At the Golden Door, a Japanese-style resort near San Marcos, koi circle a pond slowly and green grass welcomes the wind.
Thirty miles away, at the law offices of Latham & Watkins, the Golden Door’s legal team is less tranquil. They have fired off hundreds of pages of letters and lawsuits aimed at thwarting the plans of the resort’s nearest neighbor, Newland Communities.
Newland wants to build a 2,100-unit housing development, called Newland Sierra, across the street and up a hill from the Golden Door. That project, the Golden Door says, is an existential threat to the resort.
For 50 years, the Golden Door has catered to the world’s rich or famous – Oprah, Elizabeth Taylor and Joanne Conway, who went to the resort many times before she bought it in 2012 for $25 million. Conway is the wife of a billionaire co-founder of the Carlyle Group.
The resort has faced threats before, from other nearby developments and fire. Now it’s preparing to fight Newland’s project in front of a developer-friendly County Board of Supervisors in the middle of a housing crisis.
Less than a decade ago, the board rejected a similar plan for the same property known as Merriam Mountains. Like the 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch master-planned development near Valley Center that was defeated last fall by county voters, Newland’s plans require an amendment to the county’s general plan, which must be approved by either county supervisors or voters.
Support Independent Journalism Today
The county plan allows 75 homes; they are planning to build 2,100 plus 81,000 sq ft for commercial use and a school. This is in a high fire risk area and the terrain is rugged. Developer after developer is in line to throw the county plan out the window and allow development to sprawl into undeveloped areas. It is easy enough to research all the reasons this is a bad idea.
@Janet Shelton All of San Diego is a "high fire risk". Just ask the residents in RB, Scripps Ranch, Carlsbad, etc. It's a fact of life if you want to live in the finest county in America. But that does not mean we stop building houses. With that mentality, Mission Valley would still be a cattle grazing field, Poway would be a camping ground, and San Marcos would be reserved for commercial and industrial only. We live in a year round fire risk region. We deal with it.
@Kim Holmes @Janet Shelton Sorry, but we will NOT "deal with it." We told this developer NO ten years ago and we are still here to say NO again! North County is one of the LAST areas in San Diego county with any mountain ranges/wildlife corridors to sustain the animals....North County is called "The Back Country" for a reason and we intend for it to stay that way. Tell the wealthy developers to continue down the road and take their housing project with them!!!
As a former resident of Hidden Meadows, I know first-hand how beautiful this area of San Diego County is. It’s the ideal location for a smart community such as Newland Sierra. We need affordable housing in San Diego. “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) mentality has to end. Golden Door, consider changing the dialogue. Be a hero and work with Newland to create a community that can co-exist with Golden Door. Assist rather than resist the process of smart change. Open the doors of solutions and be a leader. We need housing in the region. Change is inevitable, explore ways that Golden Door can partner for change and seek a middle ground for the good of North County, and the future of San Diego residents.
@Kim Holmes "As a former resident of Hidden Meadows" says it all....Do you still live here? Do you know how bad traffic already is on Twin Oaks and Deer Springs from 3-6pm everyday??? Do you know how much worse it will become will 2,000 new homes right there?! Wheres the water going to come from for 10,000 new residents to use?? 3 years of blasting those boulders for grading to put the homes in? What about the wildlife? What about the extensive Native American history documented back there?? Those hills are sensitive habitat for semi-endangered plants and animals back there!!? But YOU don't care because "San Diego NEEDS affordable housing"....Of course we do....But SINCE WHEN IS starting at $600 thousand dollar homes AFFORDABLE?!?!? and to WHO??? This development is NONSENSE and the North County community will do everything we can do to make sure it doesn't happen!!! We said no ten years ago and we are saying NO again!
So sick and tired of these "holier than thou" and "greener than thou" types telling people where they can and can't live! Somehow because of their rich and entitled status, they become defacto land barons and don't want anything built anywhere.
People, regular, hard working people, need an affordable place to live! And prices keep going up and inventory keeps going down!
We need more affordable housing to be built, anywhere and everywhere!
So...a one-percenter makes a dubious investment in a playground for other one-percenters, and wants to deny housing options for the middle-class? Sounds about right to me! San Diego County...all of California, in fact...is in a housing crisis largely of its own creation, thanks to roadblocks created by "no growth at any cost" folks who don't see it, or don't care, because they already have theirs. Here's a challenge for the Golden Doors of the world...come up with a legitimate, viable solution for once, instead of just saying "no" and pushing the problem down the road to yet another community that will also fight, and another, and another, ad nauseam. My children (and yours) need to find affordable housing in the region in which they were raised, rather than moving to Arizona.
This project is vitally needed here in the North County. Too many people are being priced out of the market, forcing them to move to Riverside County and elsewhere. Our kids deserve the opportunity to live in this beautiful county just as we have been able to do.
We need housing, period. We are losing agriculture to imports from points south. The owners of the land should be able to develop it. If Golden Door doesn't want that project, maybe they should put in a bid for the land.
When will elected officials in Southern CA learn that its rural areas are prone to fires, and building more homes only exacerbates that risk. Some 500,000 residents had to be evacuated during the fires of 2007! We may need more housing, but not more kindling.
Golden Door may be leading the charge, but this is not a fight between the privileged and a poor developer. If viewed in those terms, it's really the rich battling the rich. VOSD needs to talk in more detail about all the issues with the development, particularly the ongoing fight to gut the county plan.
We're in a housing crisis, for heaven's sake! We need more homes for our kids and grandkids, which is far more important than catering to the silly desires of the Golden Door and their snobby clientele, aka the 1-percenters. This is the perfect place for a new community -- right next to a major transportation corridor (I-15) and a major employment center, bordering both San Marcos and Escondido. Unlike the Lilac Hills land, this land is already zoned for development. I'd much rather have a community of neighborhoods with miles of trails than a couple million square feet of office and commercial space. Imagine all the inbound traffic in the morning and the mass exodus of cars at 5 o'clock!
"To bring back the magic, Conway spent millions restoring it and buying some adjacent land."
It seems she didn't buy quite enough of the adjacent land!
"One of Golden Door’s biggest fears is that the traffic created by Newland Sierra will turn Deer Springs Road into a six-lane highway..."
That's silly. Traffic doesn't create highways. Planners do!
"The road is already filled with cars using a shortcut to avoid clog on the I-15."
Maybe the I-15 managed lanes should be extended further north.
@Derek Hofmann Yes, building more freeways have definitely worked for reducing traffic and sprawl in SoCal. Oops, no! Extend the managed lanes and it's easier for people to commute more miles because they tend to go more by time than by distance. The county's plan was put in place for good reasons, and a project was turned down below because of multiple issues, including that it is in a high fire risk area with evacuation issues, just like Lilac Hills.
@Janet Shelton That's a good point. Rather than add freeway lanes, they should convert existing lanes to managed lanes. Then there would be less congestion without making room for more cars.
San Marcos has a climate plan so project opponents should be able to delay or stop construction by pointing out that the project will increase carbon emissions.
@Sean M --Is this proposed development in San Marcos, or in unincorporated SD County?