Archives: News 2006

Three Via de la Valle projects that the Friends are monitoring:

     * Via de la Valle widening
     * Flower Hill Mall
     * Pueblo de la Valle

The Carmel Valley Planning Board and San Dieguito River Park staff has already voiced their concerns about the Via de la Valle Widening Project. Worries about encroachment upon environmentally sensitive land and changing the road from a semi-rural setting to an urban commercial corridor are at the heart the issue.

“This segment of Via de la Valle forms the gateway into the western river valley and is directly adjacent to the San Dieguito Lagoon Wetland Restoration Project,” a River Park letter states. “The street improvements proposed are not suitable for a road directly adjacent to such a valuable natural and aesthetic resource. To partially mitigate impacts associated with this permanent change to the community character, the (project) should include the following measures:

     1. Reduce and landscape medians.

     2. Proposed “shotcrete” finish retaining walls are incompatible
         with surrounding natural or rural environment.

     3. Existing transmission lines along Via de la Valley should
         be undergrounded as required in subdivision projects.”

Finally the staff questioned the logic of widening the road for approximately one mile when Via de la Valle would narrow to two lanes again, east of the proposed project. The Carmel Valley Planning Board rejected the idea of four lanes, period. The chair, Frisco White, was quoted as saying “ We should not widen Via de la Valle. This isn't a freeway.”

While congestion is the rationale for widening the road, additional development that will only increase traffic and congestion continues to be proposed.


New owners of the mall want to double, in fact more than double, the size of the mall. The mall is inside the “planning area” of the River Valley Park and is subject to its design and development standards. Those standards are meant to ensure “retention of the largely rural character of the planning area and (would) limit the visual and physical encroachment of development” on the River Valley.

It is hard to imagine the Flower Hill Shopping Mall doubling in size without violating the goals and objectives of the River Valley Park. Expansion pressures from both the Flower Hill Mall and the Fairgrounds/Racetrack could easily result in catastrophic visual and traffic blight on both sides of the freeway, adjacent to the Lagoon Restoration Project and to the gateway River Park Interpretive Center.

Some musts for any development in the area were recently suggested in an Open Letter from an adjacent homeowner:

     1. Do not allow development on the hillside north of Flower Hill
         Mall in order to preserve the Valley view corridor from I-5.

     2. Restrict building heights in accordance with Coastal 
         Commission regulations.

     3. Preserve mature trees.

     4. Restrict lighting to protect integrity of non-commercial areas
         including private residences and San Dieguito Lagoon.

     5. Disallow inappropriate signage including neon tube advertising.

The shopping center property is within the boundaries of the City of San Diego and the Carmel Valley Planning Board will review the project initially. We will keep you informed. In the meantime, a non-profit community group has organized to oppose the “aggressive expansion” of Flower Hill Mall. You can get additional information and contact the group at:


A new 35-unit residential development is proposed for the sloped area on the north side of Via de la Valle east of the Flower Hill Mall. For pictures and complete information please see our May Valley Alert. The Friends continue to advocate that the project should: eliminate five units, increase the use of berms and landscaping to shield development from the River Valley, restrict lighting and utilize architectural design that blends with the environment.

Ann Gardner



A Valley Alert Update

In January we issued a Valley Alert opposing plans to widen Via de la Valle from its current 40 feet to 84-feet with a raised 10-24 foot concrete median, additional turnouts and a traffic signal.

We are pleased to report that the City of San Diego has been directed to prepare a new environmental document justifying the project and, according to a March 2 Union-Tribune article, a spokesperson for San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders “said the project is on indefinite hold.”

Based on public input, the Hearing Officer for the widening project has directed City staff to come back with more information regarding plans to widen the road. The Hearing Officer directed the City to prepare a new environmental document, re-circulate for public input and to schedule a new hearing.

Issues raised by the San Dieguito River Park, the Carmel Valley Planning Group and nearby residents at the January hearing resulted in the Hearing Officer finding the City's environmental report inadequate.

Most of the critical input centered around the City's over 20-year-old Circulation Element and Specific Plan for the area, both created before the San Dieguito River Park preservation efforts came into existence.  Via de la Valle is identified in the River Park planning area as a “scenic drive” and gateway into the western river valley. The area marked for widening is also immediately adjacent to the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project and the River Park's Interpretive Center.

Members of the River Parks Joint Powers Authority wrote to Mayor Jerry Sanders: “This project should be put on hold and the Circulation Element updated to eliminate the widening as proposed and other less damaging alternatives explored that are consistent with the goals and objectives of the San Dieguito River Park. A significant public and private investment has been made in the western San Dieguito River Park, which should be reflected by planning this area as an aesthetic river parkway as opposed to a standard urban traffic corridor.”

