Archives: News 2004

NOVEMBER 2004

The Board of Directors, Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, announces its endorsements for candidates in the election of November 2004:

President/Vice President: John Kerry/ John Edwards

US House of Representatives, 50th District: Francine Busby

California State Assembly, 74th District: Karen Underwood

California State Assembly, 75th District, Karen Heumann

San Diego City Council, Ist District: Scott Peters

Del Mar City Council:
Henry Abarbanel
David Druker
Terry Sinnott

FSDRV positions on State Propositions have yet to be determined.

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SEPTEMBER 2004

The Gatlin Project: An Open Letter (9/20/04)

A developer named Gatlin wants to build a large commercial structure near the intersection of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real.

Nowhere in North County is a thoughtfully considered choice between an important public good and narrow private interest more imperative than in the use of the land in and around the mouth of the San Dieguito River Valley.

It’s always a thrilling sight while driving on Interstate 5 to see the expanse and beauty of the River Valley, and it is truly one of our last local natural treasures. Commercial and large scale residential development must be held at bay in order to preserve our wonderful San Dieguito River Valley.

Development always happens incrementally; no one pays careful attention, and in ten years Via de la Valle at rush hour could look like a parking lot, and we will all wonder how that came to be.

A long time ago Mary’s Tack and Feed was the only business on the north side of Via de la Valle around El Camino Real. When Mary’s moved across the street, the County Board of Supervisors, against the express wishes of the City of San Diego, allowed new commercial buildings —restaurants, office buildings, parking lots — in that area. An illegal landfill was created just east of Scalini’s parking lot, and now a developer named Gatlin wants to put an office building there — on top of the landfill!

With all due respect to Mr. Gatlin (who presently occupies space in the commercial development along Del Mar Heights Road), that property is in a wetland flood plain, and in the opinion of many people, is too precious to be used for commercial development. There are other buildings there now, yes, but it’s always ‘just one more’, isn’t it? And the time to stop is right now. Leave our river valley alone.

Edward Greene
Vice President, FSDRV


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JULY 2004

Wetlands Restoration Update  (07/06/04)

The Strawberry Stand Wetland Learning Center, located on the south side of Via de la Valle, off San Andres Road, was officially opened on Saturday, June 26, 2004, by Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, chair of the San Dieguito River Park JPA. This opening marks the beginning of San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project.

The building, which will serve as a placeholder for the permanent Visitor Center, is a striking architectural creation by San Diego firm, Rinehart Herbst, with all work done by volunteers. The schematic design for the site is by Lane Goodkind, a landscape architect noted for his environmentally sensitive work. Interpretive signs and a temporary trail are provided to help the community, especially our children, learn about the natural beauties and wonders of wetland habitats. Visit www.sdrp.org to learn more about the project.

Southern California Edison (SCE) is working in partnership with the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority (JPA) to carry out the restoration project. The Final Restoration Plan has been submitted to the California Coastal Commission, which is expected to approve the project, allowing work to begin in fall, 2004. Visit www.sce.com to see the final plan, a map of the restoration area, and status of the permit process.

Southern California Edison currently maintains a webcam (www.villageswetlands.com) in the valley showing photographs updated every hour. Currently, there is not much to see, (and spiders keep blocking the view), but once the work begins, a dozen webcams in many different locations will provide panoramic views and allow members of the public to follow the project every step of the way.

—Mary Farrell


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Villa Paraiso/Gatlin project  (07/06/04)

Villa Pariaso Project Site - looking west

In 1992, after fill added. White arrows show grade offset.

Update 07/06/04---------------------------------------------

A TANGLED WEB: ANOTHER THREAT TO THE VALLEY Little by little, bit by bit, commercial developers change our natural landscapes forever, often by manipulating public policy to accomplish their own ends. Left unchecked, their designs transform open spaces into ecologically unsound development. Such is the lesson we have to learn yet again as another attempt is made to profit from development in and around the sensitive wetlands of the San Dieguito River Valley.

