The car wash that Mayor Abed’s supporter can’t seem to get built.

Eleven years ago this month, developer Munther Ghazia, first put forward his plans for a carwash/oil change/restaurant complex at the corner of Brotherton and Centre City Parkway. At the time, the North County Times reported  A restaurant, gas station, oil change and “boutique car wash” business could come to Centre City Parkway at Brotherton Road in south Escondido.  Property owner Munther Ghazal, who ran a five-star hotel in Baghdad before Saddam Hussein’s government confiscated it in the early 1980s and now owns the manufacturing firm All American Plastic Bags in National City, has a vision for what he calls a true “service station.”

Eleven years later, this vision is nowhere near completion.

This is a Google Maps shot dated April 2014.

This is a Google Maps shot dated April 2014. There has been some work since then but not anywhere near completion..

When this project came before Planning and then the City Council, it was not for just a Conditional Use Permit.  Oh no.  The “. . .car wash would not be permitted under the current South Escondido Boulevard Area Plan. The proposed oil change facility would require the issuance of a Conditional Use Permit and the proposed restaurant would be a permitted use. The applicant is proposing to amend the South Escondido Boulevard Area Plan to make car washes a conditional use similar to the oil change facility. A Conditional Use Permit has been submitted for both the car wash and oil change facility.”  Over the years, the developer has returned again and again for extensions, modifications and fee waivers, giving Talk of the Town quite a dossier on the City’s Planning pages. Here’s the list:aacarwashplaning

It was noted in the Environmental Checklist that . . .the project has the potential to create significant noise and air quality impacts for the adjacent residents although mitigation measures have been developed to reduce those impacts to a less than significant level. While the mitigated impacts would not rise to the level of environmental significance, it could be determined that the proximity of the proposed development to the existing residential neighborhood could result in a finding that nuisance issues associated with the use render the site inappropriate for the proposed development.  And it was for this reason, among others, that residents who lived above the site came to the Planning Commission and City Council meetings.  On January 26, 2010 the Planning Commission denied the approval.

On August 15, 2011, the developer received a one-year extension and a waiver of a $72,500 fee.  The UT reported that “. . . It was the first time the council waved an undergrounding fee since 2006.” Voting in favor were Abed, Gallo and Waldron. Diaz was the only one to vote NO.

On July 29, 2012, the developer received another one-year extension.  This time both Diaz and Morasco voted NO, but the extension was approved by Abed, Gallo and Waldron. The UT reported that “The project has been on the drawing board for eight years; it was rejected once by the council and twice by the Planning Commission as too intense and a bad fit for the mostly residential area.”

I see no other extensions of the project since this meeting and it is obvious the project is still far from complete.  The only other place I have seen the developer’s name is in two of Mayor Abed’s 460 forms that show campaign contributions from Mr. Munther’s home address totaling $5,140.

The last note on the project comes City Manager’s report dated March 26, 2014 states The Talk of the Town project at 400 Brotherton Rd. is progressing through masonry inspections. I would love to know if this project is ever going to be completed and how long the City will wait for a developer that can’t seem to get anything accomplished.


Keeping existing businesses in Escondido is the best form of economic development.

This article arrived in my mailbox yesterday morning: Stone Brewing Company to Open Vista Distribution Center.  It seems Stone has . . . found a 125,000 square foot building formerly occupied by Dimension One Spas, is being refurbished and should be open by November. The article states that local distribution will continue to be handled at the Escondido facility.

Less than two weeks ago, I received this article: A REIT for steady income in good, bad times. I had never heard of Realty Income, but my husband said it was a well-known investment firm with the symbol “O.” Turns out it has 125 employees and will have room to expand to 175 in its new space. The UT reported this:

Q: After more than 40 years, you’re moving the company to Carmel Valley. How come? 
A: This building we built eight years ago — we’ve outgrown it in terms of employees we have. Escondido didn’t have any large blocks of space — it’s not a very deep office market.  

Six months ago, the Mayor came out in opposition to a Health and Human Services Center leasing and renovating a derelict shopping center, that would keep existing jobs and bring new ones to Escondido as well as pouring millions into the renovation.  The center will come to Escondido regardless of the Mayor’s stance.

Last year, I got this one: Natural Soap Company Relocates, Expands Production which reported: Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps has signed a lease to occupy 118,597 sq. ft. at 1335 Park Center Dr. in Vista, Calif. The total value of the transaction equals $9.8 million. . . . The move from Escondido, Calif. to this facility will allow Dr. Bronner to expand and modernize its production capacity.

And also this oneEscondido DMV closure impacts nearby offices.  The busy Escondido Department of Motor Vehicles field office permanently closed its doors at 725 North Escondido Boulevard on May 10. . . . The 12,500 square-foot DMV building in Escondido opened in 1989 and served an average of 627 customers each day, she said.

What did the City do to keep these businesses in Escondido?  And what can be done proactively to be aware of the future plans/needs of businesses?  A Forbes article states that Attracting new customers will cost your company 5 times more than keeping an existing customer. The businesses already in Escondido are the City’s “customers.”   Are we offering them the level of “customer service” that makes them want to stay here?  Are they comfortable with the reputation of the City?

When I look at Mayor Abed’s list of 50 businesses he brought to Escondido (a list that inexplicably has only 43 listed) the only one that is the high-tech kind he says he is focused on bringing to Escondido is the Palomar Medical Center.  And that’s the one he almost sent away to San Marcos with his NO votes on the City Council.  So as we look to the future, what has Economic Development developed lately?  If the answer includes the Warfighters Academy — the vote on that is today — I’m going to start wondering if there is any real plan.





