Archives: News 2009



Click on the following links for FSDRV's response to the 22nd DAA (Fairgrounds) Draft Environmental Impact Report (12/18/2009):

FSDRV's Letter and Response (PDF, 6 pages, 1 MB)
FSDRV Appendix 1 (PDF, 10 pages, 2 MB)
SDRP_JPA response (PDF, 24 pages, 2 MB)



The last major construction step in the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project is about to happen thanks to an agreement between the North County Transit District (NCTD) and Southern California Edison (SCE) that will allow SCE to retrofit about 150 pilings under the old wooden railroad bridge that spans the San Dieguito River west of the fairgrounds.  Once the pilings are stabilized SCE will be able to dredge the channel from the Jimmy Durante Bridge to the ocean, increasing the tidal flushing and guaranteeing the continued revitalization of the lagoon and its burgeoning bird and fish populations.

Just six months ago this critical step in the Project was up in the air pending resolution of who would foot the cost of retrofitting the bridge.  SCE, who has already paid for up to 80 per cent of the $86 million restoration, will cover the cost of stabilizing that portion of the bridge that spans the river. The cost is estimated at between $1 and $2 million dollars. NCTD is taking over responsibility for the design, approving project plans and advertising and awarding construction contracts for the work.   NCTD has said they are checking with suppliers in order to consider a separate, direct purchase of the retrofit bracing materials in advance of the construction contract as an additional step to maintain the tight schedule.

In a letter to Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, NCTD Executive Director Matthew Tucker said the NCTD Board had authorized him to award construction agreements to “expedite” the retrofitting project without further Board action.  He noted that NCTD has “worked collaboratively with SCE to meet the aggressive timeline envisioned” and is “committed to supporting the successful and timely completion of the project.” The dredging is expected to start by January 1, 2010 before the start of the bird-breeding season as specified by SCE’s Lagoon Restoration permitting requirements and finish before the County Fair opens.

It has been clarified in a staff report to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) that the retrofitting by SCE to permit dredging of the lagoon is a “stand-alone” project that does not effect the future replacement of the entire bridge because of the “existing structural and floodplain deficiencies.” Recently completed studies for future improvements on the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) corridor include the San Dieguito River Bridge Replacement and Second Track Project and a proposed permanent seasonal rail platform at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Both projects are on hold due to lack of funding.

   (by Ann Gardner, courtesy of the Del Mar Sandpiper)



This is a report that the Mayor’s proposed budget cuts will have dramatic impacts on the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority and we urgently need your help to stop it. 

WHAT IS HAPPENING: The budget proposes to eliminate all funding ($295,084) for the River Park in the next budget year, and to not pay the final quarter payment ($73,771) this year.  Because the City represents 36% of our annual operating budget, this alone will result in several immediate layoffs in our small staff.  (We have 8 full-time (includes 5 rangers) and 3 part-time staff).  There is no cushion in our budget after several years of cutbacks.  But even worse, the City’s withdrawal from the JPA could have a domino effect leading to other member agencies also leaving, which would be fatal for the JPA. 

WHEN: The timing is very fast: the San Diego City Council has held the first hearing already on December 2nd.  The next hearing will be on Wednesday, December 9th.  And then resolutions will be adopted on Monday, December 14th.   

WHAT WE NEED YOU TO DO: We are counting on our supporters to call or email the San Diego Mayor and City Council members immediately asking them to remove the proposed budget cuts that would eliminate the San Dieguito River Park.  Or plan to attend and speak at the December 9th  City Council meeting. Thank you for your help!  Two documents are attached: 1) the text of remarks that our Executive Director Dick Bobertz made to the San Diego City Council on December 2nd.  2) A list of various different talking points that you can use if you send an email or make a phone call or speak at the next City Council meeting.  A link to contact info for the Council members is below.

