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Update On The Polo Fields
posted January 22, 2017

On December 16, Judge Pollock dismissed our request for a Temporary Injunction to stop Surf Cup LLC abusing the Polo Fields until our suit comes to trial.  See our Memorandum on Points and Authorities.  The Judge’s opinion is set out in his Minute Order.  He also sets a provisional trial date of July 10, 9 AM.  In view of the thousands of pages of material the City is providing  under the California Public Records Act,  and which then our attorneys need to review, this is an aggressive schedule.

2016-12-16 - Minute Order Denying PI
2016-11-28 - Memo P&A Preliminary Injunction
Petition for Writ of Mandate
August 2016.  HERE
Request for Administrative Record.
August 2016  HERE
Lightner Comments. 
July 2016.  HERE
What's going on at the Polo Fields?
posted 31 May 2016

Have you noticed the unusual activity at the polo fields at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real? The horse stalls have been torn down and there is equipment grading the fields. Reportedly Surf Cup Sports will soon install soccer fields on the “fields” and may hold many more traffic generating events at the site although we have been assured by San Diego City staff that the City has NOT selected a new leasee for the property. 

Photos © Maggie Brown.

The 80 acres commonly known as the polo fields were deeded as “dedicated public open space” to the City in 1984 as mitigation for extra development in the River Valley that required a rerouting the of San Dieguito River, unimaginable today.  The grant deed specified that the property be left in as natural a condition as possible and prohibited “large assemblages of people.” In 1986 the City approved a Negative Declaration for a private Polo Club to use the property stipulating that the use would be a “low intensity activity” with no impact on land use, housing and traffic generation including no offsite parking.  Subsequently the City Council added specific instructions to maintain “public access” when not being used for polo. The City reassured concerned groups including Sierra Club that the number of trips generated would not have a significant adverse impact on the capacity of the existing street(s), weekend matches would not be advertised and are expected to attract…a small amount of onlookers, parking (for 50 cars) would be located…just west of the polo fields and development of future facilities would be subject to subsequent environmental review.

The Club ran into financial difficulties and in early 1997 the City agreed to allow “Special Events designed specifically to …reduce the amount of the rental deficiency owed the City and to help (the Club) pay off an existing loan…” “We understand that the …Polo Club has been going through some tight financial times and we have approved these events as a temporary method to try to help the Club work its way out of the predicament.  In the future we would propose to reduce or eliminate the events with the possible exception of a few events for charity.” In 2003 the City granted a “one-time approval… that should not be construed as approval for future special events” for soccer practice, Surf Soccer Cup (July 26-28) and Surf Girls Soccer Cup (Nov 28-30).

In the meantime the City sought and got permission from the deed grantor for additional uses including dog shows, soccer tournaments, Christmas tree sales and youth soccer practice NOT to occur more “than 25 days per calendar year cumulatively (not each).” This transaction which resulted in large assemblages of automobiles was done without notice to the public, including to the “benefitted” land owners which is required in the grant deed.

Beginning in 2004 and through August, 2014 community groups voiced their dismay at the traffic and noise generated by the intensification of uses and called for a supplemental environmental review to assess the new impacts to the river habitat property and the neighborhood.  The City not only did not respond to the concerns and the request, but in 2014 the Real Estate Assets Department asked the grantor to approve 25 events replacing the language 25 days, doubling and even tripling the intensification of uses as many of the “events” are 2 and 3 days long.

Memo of P&A Ex Parte. 
October 2016  HERE


Requests for more & more "Special Events"
posted August 14, 2015

120 acres of rare encumbered open space in the San Dieguito River Valley at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real are up for rent “to the proposal that will provide the best value to the City (of San Diego)…”  

The Friends, the City of San Diego and the current lessee, the San Diego Polo Club, have been at odds for years over what is the best “value” for this parcel of public open space in an increasingly populated area. 

The property was deeded to the City of San Diego in 1982 as mitigation for open space lost in allowing increased residential development in the River Valley and came with a restriction to keep it in as natural condition as possible, including a prohibition against “large assemblages of automobiles.”  In 1986 the property was leased to the San Diego Polo Club to be used ONLY for polo and by the public for passive recreation during non-polo hours. The public access was so important to the then San Diego City Council that a separate clause was added to their motion approving the lease.

In 1996 the Polo Club was unable to meet its rental payments and unfortunately a new agreement without public input was drawn up to allow “Special Events” that would produce revenue to reduce the amount of money owed the City and to help pay off an existing loan to Wells Fargo Bank. At the Club’s request the City continued to ask the original owner to allow more and more “special events” without public input or a new environmental assessment as promised. These events have grown to include not only international Surf Cup tournaments that draw thousands of spectators along with nightmare traffic but many private events that push public access and natural open space further and further into the background.  Last year the local Presidio Soccer League, a San Diego based organization that schedules youth soccer teams including a Del Mar/Carmel Valley team, filed a lawsuit against the City claiming they had been refused use of the grounds for community based practice and games. At the same time the Polo Club continues to advertise for private events for up to 1000 people. 

The Polo Club lease expired in 2012 and has continued on a month to month basis. Proposals for a new lease are due on September 15.

The Friends have asked both the City and the original grantor to resist continued requests from the Club for more events and to even revoke a recent approval for more days.  This has been ignored.  Now it seems the Friends and the public must depend on the City’s Proposal Selection Committee to stand behind their written intent to pick a proposal that will “serve the needs of the local and regional community” without jeopardizing public open space and its value to the San Dieguito River Valley habitat and local families.  

Polo Fields Release Renewal. 
May 2015  HERE
Polo Fields: Will the Polo Club Stay?
posted 05/01/12

The lease between the City of San Diego and the Polo Club expired in March, and the City is drafting a Request For Proposals (RFP) inviting bids for a new lease.  In the meantime the Polo Club continues to lease the City-owned property, at the corner of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real adjacent to the San Dieguito River, on a month-to-month basis.

Activities sponsored by the Polo Club have drawn criticism from adjacent neighborhoods and environmental groups, including the Friends.  Neighbors have complained about the voluminous traffic and parking that occurs during the popular Surf Cup tournaments, in violation of the lease that prohibited “large assemblages of people or automobiles” and restricted use of the property to polo related activities only. The Friends and the San Dieguito River Park were also involved in a lengthy civil action against the Club when it began disking the publics trail next to River and using the degraded trail and buffer zone as an exercise track for their ponies.  The exercise track was eventually moved but the required restoration has yet to take place.

With the hope that a new lease might promote a more environmentally sensitive use of the property and eliminate future complaints, the Friends have asked the City to highlight certain conditions in the RFP, including:

-The 80-acre site is designated as Open Space to be kept and preserved in “a natural condition as near as possible,”
-A minimum 100-foot wide buffer that includes the public trail between the leasehold and the River,
-Restoration of the public trail and habitat,
-Minimize impact to the River habitat and environment, and
-The public trail shall remain open to the public at all times and, as appropriate, the property is open to the public for passive uses, e.g. picnicking and Frisbee, that would not interfere with the lessee’s operations.

We continue to monitor the City’s RFP process for leasing this important piece of publicly-owned open space in the River Valley, and will keep readers informed.

Neighborhood Code Compliance. 
December 2005.  HERE