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An agreement is an agreement is an agreement

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
October 21, 2005


This whole Proposition A thing is a bit of a bummer. Digging at the roots of ulterior motives is never fun. Ecke Ranch, and their highly funded Keep Flowers in Encinitas public awareness campaign, so willing to rattle the kindness of legacy past, has also stirred up other ghosts. Sometimes these ghosts are unleashed by a gracious lady with a treasure trove of news clippings, or a former mayor who's ethics are not situational.

Fighting to save the ranch against greedy land barons is a classic western tale. Such a saga dominates the history of Encinitas. In classic westerns, there is always a villain. In the former flower capital of the world, the ranch is the greedy land baron, and the villain not one man, but three, sharing one name and enough negative karma to blight an entire community.

Operating under the cover of Christmas consumption, Paul Ecke Ranch is more than a corporate dynasty; it is also a corporate development scheme 50 years in the making. A scheme marked by calculated efforts to further develop viable agricultural land in pursuit of short-term economic gain and long term over development. A scheme embraced by myopic officials, past and present, who are more than willing to give away the farm.

The more I write on Prop A, the more I hear from Encinitas residents whose memories are longer than the Ecke list of entitlements and special considerations. These residents are more than willing to share their insights with anyone who will listen. As a rule, these long-term residents share first hand examples of corporate dealings the spin-doctors at Paul Ecke Ranch have spent millions to gloss over.

From my readings of news reporting from the late fifties, it is clear the list of Ecke detractors reaches back three generations from the time of the first attempt to unify the communities of Cardiff, Encinitas, and Leucadia through incorporation. As far back as 1957 it seems the Ecke strategy of divide and conquer was fully employed, evidenced in a struggle for the control of the Chamber of Commerce endorsements and the high stakes battle to locate Interstate 5 though Ecke property in Carlsbad and Encinitas.

The folks at Paul Ecke Ranch would have the people of Encinitas believe the company is victim of economic hardships, forcing them to break a binding, and very lucrative development agreement. Signed with the City Of Encinitas in 1994, the agreement included the zoning of the East Saxony parcel of Ecke owned land as agriculture in perpetuity as part of The Encinitas Ranch Development Agreement.

A deal is a deal. Right?

The 37 acres the Paul Ecke Ranch now wants to develop, via the Ecke Family owned Carltas Development Company, is part of an agreed upon Agriculture zoning easement. Of the city council members who crafted and signed the Encinitas Ranch Development Agreement in 1994, so far three of the five are parroting the revisionist history peddled by the ethically challenged Paul Ecke Ranch, and the mercenaries of Keep Flowers in Encinitas. Lou Aspell, John Davis, and Chuck Duvivier are proving once and for all, whom they really served while on council.

The more I delve into the history of Encinitas, Paul Ecke Ranch, and Prop A, the advisory vote before the people of Encinitas, the less surprised I am about the way the issue is playing out. Never before has the cliché "History has a way of repeating itself" been so clearly evidenced. Using misdirection, half-truths, unsupported numbers, pretty pictures, and flowery promises, this is the way the Ecke Ranch has always done business.

All of this is immaterial however. The altruism of Paul Ecke III's grand parents is not the issue. The financial standing and economic potential of Ecke Ranch is not the issue, nor is the bank accounts of Ecke family members. Also not at issue is the amount of parkland in Encinitas, housing stocks in Encinitas, or the state of the global poinsettia market.

The only issue before the people of Encinitas is a development agreement made by a private property owner in 1994 with the people of Encinitas. As the property owner Paul Ecke had every right not to enter into a binding agreement that would keep the East Saxony parcel of the Paul Ecke Ranch as agricultural zoning in perpetuity in return for a zoning change from agriculture to commercial and residential for the balance of Ecke owned land in Encinitas.

The question of Prop A is a simple one, should Paul Ecke III and the Paul Ecke Ranch be permitted to default on a development agreement from which they have already cashed in on.

I'm voting no on Prop A because it the right thing to do.

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