Archives: Current Issues 2004
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POLO FIELDS HISTORY  (1/20/04)

Has everyone forgotten that the property leased by the Polo Club was meant to be preserved “as Open Space in a natural condition as near as possible” according to a Specific Plan drawn up in 1982?

In 1983 the property was deeded to the City of San Diego with the added stipulation that the City could also allow active non-commercial recreational uses not involving large assemblages of people or automobiles. Suggested uses were jogging, Frisbee, equestrian and similar activities.

The land was originally deeded to the City to mitigate for the development of the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club and housing which used up seventy -five percent of the underlying flood plain and changed forever the course of the river. “The natural character of the flood plain (will) be irreversibly changed,” states the underlying Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and the development “conflicts with the Draft Master plan for the River basin which recommended use of the flood plain for agricultural and natural open space.”

In exchange for the development there was to be maintenance of flood plain/open space lands deeded to the City. Of the 600 acres to be deeded to the City, the golf course would occupy 275 acres and the rest would be maintained as flood plain. “Specifically, this would give the City control over the following biological resources: enhanced riparian habitat, natural floodplain, Maritime Sage Scrub and large areas of native chaparral containing sensitive plants and habitat for the Black-tailed Gnatcatcher. It would also protect these biological resources from future private development.”

The approved Environmental Impact Report for the project goes on to say: “The City will also obtain equestrian trails on the open space lands which the project proponent has committed to construct and maintain.” (But that is another story.)

Also pertinent to the issue is the EIR’s statement on growth inducement. Basically it states that EVEN THOUGH the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club Project would have a cumulatively significant impact “mitigation may be realized through the existing project review process. Each project must undergo a complete environmental review by a jurisdiction as well as a public review.”

Now, some twenty years later, neighbors are complaining about traffic and cars attracted to the property for, not only polo matches, but according to a San Diego Union Tribune article, dog shows and soccer tournaments. Residents have also complained about other events, including musical performances, which bring noise and congestion to the area. This is a far cry from public recreational activities such as jogging, Frisbee or horseback riding. Under the terms of the deed, we could also have passive uses such as picnicking, walking and hiking – all compatible with the adjacent wetlands and San Dieguito River Valley Park, and all also providing much needed outdoor open space for everyone.

The complaints have resulted in the City calling in the Polo Club to renegotiate its lease, which expires in 2012.

Yes, the City has promised that any change in the terms of agreement between the Polo Club and the City of San Diego will be submitted to the adjacent community planning groups for input and “may even include an EIR!” Good.! We applaud that and we also want to be sure you — the community— know what is at stake here. What you gave up twenty years ago in order to have the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club (“needed open space”), 341 nearby dwelling units (“needed housing”), was open space preserved in as natural a state as possible with certain recreational opportunities consistent with the flood plain dedicated to the city for preservation and restoration.

One neighbor commented she was afraid to complain because “we might get something worse there!” Don’t be afraid to complain; it’s our open flood plain, our open space and our job to protect and restore the River Valley. We can do it.

Watch this website for upcoming news on the Polo Club’s attempt to change the terms and conditions of its lease with the City.

—Ann Gardner


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