A 2.2 acre piece of land on the northwest corner of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real, just east of Scalini's parking lot, is at the center of a tangled historical web, and the threads are not easy to unravel. Owned by UNOCAL, it was the subject of heated political debate in the late 1980s and early 90s, when the zoning was modified and the developers moved in. This property and the adjacent lots were originally, in the dim and distant past, zoned agricultural, a recognition that they were located in both a wetland and a floodplain, and a rural residential neighborhood.

With a nostalgic nod to the preservation of the historical rural use, in 1978 the County Board of Supervisors modified the zoning to commercial on a portion of the Via de la Valle frontage to allow for Mary's Tack and Feed on the north side. All would have been well, but Mary's moved across the street, and property owners saw a chance to take advantage of the modified zoning. The result was the pink Polo Plaza, with three of five lots zoned commercial and the bookend lots solely as parking areas. But the parking allotted was for office space, and inadequate for restaurant use. Scalini's asked for and received permission to use 1 acre of the UNOCAL property for extra parking.

Then began the tangled web of petitions, appeals etc, when UNOCAL wanted to build a gas station and brought in fill dirt and proposed to pour concrete. Needless to say, neighboring residents objected. The fill was seven feet high, not the proposed 2 feet, and the result was a local disaster. The UNOCAL proposal was never approved, but the damage was already done. The septic systems of two adjacent homeowners failed, and had to be replaced at a cost of more than $20,000. There is now around the fill a breeding ground for mosquitoes: an 8-to 10-foot trench full of standing water. The City of San Diego installed a drain under the fill, but it was engineered too high, and doesn't work. There are other complications.

Now developer Frank Gatlin has bought the property from UNOCAL and wants to build "Villa Paraiso", a 9360-square foot office building, and an 1100-square foot garage on top of the fill. Remember, this is fill on a wetland in a floodplain. Part of the property has responded to the wet conditions and reverted to wetland habitat. Supporters of the project claim they will preserve the new "wetland" and therefore should not have to go through the full environmental review process.

One local planning group and nearby residents are, of course, resisting this proposed project.

—Ed Greene

Update 06/26/04-------------------------------------------

Does a decade-old, illegal fill turn a protected wetland habitat into a commercial building pad? That is what we are trying to figure out.

Ten years ago a gasoline station project on 2.2 acres of wetland (1.22 acres of salt marsh and .094 acres of habitat) in the northwest corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle required a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Today —after 5,000 cubic yards of illegal fill was allegedly placed on the lot –—City of San Diego staff is now saying a new 9,600 square foot commercial project may NOT require an EIR because the development will restore the remaining wetland.

The site of the proposed commercial building is within the “Focused Planning Area” (FPA) of the San Dieguito River Valley Park. Our position is that the project must be consistent with the FPA goals, objectives and guidelines. These include:

* Conserving sensitive resources,
* Protecting water resources,
* Preserving the flood plain,
* Retaining the largely rural character by limiting the visual
and physical encroachment of development.

The property at the corner of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle, slated for an office complex, is located at the base of a relatively large wooded, residential basin of land that collects water and directs it toward the San Dieguito River. It is the site of distinctive riparian vegetation, intermittent springs and ground water and is within the 100-year flood plain. The allegedly illegal fill on this property, as well as on two properties to the south, appears to be blocking water flow to the river and causing flooding on residential properties to the north. The property is zoned A-1-1 or agricultural/single family residential. Obviously the developers would have to ask for an amendment to the area’s General Plan and a rezone in order to build a commercial facility.

The City’s position appears to be that the project will NOT have a significant effect on the environment (because it is already so damaged?) and does not require the preparation of an EIR. Instead they plan to issue a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), a determination that no significant environmental effects will occur because revisions to the project have been made or mitigation measures will be taken which reduce all potentially significant impacts.

Unfortunately the project is shrouded with past improprieties making the review process especially tangled. The Project Review Committee of the Joint Powers Authority held a hearing on the project on June 21. The development now has the support of Michael Beck of the Endangered Habitat League, based on mitigation measures of the "remaining" wetland".

