Board elected for 2012-2013 (12/22/11)
President: Maggie Brown – Solana Beach
Vice-President: Candy Bowman – San Diego
Secretary: Ann Gardner – San Diego
Treasurer: Bill Michalsky – Del Mar
Ed Greene – Solana Beach
Stuart Smith – Del Mar
Jeff Barnouw – Del Mar
Advisors: (A new category of membership for active non-voting Friends)
Mary Farrell – Del Mar
Bill Farrell – Del Mar
Jacqueline Winterer – Del Mar
Freda Reid – Del Mar
Ed Mirsky – Del Mar
Cory Ha’o – San Diego
Board members serve for six years, break for one year but may remain in the non-voting Advisor category.
Coastal rail project grant (12/11/11)
The Coastal rail project received a big boost from the US Department of Transportation when Caltrans received an award for $21 million. This enables early engineering and design of three coastal rail projects which will eventually add a second track to a large portion of the rail system from Orange County to downtown San Diego.
One of the projects impacting the San Dieguito River Valley includes a 1.1 mile second track and seasonal rail platform in Del Mar allowing direct access to the Fairgrounds. Grant funds will be administered by SANDAG. They will work with the North County Transit District and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.
The North Coast Corridor Program is a broader transportation and environmental project which will include two of these funded rail projects.
Dedication of San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration (11/7/11)
After a rainy Sunday the San Dieguito Lagoon sparkled on a sunny Monday morning for the official dedication of the restoration project. A large group gathered to admire the views, to watch the birds, to meet friends made over the 14-year permitting and construction period and to thank all the participants. Originally mandated by the California Coastal Commission as mitigation for loss of juvenile fish at the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, the work was funded by Southern California Edison and the San Diego Gas and Electric Company with competent engineering and management by Marathon Construction.
SDG&E brought a group of young citizens from south San Diego to introduce them to this project hoping they will be amongst those who benefit from this magnificent effort.
Just as the proceedings concluded a beautiful egret was seen hunting below the speaker’s platform – probably asserting its rights to the Lagoon.
Two Orchids (11/04/11)
The San Dieguito River Park JPA has received two “Orchid” awards in the annual design contest sponsored by the San Diego Architectural Foundation .
The first, for Architecture, is the San Dieguito River Park Headquarters at 18372 Sycamore Creek Rd. in Escondido. It was designed by Rinehart/Herbst. The citation read: “It is nicely restrained and elegant, but also striking with an occasional flourish.”
The second, for Landscape Architecture, went to the David Kreitzer Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge west of I-15 at Lake Hodges in Rancho Bernado. It was designed by Safdie/Rabines. Its citation said: “The project seamlessly blurs the lines between architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, and art.”
San Dieguito River flows to the ocean (10/08/11)
On a balmy, late fall afternoon bulldozers broke through the final sand barrier separating the San Dieguito wetlands from the ocean. Lagoon waters rushed by carrying large fish. This is the first time in many decades that full ocean tides will return to the wetlands. This was a large coastal estuary prior to developments which included a golf course, a computer business, an airport, a wartime blimp station, and the current Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The Lagoon Restoration project has been funded by Southern California Edison and SDG&E with Marathon Construction a very competent and supportive contractor. It was required by the Coastal Commission to mitigate the impact on fish populations of the San Onofre nuclear generating station. Edison has committed to keeping the river mouth open for many years. Its representatives have always been generous and considerate people. It has been a pleasure for local San Dieguito River Park volunteers to be associated with this exciting project and now to see its culmination.
David Kay, Manager, Environmental Projects, Southern California Edison
Dick Bobertz, Executive Director San Dieguito River Park
Jason Lopez, Resources and Trails Manager, SDRP
Wayne Brechtel, SDRP-JPA Counsel
San Dieguito River dredging continues (09/21/11)
The final stages of the restoration project are underway. Sand is being removed from the river west of Durante bridge in order to increase water flow to and from the lagoon area. The river mouth will also be dredged with the objective of moving the outlet further north. Work is being done by Marathon Construction, the prime contractor for the restoration. photos © Stu Smith
Sewage Fouls Los Penasquitos (09/17/11)
A regional blackout on September 8 was responsible for a major sewage spill at the sewage pump station on Roselle St. where about 1.9 million gallons spilled into the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. This resulted in week-long closures of local beaches including Torrey Pines, Del Mar, and Solana Beach. San Diego is in the process of looking for the causes of this unusual event and is assessing environmental damage. Meanwhile all beaches are now open for water contact activities.
