Land-use attorney with history in Escondido trying to pull off Chargers stadium
By JEN LEBRON KUHNEY, The Daily Transcript
Friday, September 25, 2009
On a particularly warm, clear fall day, land-use attorney Dave Ferguson sat in a small corner conference room in his three-story Escondido office building.
Two of the walls of the little room were glass from floor to ceiling, providing Ferguson views of the surrounding area.
To the west, the steel skeleton of Palomar Pomerado Health’s new “hospital of the future” rises up on a hill above comparatively small commercial and industrial buildings and Interstate 15.
To the east, Escondido’s rocky hillsides are brown from San Diego’s usual lack of rain. At their feet, is the city’s downtown that could pass for a leftover set from “American Graffiti.”
The valley to the north of Ferguson’s view is his least scenic, but could possibly be his most important.
Right now, the area is an industrial and commercial zone with a lot of older buildings and not much draw for a community’s typical residents.
But if Ferguson and the city of Escondido have their way, that will all change within the coming years.
The view Ferguson would like from his conference room window would be that of a billion-dollar Chargers stadium.
Ferguson, a partner with Lounsbery, Ferguson, Altona, & Peak LLP, is partially responsible for an effort to bring the San Diego Chargers into a city that saw its last golden years in the 1960s.
Ferguson wants to help build a new golden age and already has a jump start on the task.
In 1950, Highway 395 linked Escondido to San Diego and became a bustling gateway for travelers driving to and from Riverside and San Diego.
The city’s downtown began growing as homes pushed out citrus groves and people started seeing Escondido as a nucleus for North County.
But when I-15 replaced Highway 395 in the 1970s, cars began driving past Escondido rather than through it.
The buzz surrounding the downtown area quieted down and the city was left with a hodgepodge of residential buildings, some retail shops and a lot of land used for industrial purposes.
By the time Ferguson got to Escondido in 1980, the city, ready or not, was going to have to face change.
Ferguson had been a construction defects lawyer living in Pacific Beach, but wanted to change his focus to land use and development.
In 1980, he was given the opportunity, but was informed he’d have to work in Escondido, which meant leaving his beach-close home and moving inland to a city that, at the time, he wasn’t sure he could point out correctly on a map.
One of his first legal battles he’d wage was for the office complex he now works in.
At the time, the area the complex sits in was filled with homes. However, when the state built Interstate 15, it cut right through the neighborhood.
“That made it inevitable that the character of the land use would change,” Ferguson said.
Originally, a Mercedes-Benz dealership was supposed to be located on the land, but residents and the Escondido Auto Park located across the freeway would have none of it.
The auto park and residents worked together to fight the development and succeeded, sort of.
While the Mercedes-Benz dealership did not end up on that particular piece of land, it became the first parcel to go from being a residential to commercial space and would eventually become Ferguson’s office.
At the time, it was the most controversial and biggest battle residents and developers had waged.
Over time, the nature of the area near the freeway changed; residents moved elsewhere and retail spaces and offices began cropping up.
Escondido was growing.
In the 1980s, Ferguson helped the North County Fair (now known as the Westfield-North County Shopping Mall) find its home in Escondido and later was chair of the California Center for the Arts, Escondido as it went through its planning and construction phases.
Since then, he has also worked formerly as president of the Escondido Chamber of Commerce, and chairman of the Development/Construction Section of the Bar Association of Northern San Diego County, the Escondido Civic Center Committee and the Downtown Revitalization Steering Committee.
He was also a member of the Escondido Growth Management Oversight Committee that drafted the city’s general plan between 1988 and 1990, then went on to serve on Escondido’s Economic Development Task Force from 1992 to 1994.
Ferguson was keeping busy.
Aside from working with all kinds of different groups and maintaining his law practice, he and his wife, also a lawyer, were raising their four children as well.
In the mid-1990s, his daughters were in diapers while his two sons were going off to college.
His first son was only supposed to study abroad in Japan for a year, but met a girl, married her and decided to stay.
After college, his second son moved to Switzerland and got married as well.
With his two sons thousands of miles from the proverbial nest, he realized he didn’t want to lose what time he might have left with his two youngest children.
He traded the title of chair for lugging chairs to his two daughters’ soccer and softball games.
For a few years, he was known better as “coach” on the soccer field than as the head of a major project.
But it didn’t mean he was dormant in the development world.
He still had ties to projects like Palomar Pomerado’s “hospital of the future” and drafting Chula Vista’s Growth Management Ordinance, but his involvement was toned down from years past.
However, things have changed within the last few months.
The older of his two daughters moved into her dorm room at the University of California, Santa Barbara last weekend and his other daughter is starting her junior year of high school.
Though his youngest still lives at home, she’s like most high school students: she doesn’t exactly need her father around like she used to.
With his family’s extracurricular activities curtailed, the timing was “perfect” for the Charger’s stadium proposal to come to the table.
Since January, Ferguson has worked with city and Chargers officials to put together a plan about a potential stadium just east of I-15 and south of Highway 78.
Escondido city officials hope an NFL stadium would bring an economic boost and reinvigorate an area already slated for redevelopment.
While details about the project rely heavily on financing that may or may not work out among a series of other obstacles, Ferguson is optimistic about things.
Besides, he said he enjoys the challenge that comes with working in the land-use field.
“When I first started practicing law, I was involved with trial work and you could win a case and feel very good about it, but when you went back to the office you close the file, in a file drawer and never see it again,” he said.
“Whereas in land use, I drive around North County and see all these things I helped create.”
Ferguson hopes he doesn’t have to drive too far to see the current project he’s helping create.
He wants to see it outside his office window.
SDSC: Giving our all to keep the Chargers in SD
Chargers to meet with developers on Monday.
Let's get this done San Diego
check out my SAN DIEGO STADIUM THREAD.... its different I promise.
Escondido stadium location revealed
on Fox5 San Diego (http://www.fox5sandiego.com/news/ksw...,5839709.story)
they showed the proposed site
if you google map ESCONDIDO
it would be located South of where 78 meets 15 on the EAST side
its a rather large area
and industrial presently....
pretty big area, to be developed
America Land of the FREE - Thank a VET !
Last edited by mdsd77; 09-28-2009 at 07:43 AM..