County, city of Vista and nonprofit compete over property sale of Green Oak Ranch

Some 30 families are renting space in the Green Oak Ranch RV Park, and each family is just a paycheck or two away from having no place to live at all

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A battle is brewing over Green Oak Ranch in Vista. The city made its first move Tuesday night to compete with the county for that 138-acre property.

There is also a third interested party, Solutions for Change, which the mayor says has already bid on the property. All three seem to have the same goal of addressing addiction and homelessness, but the debate is over who gets to control it.

Much of Green Oak Ranch has the look of a nature preserve with birds and burros. There is a play area and plenty of open space. 

Some 30 families are renting space in the Green Oak Ranch RV Park, and each family is just a paycheck or two away from having no place to live at all.

“There is nowhere else that we would want to live that would make up for the community and the cost,” resident Tatum Sweeton told NBC 7.

In another part of the property, 50 men live, work and go to rehab for drug and alcohol addictions.

“I truly believe I found my life again. I got my life back because of this program,” rehab graduate Trevor Ball said.

Green Oak Ministries runs the rehab program. It’s landlord to the RV park and caretakes the land.

“I’ve been blessed. I went through the program. I graduated. I took construction and followed council, and I am still here,” rehab graduate Juan Correa said.

While the ministry owns the property it’s on, all the programs it oversees are on the property for sale. The ministry’s water and power also comes from that property.

Vista Mayor John Franklin says selling Green Oak Ranch to the county would spell the end of the ministry and its work.

“Their hearts are really invested in what happens here. They have a personal relationship with each and every resident,” Franklin said.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors wants to buy 110 acres of the property to create a “regional campus for healing." It would provide mental health care and substance abuse programs. The investment could be up to $300 million.

"Our region urgently needs a campus for healing, providing sober housing and ongoing services, Board Chair Nora Vargas wrote, in part, in a statement emailed to NBC 7.

Supervisor Jim Desmond said Green Oak Ranch would transform some people's lives.

"I see it not only as a campus for healing but as a beacon of hope," Desmond wrote.

Franklin, however, isn’t convinced such a sale is best for Vista residents.

“Any time the county becomes the owner of a parcel, they don’t have to ask the city council for land use authority,“ Franklin said.

Current residents share a collective fear of being evicted.

“Keeping it in the city of Vista would be our answered prayer," Correa said.

The city council asked staff at Tuesday’s meeting to get a property appraisal so it might make a competing bid.

Franklin says Solutions for Change put in a bid. The organization has been working with the city of Vista for some time finding solutions for homeless families.

Members of a trust will determine who gets this picturesque property. They are charged with fulfilling the former owner’s dying wish — that the property be used for the good of people.

Three hundred people showed up at Vista City Council to add their two cents about the county proposal. There were so many people that the mayor says the fire department had to move half the crowd to another location.

At this time, there is no known timeline for the sale of the property.

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