California Coastal Commission (09/14/11)
The California Coastal Commission has a new Executive Director. Charles Lester, a former political science professor, has been appointed to the position held for the past 26 years by retiring Peter Douglas. He has worked with the Commission since 1997, most recently as senior deputy director and acting director. He has degrees in geochemistry, jurisprudence and social policy as well as a law degree.
22nd DAA Board changes (08/29/11)
The 6/13/11 notice of the ouster of three 22nd Ag District Board members by Governor Brown has been followed by the removal of two more and the appointment of five new members. Each of the replaced members had served well beyond their allotted time. In addition to Barry Nussbaum, Vivian Hardage, and Kelly Burt, members Charles Kim Fletcher and Patricia Davies have been removed.
They are to be replaced by:
Lisa Barkett vice president of a financial firm from La Jolla who also served up to 2006.
Frederick Schenk an attorney of San Diego who also served up to 2006.
David Lizerbram an attorney of San Diego.
David Watson an attorney of Chula Vista.
Tom Chino, owner of Chino Farm in Rancho Santa Fe.
Adam Day is current president of the board.
Lagoon dredging – grunion gone (08/20/11)
The final phase of dredging for the Lagoon project, between the railroad bridge and the river mouth, is due to begin after Labor Day. Equipment will be mobilized on the beach north of the river mouth on September 6th. There was a hiatus in the work because the permit conditions prohibited dredging during the grunion runs that occurred in June and during the heavy beach-use season. It should take approximately one month to dredge the 40,000 cubic yards of sand and deposit it on the beach, mostly on the south side of the river mouth. The dredging will be done with backhoe excavators (v. floating dredges). The inlet channel will be moved to the north and the existing inlet channel will be filled by excavated sand. It is expected that work will be completed during the first week of October.
The final phase of the overall project will be the installation of a rock revetment (a facing to sustain the embankment) on the riverbank along a section of San Dieguito Road. The revetment will protect the bank and the roadway during future flood events. This work is scheduled to start in April and should last for four months.
FSDRV July Board meeting (07/29/11)
Formation of a multi-agency ad hoc committee to discuss past fairgrounds violations of Coastal Commission regulations.
I-5 Expansion and possibilities for CALTRANS mitigation sites in San Dieguito lagoon area.
Flower Hill Expansion : notice of violation and stop work order from CCC.
Preliminary plans for St. John Garabed Armenian Church on El Camino Real.
Polo Fields: River Park trail alignment adopted by San Diego Planning Commission. Discussion of soccer and other large scale uses of Polo Field.
Discussion of design of future Mileage Markers to be partially funded by FSDRV.
San Diego Planning Commission/Polo Club (07/16/11)
The Commission approved the Rancho Santa Fe Polo Club Site Development Permit with a Mitigated Negative Declaration to restore a public trail along the San Dieguito River and impacts to adjacent areas caused by unauthorized grading activity. The Commission also approved a separate private exercise track for use by the Polo Club. The oval shaped track will be modified to an inverted L shape during Surf Club Tournament and other soccer events. The project site is located east of El Camino Real and south of Via de la Valle. The property is owned by the City of San Diego and is leased to the Polo Club, within the Fairbanks Ranch Specific Plan in Council District 1. A new Polo Club lease is currently under discussion with the city.
JPA Citizens’ Advisory Committee Meeting (07/03/11)
“Reach the Beach” (west of Jimmy Durante Bridge) JPA staff reported that public input at a meeting held in Del Mar favored an alignment north of the San Dieguito River for the Coast to Crest Trail segment.
JPA Headquarters building at 18372 Sycamore Creek Road, Escondido. The American Institute of Architects gave a merit award for the new building.
A Del Dios resident complained about a plague of crows destroying bird populations in her area. No agency accepts the responsibility for controlling crows.
Project Review Committee
The PRC will meet on July 18 at 1.30pm at the St. John Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church project site on El Camino Real to receive a presentation. This new church will be located north of the recently completed Evangelical Formosan Church.
New Wetland Restoration Project on the former Boudreau property.