Is Stephen Siaw the True Conservative?

I have met Mr. Siaw a number of times.  It is hard not to like him because he is a very personable guy.  He and I hold very different views on immigration and I have told him I find it offensive that he uses the term “illegals” to describe people and that really is something I can’t overlook.  That said, I was curious to hear his comments at last week’s Council meeting during Oral Communications.  He certainly didn’t hold back and there was a lot of finger pointing, literally. Here’s most of what he had to say:

What I have here is some invoices from legal fees from the Country Club . . . there are already over $380,000 in legal fees, already . . . If the proposition [H] fails there’s going to be tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits.  The former Mayor Harmon was just out in front a few minutes ago talking about some other legal issues that you guys are facing.

Everybody in this auditorium right now is sitting here because of an issue [the appeal on the facility for unaccompanied minors] that is potentially going to cost the City millions in lawsuits . . . I was listening to Mike Slater and I listened to your [Mayor Abed's] whole thing on Mike Slater’s show and Mr. Morasco and you guys are coming out in such opposition to this. Why are you guys the ones that are here dealing with this issue? You guys are so opposed to this you should recuse yourselves. You guys should not be the ones hearing the appeal . . . You know you’ve been on Mike Slater show twice, you’ve been on Fox news once, you know you have taken such a hard-nosed side on this, I’m asking you and I’ve asked you before, recuse yourself of this . . .

I have to agree with Mr. Siaw on the issue of lawsuits, particularly the one we may face because of the Mayor and Councilman Morasco’s decision to go on the air and discuss the appeal that was to come before them.  If a lawsuit is filed against the City, I would expect their comments to be part of the legal challenge — one we could all end up paying for.  So where does Mr. Siaw stand on the other major issues?  His website filled me in.siaw for mayor

He supports MEASURE E.

He opposes MEASURE G.  While the thought of “Home rule” sounds nice, this charter, a document drafted without public input, does not protect the city from a rogue City Council . . ..

He supports MEASURE H. The developer purchased this land, land that was zoned for development, now he should be permitted to develop the property under the watchful eyes of the City Council who will insure that  the proper steps are taken and fees collected to protect our infrastructure.

Stephen Siaw has little if any chance of becoming Mayor of Escondido.  But for those who are looking for a conservative candidate that does not support business as usual. Mr. Siaw is the only choice.  And I would say there are many who would agree with his closing statement on his website:

TRANSPARENCY: Our city government must be accessible to everyone, no more “Backroom deals” when it come to key City personnel. The City Manager runs our city day-to-day but he answers to the council. The era of decisions that put our city at risk with high dollar lawsuits MUST END!

So who has voted for or plans to vote for Mr. Siaw?

Why I support Olga Diaz for Mayor of Escondido.

The first morning after we moved into our house in downtown Escondido, I went looking for a cup of coffee.   I found The Blue Mug and was warmly greeted by a woman named Olga Diaz. She was energetic, friendly, made a great cup of coffee, and welcomed me to the neighborhood.

When she ran for Council in 2008, I voted for her.  I did the same in 2012.  2012 was also the year I faced a dilemma over who to vote for for Mayor — Abed, Bologna, D’Agosta or Daniels, None of them thrilled me, but I voted for Mr. Daniels  because I believed he was a moderate who would maintain the sort of even keel we had seen with Mayor Lori Pfeiler. Unfortunately, he did not prevail and Sam Abed became Mayor with 38% of the vote.

This year, I am thrilled to be able to vote for Olga Diaz for Mayor.  And here’s a dozen reasons why:

1. She is an engaged and active member of our whole community.

2. She recognizes the crucial importance of parks, recreation and libraries to the residents of Escondido as well as the vital role they play in building community and improving public safety.

3. She spends time at Council meetings actually listening to people and provides information to residents about the decisions being considered.

4. She began the revitalization of Escondido Creek and helped to bring in $2 million in grants for streetlights, landscaping and pocket parks.

5,  She recognizes the importance of agriculture and has been a leader in developing water recycling plans for the City and would like to bring vineyards back to Escondido.

6.  She knows that non-profit organizations provide vital services to the community while bringing in millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs.

7. She has a degree in accounting and has worked as an auditor and researcher — giving her the tools necessary to deal with any kind of financial information.

8.  She is a great speaker who will be a wonderful ambassador for Escondido.

9.  She is not an ideologue bur rather considers each issue on its own merits.  (And is often much more conservative and conciliatory than I would ever be.)

10. She is bi-lingual and the child of immigrants, so she understands the issues that face our community.

11.  She is a hard worker who is willing to roll up her sleeves and get the job done. (In her volunteer work on the Creek, I mean that literally.)

12.  She supports Smart Growth and development that pays its fair share.

13.  She supports fair and balanced budgets.

As Mayor, Olga Diaz will work to make Escondido a city that is innovative, welcoming and fun — for businesses, residents and visitors.  I look forward to casting my vote for her on November 4th and urge you to do the same in person or through an absentee ballot.  Do not sit this election out.




Here’s the full analysis by Deputy Mayor Diaz, Mayor Abed and Councilman Morasco. You decide.

I have broken the last part of the meeting into two videos which makes them easier to upload.

This is the beginning of Deputy Mayor Diaz’s analysis.

The second half includes the rest of Deputy Mayor Diaz’s analysis/decision as well as the comments by Mayor Abed and Councilman Morasco and the vote.  (For some reason this video may not start at the beginning.  If you go to the bottom of the video it you will see a red line with a white dot that has a red dot in the center. If the video does not start at the beginning, grab that white/red dot with your cursor and “pull” it back to the start.  Sorry for the difficulty.)