Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Barratt Speaks Out

The Carlsbad based development company Barratt American has been taking some lately. Here is a sweet letter from the president of the company that ran in the North County Times last week.

NCT link

Property rights revolution fizzles


The shortest property rights revolution in the history of California is now officially over. It was great for the 10 minutes it lasted.

The revolution began July 13 at Encinitas City Hall. Led by Councilman Jerome Stocks, the City Council voted to restrict, if not outlaw, the practice of allowing the city to condemn private property for other private use. - The Supreme Court said that was all right, but the people of Encinitas were rightfully fearful their homes were at risk too. After all, they told their council members, this is America, and our right to our private property is guaranteed, isn't it?

For a good 10 minutes, it was. That was until the City Council considered their next item: 38 acres belonging to the Ecke family in Encinitas.

If the Ecke name sounds familiar to those outside of Encinitas, it should. The Ecke family created Encinitas as a world center for flower growing. Maybe you've heard of the poinsettia: They invented it. Their plan would keep flower-growing alive in the city.

Inside Encinitas, a small portion of this family's 75-year record of generosity and contribution to public life is commemorated with their name on the YMCA.

City plans allowed 200 homes on the Ecke land. City planners thought 100 were better. The Eckes agreed, but it was a Hobson's choice: Agree, or lose all economic use of the land.

So much for property rights.

Then city staffers came up with a brainstorm: Since they had eliminated 100 homes from the plan, that meant there was that much more land left to take, I mean, set aside. So they grabbed another eight acres. And the city didn't pay a penny for it.

Steal some land in Connecticut, and the nation erupts in anger. Take much more in Encinitas, and only an angry Councilwoman Christy Guerin speaks up.

"It's not fair," she said. "I'm not going to hold this family hostage and make them do something we don't make other developers do."

She was right and wrong: Yes, the city is holding the Eckes hostage. But no, they are not the only landowners subjected to this ritual abuse.

Let's be realistic: No matter how important the Eckes have been to this area, few are going to shed any tears for wealthy people losing their property rights.

But remember this: If a City Council will take dozens of acres of property from the area's most influential family, what do you think is going to happen to you when you make your first visit to City Hall to ask for permission to build a granny flat? Or a new fence in your front yard?

You are not going to have a chance.

Don't call this democracy, either: This is nothing more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what they are having for dinner.

So the next time you see a story about a housing crisis in California and how only 6 percent of people in San Diego can afford the price of an average home, or when your children tell you they are moving to Oklahoma because they cannot afford to live around here anymore, don't shake your head and pretend you don't know how it got this way.

Because now you surely do.

Michael D. Pattinson is president of Barratt American, a Carlsbad-based developer, and is past president of the California Building Industry Association.

A fairly testy letter. He makes a few good points but they are overshadowed by the fact that he is pissed off as all hell that his big development contract just got downsized.
I really have nothing against Ecke developing this land, it does belong to him afterall, but Pattinson ignores the fact that the Eckes made a deal.
One thing that is not clear is what kind of anti-eminent domain ordinance Stocks is going to propose. Is it to protect property owners from other private parties or from the city? Most rational people think that the 8 acre park is a decent compromise for Ecke breaking his word. An 8 acre park also increases the value of the homes to be built so they shouldn't cry too much.
It's pretty obvious that Barratt American doesn't have much of a design philosophy, they are blatant urban sprawlers. These big companies need to realize that they are affecting a lot of their fellow human beings. Developers have a social responsibility to create nice neighborhoods with a high quality of life. Every new development, especially sizeable ones, should have some open space for families to enjoy.

101 homes that are sure to sell for 1 million each? That is like, uh...a 100 million dollar project or something man.

Also, can we just drop the attitude that we owe ours lives to the Eckes? The Ecke ranch is NOT the Salk Institute.

Pattison's gripe about affordable housing was just too funny. Take a look at Barratt American's website and check out the over the top fruity McMansions they build. Faux-Luxury!

Pattinson is right about one thing, democracy in this town is on a slippery slope. The irony is that most people blame people like him, Meyer and Ecke.


  1. JP. Do you believe we should abandon zoning laws? Barratt, Dalager, Stocks, and Ecke do.

    Zoning law provides public benefit to everyone. It is why there is no Harley shop next door or a 8 story condo complex without parking on the other side of you. Anyone try to park in La Jolla at lunch time? The public suffers. Overdensification? Blackouts, lack of water, and road congestion would be 30 times worse in 5 years if we drop out the zoning laws (which have already been weakened by the BIA in the state capitol). The public suffers.