No action will be taken until environmental documents have been completed by the City. The FSDRV position is that a complete EIR is required to look at the whole picture of damage created by inappropriate grading on three contiguous lots ending up at the riverbank.

Ann Gardner

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JUNE 2004

Polo Club Violations  (06/27/04)

Note red arrows pointing to boundary stakes.

 

The City of San Diego has issued a grading violation against the San Diego Polo Club and directed that the grading be corrected. The above picture tells the story.

The Polo Club has graded land extending into the San Dieguito River wetlands in order to provide an exercise track for polo horses. The stakes with pink ribbons show that the grading extends even beyond the Club’s lease boundaries. Not only is this a violation against the wetlands; it eliminates potential use of the area as a public trail. (A complete history of how the lease came about can be found at Polo Fields History .)

In February , the Friends, through an attorney, expressed concerns regarding the Club’s lease violations and our fear that the Club might eliminate the potential for a 55-mile trail system, promised in 1982 as part of the River Park’s Coast-to-Crest-Trail. River Park staff and Richard Geisler, aide to City of San Diego First District Councilmember Scott Peters, met with Polo Club executives after the grading violation was issued. They were assured that a public trail for walkers, hikers, bicyclists and riders would be part of the new plan.

On June 21, we got our first look at the new plan. The Polo Club is proposing that the exercise track stay in place—and also be used as the public multi-use trail! The intent of the River Park’s public trail is to provide a “hiking/equestrian trail and a separate suitably-surfaced bicycle/wheelchair/jogging path …in order to reach all segments of the community.” The trail system is meant to enhance public awareness and enjoyment of the park’s unique environment. We cannot allow the Club to destroy the wetlands environment. Nor can we picture a successful public, multi-use trail which is shared with strings of horses being exercised...

The City has never responded to our letter of concerns. What will they do with this new grading plan? Friends are encouraged to contact either Councilmember Scott Peters or his aide for North County, Richard Geisler, at 202 C Street, MS 10A, San Diego 92101, or call (619) 236-6611 to support correction of the grading violation and development of the public trail, as set forth in the River Park’s Concept Plan.

—Ann Gardner


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Grand Avenue Bridge Signs  (Update 06/23/04)

Plans for unveiling three Grand Avenue bridge interpretive signs with paintings by Alice Goodkind, founder of the Friends, are in the making!

 

Grand Avenue Bridge - Alice Goodkind

In 2001 the historical Grand Avenue Bridge on the southwest end of the San Dieguito Lagoon in Del Mar was slated for demolition because it led to an abandoned site. Then, at the urging of community leaders including Alice and the River Park JPA and with an award of $35,000 from County Supervisor Pam Slate, it was decided to salvage most of the handsome bridge and redesign it as a viewing platform overlooking the lagoon and its bird sanctuary.

Jacqueline Winterer, then president of the Friends, chaired a committee of representatives from the Friends; the Del Mar Lagoon Committee, the River Park and City of Del Mar staff to prepare plans for the Bridge. Don Coordt, a Del Mar architect and long time member of the Lagoon Committee, agreed to draw up the actual plans for demolition of two sections of the old bridge and restoration as on Overlook Interpretive site.

The interpretive signs will include paintings by Alice who often painted watercolors of the old bridge and delighted in the many bird visitors. Alice did not live to see the work completed and the unveiling will honor her commitment to protecting and restoring the River Valley. The three signs are now almost completed and the unveiling will be announced soon. Completion of the bridge restoration waits for the Wetland Restoration Project to get underway.


WHY HISTORICAL?

The Grand Avenue Bridge is a wooden structure over the lagoon built in 1943 to provide access from the west to a naval facility (see Lagoon History on this website). It is considered historic because it is more than 50 years old and it was, at the time, a common type of bridge built during the war effort, using local materials and workmanship. The wood used and the methods of construction are typical of the technology available at the time.

