The city had bought the property in c.1998 for use as a public park. In October 2004, as part of an agreement with the Paul Ecke Ranch to swap the property with a piece of Ecke property along Saxony Road for a Public Works yard, the city allowed the Ecke Ranch to process the original subdivision of the city owned property. This was part of a deal to let the Ecke Ranch rezone a part of the ranch for residential use. When the rezoning was put to a public vote under Proposition A and defeated in 2005, the whole agreement collapsed. The city later bought the Mossy Chevrolet property to use as a Public Works yard. Thus, the original justification to put a subdivision map on the city-owned property disappeared.
So why wasn’t the original subdivision approval allowed to lapse and why was the extension granted? There were large numbers of people at the Planning Commission meeting who spoke against the extension. Everyone wanted the property to be used for its original purpose – as a park. Yet the staff argued for maintaining flexibility on the property, and the Planning Commissioners agreed, ignoring all the public input. There could be only one reason: the council had plans to sell the property.
Who might be interested in obtaining the Quail Gardens Drive property?
During the subdivision extension discussion someone noticed that David Meyer was standing in the back of the room. Meyer is a developer and brother-in-law of Paul Ecke III. He has been very active in election campaigns which support Stocks, Bond, and Dalager, and has been responsible for years of smear campaigns against their challengers. He was seen dining at Pino’s together with Mike Andreen and Doug Harwood on election night in 2004, hoping to celebrate Councilwoman Houlihan’s defeat (note: Houlihan had her election night party at Pino’s).
Meyer never spoke at the planning commission meeting. He only watched everything very carefully and was seen talking to city staff after the agenda item was approved and then left city hall. He looked pleased. And why shouldn’t he have been? He got what he wanted and had positioned himself to get the property. The problem is that the city negotiates real estate transactions in closed door session out of the public eye. What’s to prevent the council majority of Stocks, Bond, and Dalager from approving a sweetheart deal with Meyer and then simply announcing it to the public? The answer is nothing, unless there is strong public protest and insistence that the property be put up for sale in open public bidding. The Mossy real estate transaction proved to the council that they can give away millions of dollars during a real estate deal and public will not react, after the fact. We have to insist that the council opens the decision making process long before any property is transferred to a developer or well connected member of the community.
Better yet, why not keep the property for a park, as a community garden as many are requesting? The suggestion of Indian Head Canyon as an alternative is a diversion. This land was dedicated to open space and to be allowed to return to a natural habitat. Increased housing density through mixed use and upzoning will create more demand, not less, for open space and parks. It is shortsighted to sell the Quail Gardens Drive land. It looks like the council majority is planning to sell city assets to finance the construction of the Hall property. It’s not hard to guess what will be sold first and to whom.
Blogger's Note: If the council majority has made a decision to sell they have done so in violation of the Brown Act, because there hasn't been a public vote. I've put in a great effort trying to get the city council on record for what they plan for this potential park site. It looks like they have a plan. So far, the council has ducked the issue and the only thing on record is the council's broken promises to hold a public discussion about the site’s future. I am for the city holding a public vote regarding the future of the site.