plan which includes replacing the 27-hole Gary Player Signature Golf course with a brand new 18-hole Gary Player Signature Golf Course. The resultant unused portion of golf course would be rezoned for residential development. Typically when land is developed for commercial purposes, a city will require a contribution from the development company in addition to the normal fees and permits. In this case, Golf Investment LLC committed to donating 12 million dollars to help with a much needed sports park which the city had been unable to fund. The membership of the club was surveyed a short time later to discern their level of support for the new plan. The response was 96% in favor. With that level of support in mind, Golf Investment LLC promised to remain operational, even at substantial monthly losses, during the public process.
After three years of working with city staffers, the project finally came before the city planning commission, who recommended approval. In December of 2006, a small group of Pacific Golf Club members set out to discredit Pacific’s owner and gain support for an opposition movement. As confirmed by several members at the club who were approached, their motive was simply to keep Pacific at 27-holes. This is where the true fun begins.