Mary Farrell
04/30/2004


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VALLEY ALERT! - Boudreau Property Purchase  (Update 06/23/04)



06/23/04 UPDATE: At its April 16 meeting, the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority approved the purchase of approximately 75 acres of the Boudreau property located west of El Camino Real and south of the river. The property is within the 100-year floodplain and directly adjacent to the 440-acre San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration project. It is connected upstream with publicly owned land. The parcels have high habitat restoration potential. Restoration of this property will enhance Southern California Edison restored property. Currently the parcels are used as tomato fields.

Source of funding:
The appraised value of the property, devoid of development rights, is $ 4,253,000. The Trust for Public Land has negotiated the agreement to purchase the property from the Boudreau Trust and will sell it to the San Dieguito River Park for the same price in a back-to-back escrow. Funding for this acquisition will come from 3 sources : $1.5 million from the State Coastal Conservancy Wetland Recovery Program; $1.29 million from Wildlife Conservancy Board Proposition 50 funds; and $1.463 million from Proposition 12 funds.

Historical significance:
Acquiring this property is a major achievement for the Park. Readers familiar with local history may remember that between 1769 and 1823 Spanish Franciscan Missionaries established a string of 20 missions from San Diego to Sonoma. The road they followed was El Camino Real and while to the south El Camino Real has been realigned, at the river crossing, the location of crossing is the same. At San Dieguito, the horse-drawn carriages of the early settlers needed to stay more than two miles inland to avoid the large lagoonal marshes. The Coastal Conservancy estimates that historically the entire San Dieguito Lagoon covered 1,000 acres. With this acquisition the San Dieguito River Park JPA has been able to assemble within the park 500 acres of the land of the ancient lagoon. After the wetlands are restored, the modern traveller on El Camino Real will be able to enjoy, unimpeded, the westerly sights seen by early inhabitants of our shores.

When the nation's major national parks were created at the end of the 19th century, open space was still readily available. It is quite extraordinary that in the 21st century, in an area as urbanized as the California coast, public agencies have been able to complete the acquisition of such a significant piece of land.

Jacqueline Winterer
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04/30/04 UPDATE: On April 16 the River Park’s Joint Powers Authority (JPA) approved the purchase of Boudreau property in the Valley and authorized the Executive Director to complete the transaction. The Friends have been advocating against proposed development on the 75 acres (see 01/22/04 story below), and we are thrilled by this news.

The parcel is within the 100-year floodplain along the southern edge of the River, adjacent to the San Dieguito Lagoon Wetland Restoration Project and in the middle of the River Park’s view shed from El Camino Real as it drops into the River Valley from the south.

An agreement to purchase the property was negotiated by the Trust for Public Land (TPL). The purchase price will be $4,253,000, the fair market value approved by the California Department of General Services. Funding for the acquisition comes from three sources: the State Coastal Conservancy Wetland Recovery Program, the Wildlife Conservation Board Proposition 50 funds and Proposition 12 funds allocated to the JPA by the Wildlife Conservation Board.

Also, the River Park Conservancy will fund a habitat restoration plan for the 75-acres consistent with the Park Master Plan for the Coastal area. “Restoration of the property will enhance the wetland restoration project and continue a linear connection of habitat from the lagoon eastward”, according to the JPA staff report. Funding for the restoration plan was made possible in part by a $10,000 donation from the Friends.
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01/22/04 Development Proposed in River Valley:
Developers are proposing to make significant changes to the BOUDREAU TRUST PROPERTY, a 75-acre parcel earmarked as natural open space within the San Dieguito River Valley Park. The property, on the north side of El Camino Real at San Dieguito Road, is also immediately adjacent to the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project., and should be part of the Park.

A hearing to get community input on the proposed Rancho Valley Farms 22-unit housing and five recreational fields with related parking was held on WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 21 at the Carmel Valley Library, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Four members of the Friends: Ann Gardner, Candice Bowman, Jacqueline Winterer and Mary Farrell attended this meeting to present the Friends' position and identify areas that should be in the scope of the EIR being prepared for this property. We object to the taking of any open space from the River Valley Park, and to any more development in the flood plain. Due to the precious and dwindling coastal lagoon resources we feel such a conversion would have a disastrous impact on the coastal landscape of the River Park and Restoration Project.