The widening of I-5 will generate mitigation funds. SANDAG is studying mitigation potential at several sites. Poseidon walked away from a project for wetland restoration east of the Southern California Edison Lagoon Restoration Project. It is now being re-examined by SANDAG. SCE requires that this project have no flooding, sedimentation or scouring impact on its nearly completed Lagoon restoration project.
Loop Trail to be completed in February 2012.
California High-Speed Rail (07/03/11)
The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) recently hosted several community open houses along the proposed route. The High-Speed rail project plans to develop an 800-mile track from San Francisco to San Diego via the Central Valley. The track will be grade-separated precluding the need for horns. The trains will be electrically powered and operate at speeds of 220 mph (less in urban areas ). Across Lake Hodges and the San Dieguito River the rail alignment will be located east of I-15 and elevated on pylons with minimum impact to the valley.
The Authority will be sharing the results of the Preliminary Alternatives Analysis (PAA) Report. The PAA Report is the first step in a two-step process to identify the range of alternatives to be carried forward for detailed engineering and the Environmental Impact Report/ Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). The next step will be the Supplemental Alternatives Analysis Report, which will be completed in 2011-2012. The goal of the open houses was to present current plans and obtain input before CHSRA initiates the detailed environmental/engineering analysis later in 2012 (subject to funding availability). Agency and public input will be used in the ongoing refinement of alignment alternatives, station locations and design options.
JPA/CAC Trails Committee meeting (06/23/11)
- Coast to Crest Trail: Clevenger Canyon extension of the Mule Hill Trail. Passes through orange groves and steep slopes but trail is possible. Will require purchase of significant number of orange trees for removal, engineering expertise, probable Caltrans agreements and, of course, grant funds.
- Polo Club Trail: See below.
- FSDRV Mileage marker project: In lieu of measuring distances using GPS the JPA suggests taking measurements from aerial photos keyed to GIS data base, to be done as a student class project. Use of the data by first responders, sheriff etc. must be considered. No design has been selected so far.
4.Status of trails: Lagoon Trail should be open in the next 2-3 months once fencing is installed.
Mesa Loop Trail may require amending the coastal permit.
Horsepark Trail will be built soon by the 22nd Ag District. Some eucalyptus trees will be removed and fencing added.
Pamo Valley Trail – San Dieguito RP Conservancy may use part of a recent donation for permitting and drawings followed by fundraising for construction costs.
– Carol Carr & Stu Smith
San Dieguito River Park JPA Board meeting (06/21/11)
The 2001/12 Budget was passed. San Diego is still unable to pay its assessment causing serious problems for the JPA. Del Mar and Escondido will help by reverting to the original assessments which were reduced for the past two years. It is necessary to borrow from the Endowment Fund but to maintain the principal.
Jacqueline Winterer reported on the Coastal Commission meeting she attended. The Board addressed the fairgrounds request for a Coastal Development Permit for a large tent on its property near to the freeway. It was pointed out that the Fair Board has many non-permitted structures already. The CCC Board and asked for a list of these with plans for mitigation. The CDP was not granted. The JPA is joining with Solana Beach and Del Mar in a lawsuit related to the recent 22nd Ag District Master Plan EIR approval.
San Diego Planning Commission/Polo Club (06/17/11)
The SD Planning Commission considered a plan from the Polo Club to restore an existing public trail and impacts to adjacent areas by unauthorized grading; create a joint use trail for pedestrians and equestrians, and create a separate private exercise track for the existing use of the Polo Club.
San Dieguito River Park personnel, the Polo Club and others were supportive of the project which has been under discussion for many years. Environmental factors were lauded by the commissioners and resource agencies have already given approval. However one commissioner is particularly interested in soccer use at the field and had a plan which would intensify the soccer use and possible other activities.
The item was continued until July 14 for further consideration.
California Coastal Commission meeting in Marina Del Rey (06/17/11)
A request from the 22nd District Agricultural Association for a Coastal Development Permit was on the agenda. The DAA wishes to place a 6650 sq.ft. tent structure for golf uses and other developments on the Fairgrounds Surf and Turf property. Dustin Fuller presented the project. Dawn Rawls (Lagoon Committee) and Jacqueline Winterer (Friends of SD River Valley) addressed the issue of the relationship between the CCC and the 22nd DAA with respect to the lack of permit approvals for many completed projects over many years. The CCC Board decided to postpone the CDP hearing until the Fairboard has completed requirements to remedy this situation.