The Hearing Officer's decision to reject the City's initial environmental report on the project provides the time necessary to examine alternatives less damaging to the scenic quality and community character of the western river valley environment.  We will keep you informed of developments for the widening project and represent your concerns at all levels of review.

Ann Gardner


Lagoon Restoration Approved (Almost)

From: "" Date: August 25, 2006 8:07:18 AM PDT

 To: San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project 2 

Subject: San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project: Good News


The project team received good news today – the California Coastal Commission (“CCC”) has issued a “Conditional Compliance” letter, which allows Marathon Construction to start some work on the San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Project. To update you on what this means for work activities, the remainder of this email is organized into four sections: 

 1) Project Overview   
 2) What Kind of Work and Work Hours the Community May See
 3) What the Next Permitting Step Is
 4) How to Get More Information

  1) Project Overview The San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration project includes: 

     * Creation/substantial restoration of 150 acres of tidal wetland and about 15 acres of additional wetland habitat, 
     * Initial inlet dredging and periodic dredging to permanently maintain an open inlet,
     * Construction of 3 berms, including permanent access roads adjacent to the San Dieguito River to confine existing flows and maintain sediment transport to the ocean, 
    * Bank protection for portions of the berms and river channel, culverts in the berms to help balance water levels and a weir to eliminate backwater effect on the upstream river channel, 
    * Creation of four new nesting sites and rehabilitation for an existing site for the California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover,  
    * Improvements to beach access, and 
    * Upland and beach disposal of excavated material, and maintenance and monitoring programs.  

 2) What Kind of Work and Work Hours the Community May See

 With this conditional compliance notification, Marathon Construction is allowed to begin some work activities including: 

    * Clearing and grubbing parts of the project area 
    * Importing rock revetment and other miscellaneous rocks onto the site. 

The equipment that will be brought to the site to do these work activities includes: trucks to haul rock, a water truck, and a bulldozer and rubber tire loader. Work hours will be between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.   

3) What the Next Permitting Step Is 

As many of you know, the project has received all permits but this one, which has delayed the start date of restoration work from the Spring of this year to the Fall. This latest notification from the California Coastal Commission is part of obtaining that final permit. This conditional notice from the CCC allows us to start the types of work described above. We anticipate receiving a full Coastal Development Permit (“CDP”) within a week based various final conditions being met by SCE. This final CDP will allow us to start the restoration project in full. 

4) How to Get More Information 

For more information, an upcoming quarterly e-newsletter will be sent out in September. We wanted, though, not to wait and give everyone this initial good news now.   

The project information hotline is available to call in at: (858) 259-1955    



The San Diego Polo Club has been ordered to stop grading and using a public trail as their horse exercise track. However, the Hearing Officer left the door open for approval of a grading permit or site development plan to do so. We believe every Friend must be ready to protest either option when the time comes.

In 1986 the City of San Diego leased property on the north side of the San Dieguito River east of I-5 to the then Fairbanks Ranch Polo Club for equestrian uses. Despite a number of concerns from environmental groups, the City found no potential for significant environmental impacts.  Part of the rationale was that the “existing pedestrian/equestrian path located adjacent to the river channel would not be affected by the project and would continue to provide a pathway for pedestrians and equestrians.” The lease was also specifically revised to provide a setback from the river channel for the public trail. (See Map below for identification of Public Trail in red excluded from the Lease.)


Despite this the Polo Club has taken over the trail to use as their horse exercise track during the polo season. “Taking over” has meant grading, grubbing and maintaining the trail as a track for exercising polo horses, often in strings of six across.  Although the Polo Club has said that this does not preclude the public from using, we disagree. 

At stake is the preservation the San Dieguito River Park’s 55-mile long public trail, providing walking, hiking and bicycling (as well as equestrian) opportunities from the coast at Del Mar to the mountains in Julian.

Also at stake is the protection of environmentally sensitive lands.  The Polo Club has graded up to the river’s edge. Municipal code requires a 100-foot buffer as well as appropriate measures to prevent erosion and to stop sediment and pollutants from entering the water.

In 1986 the Fish and Wildlife Service, one of the concerned environmental groups noted above, was told, “No grading would be required for the proposed project.”   Fish and Wildlife had asked the City to approve (only) projects that …provide greater protection (than the Polo Club project) of the high biological values of the San Dieguito floodplain.  Preservation of floodplains not only retains wildlife habitat, but also provides recreational areas, aesthetic views, groundwater recharge and flood protection.”  We agree.