    But even Stocks and Dalager think that Eminent Domain is okay when used for public benefit on things like roads. That is a complete forced taking from someone who may not be able to stick around and enjoy the benefit (they get booted and have to buy back in at a with higher property taxes). Zoning laws provide benefit to all. What a concept.

    The bad developers don't like it because they don't give a care about the public.

    And, give me a break... they care about the high costs of BUYING a house (rent has not risen that much). Whatever. If they don't like all those extra profits that are driven by speculators and low interest rates, Why doesn't Barratt just lower the prices? [Think about it.]

    They want the floodgates to open and turn San Diego into Bladerunner City. More units to sell baby!

    If increasing the number of dwelling units is such a simple answer why then is it not super cheap to live in Irvine? How many tens of thousands of units went up in mid Orange Co in the last 10 years? Any price drops?

    So be careful, when you hear leaders talking about adding more units but at the same time talk about how they are promoting more jobs (and thus back filling with more people and not changing anything except density).

  2. Pattinson had another piece with his grinning face in Tuesday's NCT Opinion section. Now he's crying because he thinks the Coastal Commission is adding to the high cost of development. What, is the benefit of future generations, the protection of our environmental heritage cutting into Barratt's profit margins? Seeminly not. Why were Oceanside and Encinitas able to build their golf courses at much lower costs?

    The Coastal Commission is truly appreciated my most residents. If not for the commission, Manchester would have privatized large parts of city streets with beach access in Oceanside. We are fortunate to have a non-political, non-profit driven organization reviewing development along the coast.

    And where does President Barratt get off saying Eckes "invented" poinsettias. I thought mother nature, God, created life. Perhaps the Eckes did hybrid a particular strain. That does not make them God. That does not mean they should not honor their word from 1994.

    The Eckes could sell their land to other commercial growers, as the land would remain ag. We could vote to allow that, although per the 1994 agreement, as validated by us voters back then, if the Eckes divest themselves of their ag concerns, all of the remaining land should go to the City. This was the agreement.

    People do want to conserve our heritage. The greenhouses seem to be coming down. We still deserve, and in this case, are entitled to, open space. Eight acres, to be zoned residential, later to apply for a "park permit" are not an equitable "trade."

    The argument that the Ecke proposal would generate more affordable housing, or that it would somehow preserve our heritage, is laughable.

  3. Pattinson must be one of the local kings of spin. He tries to get those of us who are riled up about property rights, individual liberties, to come over to the dark side.

    Yes, we thought the New London Supreme Court decision was an awful, terrible precedent. No, we know that Leucadia is not blighted, and we do not need another corrupt govt. authority to tell us what to do, thru a RDA, Redevelopment Agency.

    But those of us who were residents gave the Ecke property much thought in 1994. Through rezoning, we validated and facilitated an agreement, to be binding for perpetuity. The Eckes and their heirs and contractors could develop the commercial and residential elements of Encinitas Ranch. The City would be given land for a golf course. The remaining land would remain ag for perpetuity. The voters aged to this because we did want to preserve our agricultural heritage.

    The Eckes threatened, in 1994, that they would have to sell their ag holdings if they could not liquidate some of their land. Thus the Eckes used the same, need to modernize, or be forced to leave, threat before. If we buy into their false logic, twisted reasoning, then we encourage "Indian Givers." Where do you think that phrase came from? So many treaties and promises were broken to the Native Americans. The same thing is happening to natives of our own community.

    The 1994 ballot measure was a win-win. There was a built in guarantee to protect the people. The Ecke land was rezoned, in part, to give the Eckes the opportunity to reap huge profits through development. Unfortunately, the primary business that the Ecke heirs and their associate developers now engage in is capitalization, spin, and ever expanding commercial development.

    The good citizens of this community do not have to buy the bs. We do not have to capitulate. Don't be fooled by glib pr pieces posing as editorials.

    Mr. Pattinson is trying to appeal to those of us who may feel frustrated over our dealings with the city. Though that may include many of us, we cannot afford to be fooled by doublespeak. We simply cannot cut off our nose to spite our face!

  4. well said more spin,
    keep this topic alive with friends and neighbors and get out the vote.
    Keep the flowers, Yeah right.
    Keep your WORD!