Ouster of DAA Fair Board members (06/13/11)
The Union Tribune reports the ouster of 3 members of the Fair Board by Governor Brown. Barry Nussbaum: Long time chair of the Board who was the main architect of the Master Plan with Russ Penniman (term expired but not removed); Kelly Burt: supported all Board actions but rarely spoke at meetings. Vivian Hardage; had missed many meetings due to health problems. Recently rejoined the Board but never expressed an opinion.
Adam Day will take over the Chairmanship. New members have not yet been announced. The Board will not meet again until August 9, 2011 because of the ongoing Fair.
FSDRV Board meeting (05/29/11)
Two lawsuits have been filed related to the Fairgrounds EIR. Del Mar, Solana Beach and the JPA and a separate one from the Sierra Club.
Send another letter to the CCC re the unpermitted Bingo sign near the freeway.
Recycling Center property now cleared but no barrier to parking at present.
Grant of $100,000 received by Del Mar from Vector Control for amelioration of the standing water at the west end of San Dieguito Drive.
Via de la Valle widening will include four lanes but the overall width of the project will be narrower.
FSDRV banners have been mounted in Del Mar.
Funds are available to replace one of the information signs on Grand Avenue Bridge Overlook.
Mileage marker project is underway.
April Bird Count Walk (05/27/11)
New species observed: Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, Warbling Vireo, Nashville Warbler, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Hermit Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncom Western Tanager, and Lazuli Bunting. Total for the month: 112. Count total 2010-2011: 188.
San Dieguito Drive Drainage Improvement (05/26/11)
The City of Del Mar has successfully obtained a competitive grant of $100,000 from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health for the purpose of reducing mosquito habitat. This project will remove standing water along the south side of San Dieguito Drive approximately 300 ft east of Jimmy Durante Boulevard. The hillside generates groundwater which encroaches on the roadway and is a breeding habitat for mosquitoes. The project includes the installation of paved ditches to catch groundwater runoff and connecting pipes to existing storm drain facilities.
River mouth dredging delayed by fish (05/08/11)
Several grunion runs this spring are delaying the final dredging of the San Dieguito River Lagoon east of the North County Transit District (NCTD) railroad bridge. Dredging will resume after Labor Day and the summer beach season. It had been expected to be completed by that date. Final inlet dredging is now scheduled to be completed by November 2011 according to Patrick Tennant, Southern California Edison (SCE) project manager.
Reach the beach meeting (05/01/11)
The San Dieguito River Park received a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy to study and create a plan to complete the west end of the Coast to Crest Trail. The CTC Trail currently ends at Jimmy Durante but is planned to extend to the beach in Del Mar. The grant will be used to explore potential trail routes from Jimmy Durante to the beach and solicit input from local agencies, the community, and trail users. A preferred trail route will be identified based on input received and a detailed plan will be produced.
West Bernado bike path/cantilever at Lake Hodges (04/26/11)
The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony Officially opening the West Bernardo Bike Path/Cantilever was held Friday April 8. Although forecasted to rain, the weather turned out to be beautiful as 40 people attended the event emceed by County Supervisor and JPA Boardmember Pam Slater-Price. Other speakers included Joe Tognoli from T. Y. Lin International Engineers, Carol Carr on behalf of the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Rand Newman, new president of the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, Dick Bobertz, Executive Director of the San Dieguito River Park, and Dave Kreitzer, long-time River Park supporter for whom the bicycle/pedestrian bridge over Lake Hodges is named.
April Bird Count Walk (04/13/11)
New species observed: Plumbeous/Cassin’s Vireo: A Solitary-type vireo. Total for month: 107. Count total 2010-2011: 178
FSDRV Board meeting (04/04/11)
Marathon Construction has started dredging the western sector of the lagoon beginning east of the Grand Ave. Bridge.
Discussion of the DAA projects near to the mini-golf course and request for postponement of the CCC hearing which was granted.
Letter sent re non-permitted DAA Bingo sign adjacent to the freeway
Vandals have damaged a bollard at the Grand Ave. Bridge
JPA signage at High Bluff Road park in need of refurbishment
Lake Hodges still overflowing since Feb 21
Trails Committee report on “Reach the Beach”project to find a suitable route for the trail from the Boardwalk to the beach. Public workshop at Del Mar city annex on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 6.30 PM
Work on mileage markers is proceeding. To be installed on trail from beach to I-5 freeway as an aid for emergency personnel as well as hikers.