WHY  YOUR PHONE CALL OR EMAIL OR ATTENDANCE AT THE COUNCIL MEETING IS IMPORTANT:  The City Council may not even realize that these budget cuts will severely injure the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, the agency responsible for creating, managing,  maintaining and operating the San Dieguito River Park.  This information is not at all evident in the City staff report, which makes the cuts appear minor (“deferral of maintenance”).  Then it is important to convey that this action to eliminate its contributions to the JPA would not only cut the JPA budget by 36% but also lead to the termination of the San Dieguito River Park JPA.  The San Dieguito River Park JPA is doing important work that is valuable to the City and the region and should not be eliminated. 

WHY IS THE SAN DIEGUITO RIVER PARK JPA IMPORTANT: The San Dieguito River Park JPA is preserving a natural open space park system along a 55-mile-long river valley that extends from Volcan Mountain just north of Julian to the river’s mouth at Del Mar.  It has acquired 2,976 acres for watershed and open space protection, constructed and maintained 40 miles of trails and a 990-foot-long bridge, restored hundreds of acres of habitat for wildlife, restored a historic pioneer farmhouse, and holds weekly free public education programs and walks and workparty activities.  It advises its member agencies on potential impacts from private development projects.  $157,525,000 in outside revenue has been brought to the San Dieguito River Park for habitat restoration and trail construction and land acquisition projects since 1989.  The reason this much money has been raised is because the San Dieguito River Park JPA was there to seek it and to enter into partnerships with other entities and to serve as the lead agency, and to ensure responsibility and continuity of management.  The San Dieguito River Park is a treasure for this region, and the San Dieguito River Park JPA is needed to take care of it and to share it with the public.

Below is a link to the names and email addresses of all the San Diego  City Council members.

Susan Carter, Deputy Director

San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority

14103 Highland Valley Road

Escondido, CA 92025

Mailing Address:

18372 Sycamore Creek Road

Escondido, CA 92025

Phone: 858 674-2270 Main

Phone: 858 674-2275 x 11 Direct

Fax: 858 674-2280

Cell: 619 733-5455




The City of San Diego and Fairbanks Country Club have not been able to resolve their disagreement over the Club’s alleged delinquent rental payments, and are going to mediation on November 4. 

The Country Club, which has a 60-year lease with the City for approximately 400 acres of public property, has refused to make rent payments allegedly due under the terms of their lease agreement with the City, since 2005.  That agreement, referred to as a sweetheart deal in an investigative report by the San Diego Union, allowed them to build and operate a private golf course and club house on 400 acres of public property rent free until memberships exceeded $25 million. 

According to the City Auditor, that occurred in 2003 and the Club is refusing to pay the required percentage of membership sales.  The rent will increase next year to also include a percentage of food receipts, beverage receipts and other revenues resulting in an estimated annual rent of over 1 million dollars a year according to the 2005 Union report.

The Friends began questioning the City’s lack of action regarding the delinquent payments several years ago.  After getting no response from either the Director of City Planning and Investment or the Mayor, we presented our concern before the City’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee in June.  They asked City staff to investigate and report back to them. 

At their July meeting a representative from the Department of Real Estate Assets reported they were in negotiations with the Club and expected the issue to be resolved.  At the September 9, 2009 meeting James Barwick, Director of Real Estate Assets, reported that their respective attorneys were going to mediation and had been assigned a professional mediator.  Later Mr. Barwick confirmed that the parties were using the Retired Judges Mediation Center, a full service San Diego County based civil mediation firm with offices in Del Mar.

Mediation, according to the Center, “is a confidential setting in which parties to a dispute, working with a professional mediator, settle their dispute privately.  Successful mediation allows the parties to avoid the trauma and extraordinary costs of litigation.”

As of December 2006, the Club was in arrears for almost $170,000.  A new Audit will be completed at the end of this year. The Friends thank the Natural Resources Committee: City Council members Donna Frye, Chair; Sherri Lightner, Carl DeMaio and Marti Emerald for getting staff to investigate and pursue the issue.

Ann Gardner | Via Latina

Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley is asking the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Agency to get permission from the State to mange those portions of the Fairgrounds property currently identified as officially established, or delineated, wetlands.