The total housing project proposal covers 140 acres split between 70 acres to the south of El Camino Real and San Dieguito Road and 70 acres on the other side of El Camino Real, in the visual landscape of the River Valley. Forty of the 70 acres to the northwest are zoned OF or floodway where no building is allowed. The remaining 30 are zoned AR 1-1 which allows 1 dwelling per ten acres. All 70 acres are earmarked as open space in the North County Future Urbanizing Area (NCFUA) Framework Plan.

Evidently the project may be submitted as a "planned residential development" which allows increased density as long as the units are clustered together and the remaining land remains in natural open space.


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MARCH 2004

UPDATE ON THE BERMS AT FAIRBANKS COUNTRY CLUB:  (3/10/04)

We are happy to report that views of the River Valley from San Dieguito Road just south of Fairbanks Ranch Country Club Golf Course are coming back!

Fairbanks Berm, after lowering

Prodded by the River Park’s Joint Powers Authority, the City of San Diego has changed the direction of the Club’s bulldozers. Instead of creating six- to eight-foot high berms that blocked vistas of the River Valley, the big machines are now lowering and reshaping the dirt mounds so that we can all enjoy the beauty of the Valley once again.

Thanks are due to the River Park staff, led by Executive Director Dick Bobertz, and the JPA, specifically the City’s First District Councilmember Scott Peters, for their persistence in curbing unauthorized construction work and restoring the views. — Ann Gardner

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1/28/04: UPDATE ON THE BERMS:
City staff has inspected the grading of berms at the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club and found that it is NOT in compliance with the approved plans for the project. The Club, according to the City, has complied with the stop work order and has also indicated they will "re-contour the work to comply with an approved grading plan."

Evidentally that means the Club will be submitting a new grading plan for review. We hope the City will insist on a plan that is consistent with the Valley landscape. The River Park has assured us they will advocate for that outcome.

So will we.- Ann Gardner

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RIVER VALLEY VIEWS BURIED!
Views of the San Dieguito River Valley from El Camino Real have been buried under six to eight feet-high dirt mounds, along with promises made in 1982 by Fairbanks Ranch Country Club to maintain the original open-space character of the area.

The offensive mounds of dirt, or berms, appeared along San Dieguito Road in Fairbanks Ranch earlier this fall as grading for expansion of the Club's current 18-hole golf course went forward. Hopes for restoring the 75-acres to natural habitat, rather than allowing the development of an additional nine holes, were dashed when the Club decided to reactivate a 20-year old permit before the approval expired.

We are happy to report, however, that the City of San Diego has issued a stop work order on the berms, and the apparently illegal grading is being investigated. Thanks to the Joint Powers Authority that oversees the San Dieguito River Valley Park, and its Citizens Advisory Committee, are in order. Further, First District Councilmember Scott Peters is "committed to removing the berms if legally possible", according to his aide, Richard Geisler.

Members of the JPA who voted to send a "strongly worded letter" to the City of San Diego objecting to the berms include County Supervisor Pam Slater, Del Mar City Councilmember Jerry Finnell, Poway City Councilmember Betty Rexford and Escondido City Councilmember Ed Gallo.

The private Club apparently does not appreciate what a sweetheart deal it got in 1982 when the City approved the project that destroyed huge amounts of open space/flood plain and altered forever the natural flow of the river with an earth-lined flood channel in the San Dieguito River basin. To read the draft EIR prepared for the project, which also included the construction of almost 350 houses, is to read and weep. It is deplorable that a project would be approved in an almost pristine river valley to provide "needed housing and recreational opportunities" in the community of Fairbanks Ranch/Rancho Santa Fe - private luxury on public land.

To add even further to the project's flagrant disregard for a private takeover of natural habitat, open space and regional recreational opportunities, the Country Club has so far failed to live up to its agreement to build and maintain a public trail on the north side of the riverbank.