Possible fund raiser
Lagoon Restoration: grand finale (03/23/11)
The final stage of the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration project is now in progress. It started east of the Jimmy Durante bridge and is moving west towards the ocean. It will take about five months to dredge approximately 85,000 cubic yards of sand currently clogging the river channel and to pump it to a stockpile area, for eventual distribution to least tern sites and to the Del Mar beach. This will result in a better exchange of water from the ocean to the newly restored wetlands. The specialized dredge operating in the eastern wetlands is small, has minimum emissions and makes very little noise. Excavators and front-end loaders will be used to remove sand in the channel west of Jimmy Durante Bridge. The same process of sand removal and placement has been used in past years to open the river mouth.
The $86 million restoration project is being conducted by Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to offset the impacts of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station. It has produced rewarding results so far with a naturally sustainable ecosystem supporting much increased fish and bird populations.
West Bernardo Bike Path and cantilever open (03/06/11)
The bike path that connects the south end of the David Kreitzer Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge to the Bernardo Bay Natural Area and Rancho Bernardo Community Park is now open.
Water over the dam (03/04/11)
There are three man-made dams and associated reservoirs along the course of the San Dieguito River built over an 85-year period. The oldest is Lake Hodges, built in 1918, followed by Lake Sutherland in 1954 and Olivenhain Reservoir in 2003. Lake Hodges is owned by the City of San Diego and operated and maintained by its Public Utilities Department. It serves customers of the Santa Fe and San Dieguito Water Districts. While we are benefiting from abundant rains this year drought is more usual. In anticipation of dry years, Lake Hodges has recently been linked to the Olivenhain Reservoir which receives water from Northern California and the Colorado River aqueducts. Because it has a very large (300 sq. mile) watershed, Hodges spills more often than any other reservoir in San Diego County. As of February 28, 2011, only Lake Hodges and Lake Barrett were 100 percent full and flowing over their spillways. The Hodges water started to overflow on February 21 thanks to abundant rain producing a spectacular waterfall which delighted passersbys.
Weekly updates of water levels in our County lakes is found at http://www.sandiego.gov/water/recreation/levels.shtml
FSDRV Board meeting (03/04/11)
The Board welcomed Ed Greene back as a member.
Subjects discussed included the following:
Lack of MPLA designation for the river valley
San Dieguito Lagoon Center
Fairgrounds application for minor projects near the mini-golf range
Illegal bingo sign on the freeway
Relocation of power lines on Via de la Valle
Overflow of Lake Hodges after this year’s storms
Polo Fields updated plans for JPA trail
Possibilities for trail extension to the beach and new Mesa Loop trail
JPA/Conservancy financial problems
FSDRV financial report
Projects for 2011
One year report on web site.
Look out for further details on these items on this web site.
Via de la Valle road work (03/04/11)
SDG&E has begun the undergrounding work on Via de la Valle adjacent to the eastern part of the Lagoon Restoration project and west of Horsepark. The large transmission lines will be moved to the north side of the road and the smaller ones will be undergrounded when the surface road work begins. According to SDG&E completion is anticipated by April 22 2011. Hours of operation are scheduled for 9 PM to 5 AM Sunday through Thursday to mitigate traffic concerns. munity Planning Board
Year of wonders (03/03/11)
Last year was a wonderful year for the wildlife at the San Dieguito Lagoon. The ebb and flow of the tides has brought in the seeds of marsh grasses as well as mud-flat worms and other organism invertebrates. The tidal basins served as hatcheries for a number of fish species. The fish are present in greater numbers than expected and that’s good news for the coastal fisheries. And 173 species of birds were counted during monthly bird surveys for the year, including Brown Pelican, Clapper Rail, Least Tern, California Gnatcatcher, Bell’s Vireo, and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow. All of which are on State and Federal watch lists due to their low abundance. In addition, Peregrine Falcons are regularly seen in the lagoon, including juvenile falcons probably raised in the Torres Pines Reserve. Cactus Wrens were common in San Diego County, but are hard to find now. One was seen in the park, and was even carrying nest-building material—let’s hope. In addition, species restricted to wetlands are present (Virginia Rail, Sora, Black-necked Stilt, American Avocet, Least Bittern, Osprey), which is very good news.