A volunteer advocacy group for the River Valley since 1986, the Friends has repeatedly questioned both the Fairgrounds and the California Coastal Commission about the Fairgrounds use of two areas; the south and east overflow parking lots off Jimmy Durante Blvd.  Both areas were identified as delineated wetlands by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in 1993 and come under the jurisdiction of the State Lands Commission and the Coastal Commission.

The Friends is specifically concerned with the Fairgrounds practice of placing boxcars on the wetlands closest to I-5 for advertising and storage (see photos below), as well as use of both lots for parking throughout the year. According to Friends President Jacqueline Winterer, use for parking is permitted by the Coastal Commission during the Fair and Racing seasons only, and Federal Law prohibits advertising along the I-5 corridor.

The Friends believe the River Park would be better “long-term stewards” of the wetland areas because the Park’s reason for being is to maintain, restore and protect the natural resources of the River Valley. 

The entire Fairgrounds property west of I-5 was created by the in filling of tidal wetlands (see 1889 map) beginning in the 1920s.  During the heyday of our country’s “swamp reclamation” program for irrigation and agricultural projects, the South Coast Land Company was able to purchase 184 acres of the property in 1926. The Company built a golf course on the property but the project was abandoned in 1930 due to continual salt-water tides that killed the greens and fairways. 

In 1935 the State 22nd Ag District bought the golf course property and an additional 57 acres, qualifying for a Works Progress Administration (WPA) grant to construct facilities for a permanent County Fairground and Racetrack.  Construction involved additional in filling, grading and “drainage ditches to take care of the …old course of the river and the flow of Stevens Creek into it….” (Ewing, Del Mar Looking Back)
By the 1960s and 70’s reclamations work began to change significantly with an awareness that the quickly vanishing wetlands were, in fact, valuable areas that provide important environmental functions and should be acquired and restored not filled in.

The Friends feel protection of the wetlands is critical given the 22nd Agricultural Districts plans to expand facilities adjacent to the newly restored San Dieguito Lagoon and reinvigorated River environment and habitat.  According to a Coastal Commission report, the Agricultural District has challenged the 1993 delineation.

  (Reprinted with permission of the Del Mar Sandpiper)


APRIL 2009

Letter to Dan Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders  (4/17/2009)

April 14, 2009
Mayor Jerry Sanders
City of San Diego
11th Floor, 202 C Street
San Diego, CA. 92101

Dear Mayor Sanders,

We understand that the Real Estate Assets Department has recommended to you that the Fairbanks Country Club’s outstanding rental payments be referred to the Delinquent Bill Collection Unit in the City Treasurer’s Office. This letter is to urge you to support the Department’s recommendation.  Further, if the Club continues to refuse to acknowledge its rental obligations, that the City consider terminating the lease.

Fairbanks Country Club was awarded an agreement in 1986 for the use of 400 acres of public open space in the San Dieguito River Valley for a private golf club rent-free until 2010 or until the Club membership sales exceeded 25 million dollars.  That threshold was crossed in 2003. However, the Club continues to baulk at paying even this amount. The last City Audit completed in 2007 indicated the Club has not made a payment since 2005 and, as of December 2006, was in arrears almost $170,000.

The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley is an incorporated 501 c-4 non-profit volunteer group formed in 1986 to advocate for the protection of the San Dieguito River Valley that runs through the northern edge of the City.  We feel the protection of the River Valley includes advocating for the most appropriate use of public open space within the River Valley.  We have been frustrated with the City's heretofore unwillingness, particularly at a time when you are forced to make tough budget decisions, to rectify what appears to be the Country Club’s complete disregard for its obligations to the City.  

Enclosed is a copy of the City’s May 18, 2007 letter to the Country Club regarding the delinquent payments and a copy of a letter we co-signed with three other groups concerning the issue.  We understand the League of Voters sent a similar letter of concern.

Thank you for your attention and response,

Jacqueline Winterer, President                 
Ann Gardner, Vice President
Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley       
San Diego First District

cc: First District Councilmember Sherri Lightner      
     James Barwick, Director, Real Estate Assets Department