The Friends will continue to monitor this project carefully, and we will report all developments on this web site.


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FEBRUARY 2004

SAN DIEGUITO RIVER PARK INTERPRETIVE CENTER
Strawberry Stand Kiosk Conversion
  (02/03/04)

THE ISSUE:
The scope and design of the proposed visitors/nature center on Via de la Valle, just east of I-5.

POSITION OF THE FRIENDS:
Smaller is better. Make it fit in with the River Valley landscape and ecology and make it visitor-friendly.

CURRENT STATUS:
We are soliciting input from community groups on a new schematic design for the Center, funded by the Friends and supported by the Executive Director of the River Park. The proposed design will be examined next by the Park’s Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) and the Joint Powers Authority (JPA) that oversees the River Valley Park development.

THE DETAILS:
The Master Plan for the coastal area of the River Park calls for the development of a 6,000 sq. foot “boiler plate” Visitors Center with a 75-car/trailer cement parking lot on Via de la Valle in the approximate location of the old strawberry stand. The Plan devotes four pages to the general design and functions of the proposed center. It calls for a building with minimum visibility that blends with the existing terrain surrounded by a newly restored landscape. Parking, usage, and signage are also addressed in the concept plan, sometimes with fairly specific proposals.

In the fall of 2003 the Friends met with the Executive Director of the River Park, suggesting that we hire a landscape architect noted for his environmentally sensitive work to prepare a new site design. The suggestion was enthusiastically received, and the architect, Lane Goodkind, worked with the Friends to create a new site plan.

The new design calls for a 4,000 square foot Visitors Center with a smaller parking area that minimizes the use of concrete on the site, and presents an innovative V-shaped building with a central plaza that allows for more efficient use of both indoor and outdoor space.

The new plan has been presented to the Solana Beach City Council, the Carmel Valley and San Dieguito Planning Groups and the JPA Project Review Committee. All the groups preferred the new plan and voiced concerns about parking, access, staging areas for horseback riders and horse trailers, as well as other matters. River Park staff members are now reviewing the community input, and their recommendations will be taken to the CAC and the JPA for action.

The Friends intend to continue to act as community facilitators in this exciting project.

—Ed Greene


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JANUARY 2004

GONZALES CANYON/GONZALES CREEK  (1/27/04)

Any plan for housing development and construction of athletic fields on the Boudreau Property must take into consideration the natural condition of the land surrounding the property, and allow for the possibility of flooding, both from the San Dieguito River and from the river in Gonzales Canyon.

A real river does flow in Gonzales Canyon, but only intermittently because we live in a semi-arid climate.

The geological map shows that Gonzales Canyon river bed is underlain with quaternary alluvium (Qal) similar to that in the main San Dieguito River, proof of the flow of an active river during the Quaternary.

The photographs attached document this fact. They were taken in early January, 2002 when there had been some significant rains. Their locations are shown on the Geological Map.

 

San Dieguito River Valley (numbers show photo locations)

 

   
 

Photo #1. From a dirt road on the west side of Gonzales Canyon, looking North toward the underpass under El Camino Real. The drainage under the road is so poor that water stagnates and does not drain northward as it should, creating an artificial wetland. The present day culvert has been poorly designed and it hinders the flow of water.

 
     
   
 

Photo #2. Photo taken from the approximately same location but looking southward, shows that an actual pond has formed where ducks have established themselves. Later in the season, when tomato fields are planted, the whole area is bulldozed and these features disappear.

 
     
   
 

Photo #3. From the bridge over El Camino Real (new El Camino Real alignment), the Gonzales River flows Northward toward a wetland near the San Dieguito River. This is a very clear continuous channel. Later in the season, when tomato fields are planted, the whole area is bulldozed and these features disappear.
If the City of San Diego does not build a real bridge over the Gonzales river and let the river flow freely toward the main valley, when houses are built close by this site will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes, carriers of the west Nile virus and other health hazards. Athletic fields would be subject to flooding.

 

 

—Jacqueline Winterer

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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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