Archives: Current Issues 2005

RE: Fairway or Rough? (San Diego Union, July 17, 2005)

Thanks to San Diego Union reporters McDonald and Hasemyer for bringing the ‘sweetheart deal’ between Fairbanks Ranch Country Club and the City of San Diego to the public’s attention. Two days after the investigative report appeared in the Union, City Attorney Michael Aguirre put together a task force to look into the issue further. Now a lawsuit has been filed seeking to invalidate the controversial 60-year lease, most recently quoted as “a massive gift to a privileged few.” The Country Club leases publicly owned open space in the San Dieguito River Valley from the City of San Diego, and wants to buy the property outright. In this Valley Alert we are urging you to oppose the sale of this valuable property and providing you with links to important background documents. First, courtesy of the Union, we are providing a link to the McDonald/Hasemyer report:

We are also providing, for your information, copies of important background documents:

1. The 1981 Fairbanks Ranch Country Club Specific Plan that made promises for open space and public access we feel have been ignored (e.g. see first paragraph, pg. 35).

2. The 1982 Planning Department recommendation to approve the Plan and a lease with the Country Club.

3. A 1983 Corporation Grant Deed transferring the property to the City to be preserved as open space.

4. The controversial Country Club lease (Sept., 1983 to Sept., 2044).

PDF format documents.

This page contains links to documents obtained from various sources that relate to projects or concerns of the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley.

Fairbanks Country Club Specific Plan (PDF, 40 pages)
Fairbanks Country Club SD Planning Dept Report (PDF, 4 pages)
Fairbanks Country Club EIR Report (PDF, 12 pages)
Fairbanks Country Club Lease (PDF, 49 pages)
Polo Club Lease (PDF, 43 pages)

San Diego City Neighborhood Code Compliance Department Findings and Decision - Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club (12/19/2005)

Last May the Country Club made its third offer in ten years to buy the property. We worry the City may make another bad deal and sell the property – a critical piece of the San Dieguito River Park, an incomparable open space corridor stretching 55 miles from the Pacific Ocean to Vulcan Mountain near Julian.

Our reasons for worry are as follows:

-In order to get permission to build the golf course, in 1982 the developer agreed to dedicate over 600 acres to the City of San Diego as public open space to be “permanently preserved” for the citizens of San Diego. With this agreement the developer obtained the right to build 341 homes where only 128 were allowed and to redirect a meandering river in order to build a 27-hole golf course. To now sell a third of the preserved open space to the Club would void the original agreement and result in a second ‘sweetheart deal,’ compounding the City’s original unconscionable actions.

-Public open space with multi-use trails and scenic view sheds is a valuable asset in San Diego County. Public open space becomes less available and more valuable each year as development pressures build at the western end of the River Valley. Arguments for selling the property because (according to proponents of the sale) the land is “worthless” and “nothing but unkempt open space” are ludicrous in light of today’s efforts to save open space for the public, especially river valleys with irreplaceable watersheds.

-It is a savage irony that the City agreed to lease the preserved public open space to a private country club. However, at least the agreement allows the City to take back the property when the lease expires and use it in the best interests of the public.

-For now, the City is an infinitely better steward of the land than the Club. To date the lessee has refused to develop and maintain the public trails promised in the original agreement. And use of a portion of the property by a private polo club, north of the River, is in violation of several municipal codes designed to protect the wetlands. (A Civil Penalty Notice and Order was served on the Polo Club President on June 9.) Without the leverage of public ownership, the City’s ability to protect the river valley and insist on the promised public access would be seriously jeopardized.

-Finally, let us not forget that the Club, according to the July 17 article, is not paying and will not pay its rent. According to the article, the Club is contesting last year’s rent and C. Samuel Blick, a Club director, “predicted the city will never collect (the projected) $1 million a year in rent from the lease. Instead, he said, the board will take whatever legal steps it can to avoid paying the city so much.”

Rather than selling the property to this irresponsible lessee, perhaps the City of San Diego ought to find the Club in default, terminate the lease and find a more suitable tenant. That way the City would collect the rent AND at the same time preserve for future generations a portion of the River Valley lost in the 1982 ‘sweetheart deal.’

Ann Gardner