The Hearing Officer fined the Club over $24,000 for past violations of the Municipal Code and gave the Polo Club a February 28 deadline in which to file a permit for grading or a new site development plan.   We will keep you informed of the Club’s plans and ask for your help in preventing the Club from infringing any further upon preserved and protected open space.

Ann Gardner



Thank you to all the Friends who called or sent mail to members of the San Dieguito River Park's Board, urging them to oppose the sale of city property now leased by Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.

The property is rare publicly -owned open space running along the banks of the River, and constitutes a critical piece in the San Dieguito River Park. In 1982 the City promised to keep this land as “public open space in perpetuity.”

On Friday, November 18, the Board unanimously rejected an earlier suggestion to support the sale under certain conditions. Instead they expressed their concerns that promises made to the public in 1982 were being ignored or forgotten. They discussed specifically the refusal of the Country Club to maintain a public trail on the north side of the River.

The nine-member, multi-jurisdictional Board manages the River Park which encompasses land in Poway, Del Mar, Escondido, Solana Beach and the City and County of San Diego. Earlier this fall the Board asked Park staff to draft a letter to the City suggesting that they would support a much -rumored sale of the Country Club property only if certain conditions were met. Those conditions included deed restrictions, as well as construction of a public trail, as part of the River Park's Coast-to-Crest multi-use trail system.

At the November 18 meeting Board member San Diego City Councilman Brian Maienschein immediately voiced his opposition to selling the property, whatever the conditions. He also said that the head of the Real Estate Assets Department in the City had resigned under pressure and that loopholes in, or violations of the lease will be looked at closely in coming months.

The rest of the Board followed suit. County Supervisor Dianne Jacob urged the Board to determine "the best way to achieve the goals and objectives ofthe River Park" related to the property and to discuss them face to face with the new mayor. She asked staff to compile all the early documents that promise public trails on the property.

Freda Reid spoke on behalf of the Del Mar Lagoon Committee and Jacqueline Winterer represented the Friends at the meeting.

Ann Gardner,
Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley



Preserving Old El Camino Real: FSDRV Report 1a

The Friends have begun a campaign to preserve a fragment of the old El Camino Real before the City of San Diego begins the upgrade and widening of the bridge across the San Dieguito River near the Polo Fields.

We have prepared a report which illustrates and explains our position:

FSDRV Report 1a (PDF - 9 pages - 4.7Mbytes)

September 2006

San Dieguito Lagoon Opening to the Pacific Ocean

Big Boys' Toys


On the Edge


Interested Parties


Break Through


There it is!


MAY 2006

Letter from the FSDRV President

May 2006
Dear Friends:

This year we are celebrating our 20th year of work on behalf of the San Dieguito River Valley.

The good news is that after many years of litigation and delays the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration was finally adopted by the California Coastal Commission in October 2005. What we did not know then was that a few lingering issues still needed to be resolved between the Commission staff and Southern California Edison. These final conditions were not completed before the beginning of the nesting season in early February 2006.

In the next few months, SCE may start building haul roads, the JPA will go to bids for a portion of the Coast-to-Crest trail west of I-5 , but real work on the restoration will only begin after the end of the nesting season in September 2006.

For up-to-date information on the progress of the project, down load the latest San Dieguito Wetlands Restoration Quarterly Report.
This year we started a docent program at the Strawberry Nature Center on Via de la Valle, and, on an ongoing basis, we help the City maintain the Grand Avenue Bridge site.

Meanwhile, through our participation with the Project Review Committee of the San Dieguito River Park we were able to shape the following issues:

      * We monitor the Del Mar Fairboard Master Plan for its environmental impact;

      * We seek the return of the South Parking Lot to a permanent wetland status;

      * We support a much reduced project at the Flower Hill shopping center;

      * We oppose the widening of Via De la Valle into a major thoroughfare;

      * We work with the Pueblo de la Valle project (across from the Strawberry Nature Center)
         toward a limited size and limited view impact on the Park;

      * We promoted the creation of a wetland reserve as part of the project at the NW corner 
         of El Camino Real and Via de la Valle;

      * We provided critical reports dating to the 1980s which document the Park’s right to 
         have a trail south of the Fairbanks Ranch Polo Club field;

      * We advocate maintaining public ownership of Fairbanks Ranch Country Club.

Every year at this time we solicit contributions from the public to allow us to continue our advocacy work. The money raised by this effort is used to distribute information, publish pamphlets, and maintain our organization and its website. Occasionally we seek legal advice on strategies to reach our goals.  Contributions may be sent to:
    FSDRV, PO Box 973, Del Mar, CA 92014

or contact us at: 

We are grateful for your support and send our sincere thanks to those who have made contributions this year. 

Jacqueline Winterer, President