  5. Years and years of pesticides getting into our local water table from the Ecke ranch has made people like Meyer and Pattison totally wacked. What a bunch of jerk offs.

  6. I wonder if anyone has ever lost private property due to a road widening because of a mega-sprawl Barratt development?

  7. I believe that when the road was widened, elongated to connect to El Camino Real, the homes along Leucadia Blvd. were negatively impacted. Those who did not want to lose much of their property, to be subject to a huge increase in traffic, felt they had to sell out, at a reduced price, to get the heck out of the pathway of walls of concrete, and walls of traffic.

  8. some were told that the City would be giving them an offer they can't refuse... kinda like the guy that is over by the total boondoggle pet project on Santa Fe. You know the roundabout they are putting in.

  9. Read about that oneAugust 12, 2005 8:57 PM

    Yes, we read about that guy in the paper. Seems City has a bullying way of coercing people, while drawing attention to multiple vanity projects, such as the trestle painting/pigeon trapping, instigated by Jerome Stocks. NCTD should have handled that one. But NCTD felt that project was not "essential."

    If they notice them at all, lots of people enjoy older bridges. As long as they are earthquake safe, we suppose. And no one is ever going to slip on pigeon poop, as no one walks under the trestle over Encinitas Blvd. Saying that the City could be "liable" is another bs justification of doing the unnecessary, then basking in the glow of controling, lording over others; micro-managing the public welfare, in large part, to glorify the ego of petty politicians.

    Stocks instigated this particular bridge project at a cost well over $50,000. More back patting, pr moments for Council.

    Wonder where that old saying, "You can't fight city hall" originated?

    Fortunately, when some people are "directed" to jump, their first response is not, "How high?"

  10. Who is behind the Curtain?August 12, 2005 9:08 PM

    In re-reading Pattinson's piece, in JP's initial post, we are struck by the confusion between landowner and big developers. No distinction is made.

    We find Christy Guerin's angry comments at the meeting, as quoted in NCT, revealing. Other developers should have been held to similar standards.

    To our knowledge the Ecke situation, in some respects, is fairly unique. The Ecke property was not part of Encinitas when it incorporated. It came into Encinitas with an agreement, and a specific zoning designation. Oh yes, zoning laws can be abused. But in this case, we feel Caltras and the Ecke heirs and associate developers are abusing the public trust by their doublespeak, their attempts to put one over on us, to go back on their agreement. The developers all assume that the greenhouses, most sooner, rather than later, are coming down.

    Good piece about the Ecke special election ballot proposal in today's Coast News.

  11. My favorite paragraph from Pattison's letter is this:

    "But remember this: If a City Council will take dozens of acres of property from the area's most influential family, what do you think is going to happen to you when you make your first visit to City Hall to ask for permission to build a granny flat? Or a new fence in your front yard?

    You are not going to have a chance."

    For one thing, the city did not take "dozens" of acres. 8 acres is not dozens.
    Again, 8 acres of parkland will add value to the project. It is a compromise, that is what democracy is about. Yes, a compromise is when both sides are left unhappy. Ecke gets $40 million and the city gets to manage a small park that will mostly be enjoyed by the residents of the new homes.

    Also, everyone in this town is already extremely frustrated that when they try to build a granny flat it takes two years to get a permit while at the same time Barratt starts a big development on Sheridan before all the permits are in and acts jerky about it.

    Also, if you are trying to get a permit you should get the same fair treatment as someone who is "influential". What if you are not influential? What if you are just Joe six-pack trying to make it in this world?

    Paul Ecke should ask Pattinson and Meyers to stop trying to help him. With friends like those who needs enemies?

    10:59 AM

  12. Compromise, not capitulationAugust 14, 2005 12:25 AM

    JP, we appreciate your efforts at compromise, at finding common ground.

    But the 1994 agreement was the Ecke Ranch compromise. The final 20 acres, to remain agricultural, while we get a bity park, to be developed by the City, is not an equitable compromise.

    Why is it that in Northern California, such as Sebastopol, there is a moratorium on building? The infrastructure there, and here, with respect to storm drains, water, traffic control, cannot support more high profile, hardscape development, built for the wealthy, and for nouveau riche speculators.

  13. Actually,

    Christy went way too far in saying that Ecke should be treated like other developers and then voting for the advisory vote...

    How many developers in this City have ever had their rezone considered in closed session before it goes through the planning process, goes in front of the planning commission, or gets public review? Special treatment.


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