– Ed Mirsky
Monthy Bird Count Walk (02/13/11)
New species observed: Snow Goose Total for month: 107. Count total 2010-2011: 175
Fairgrounds EIR Consideration (02/06/11)
The latest information from Dustin Fuller (DAA Senior Environmental Planner) is that April 12th is probably the earliest possible date for the Fair Board to consider the final Fairgrounds Master Plan EIR. CEQA requires that Public Agencies have ten (10) days to review the responses to their comments PRIOR to that hearing date. There is no CEQA requirement related to review of responses to comments submitted by individuals or probably other organizations such as the Friends. Dustin emphasized that the April 12 date is NOT final.
Farmstead Market (02/06/11)
Don’t forget the Farmstead Market every Sunday from 1:00pm – 5:00 p.m. Located at the gateway to the San Pasqual Agricultural Preserve, the market is open to the public and lots of fresh organic produce from Certified Farmers and food and Craft vendors also will be available for purchase. Visit the historic home while you’re here.
Featured Farmers Market Vendors:
Roots N’ Fruits – Bob Myers is the owner of a small farm in Valley Center where he grows six varieties of persimmons, lemons, and figs. They should be ripe by this weekend.
Moonspinners Ranch – Donna Downing is the owner of a sheep farm in Valley Center. She is a spinner knitter who brings a small spinning wheel to market and demonstrates how yarn is spun from the fur of her sheep. She has beautiful handmade items like socks, gloves, hats, and scarves for sale.
Intermediate Birding Course (02/06/11)
SDAS again offers its Intermediate Birding Course with Phil Pryde, Instructor. San Diego Audubon Society (SDAS) will be offering its Intermediate Birding Course, designed for those with some experience in field identification of southwestern birds, and who would like to gain additional skills to enhance the enjoyment of their birding hobby. The class will be conducted on six Saturday mornings, starting on February 12th, and will include at least two guided field trips. The primary subject matter of the course will be on identifying the more difficult or confusing local species (such as Clark’s and Western Grebes, etc.), but many other topics will be covered as well. This intermediate birding course is open to all. Cost of the course is just $85 for Friends (i.e., members) of SDAS, $110 for non-members. The course will be taught at the Tecolote Nature Center. If you wish to enroll or have questions, call Phil Pryde, the course instructor at 619-465-9492.
San Diego Archaeology Center New Exhibit (01/29/11)
The Legendary Life of Nate Harrison, San Diego’s first African-American homesteader will be on view until Thursday, September 15 2011 at the Archaeology Center on San Pasqual Road. Call 760-291-0370 or email email@example.com for information
First Bird Count of 2011 (01/27/11)
Birders meet monthly at Del Mar Public Works next to the River Path to tally the counts and species seen at five different areas within the San Dieguito Lagoon Area. The January 2011 count of 118, was the highest in 13 months and brought the total number of species identified since January 2010 to 175, including two new species: the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Glaucous-winged Gull. New species observed: Sharp-shinned Hawk and Glaucous-winged Gull Total for month: 118 Count total 2010-2011: 175
Birdwatching at San Dieguito Lagoon (01/13/11)
Join avid birder Dave Batzler at the San Dieguito Lagoon as the River Park continues public bird watching sessions designed to encourage amateur birders to share their love of birds. We will have birding guides on hand for your convenience and also a scope to view the birds from different areas along the way. Bring your binoculars, camera, and water. No fee. Meet at the information kiosk at the start of the Lagoon Trail located at the end of the cul-de-sac on San Andres Drive in Del Mar.
West Bernardo Bike Path to Open in January (01/03/11)
The trail connection between the David Kreitzer Lake Hodges Bicycle Pedestrian Bridge and the Bernardo Bay/Piedras Pintadas Trails at Lake Hodges is under construction and scheduled to be completed by the end of January. The 0.3-mile segment along West Bernardo Drive extends from the Bernardo Bay staging area to the south end of the bridge, connecting the 23-mile segment of the Coast-to-Crest Trail on the north side of the lake to four miles of trails on the south side. The bridge will remain open during construction and was recently resurfaced with a more durable, non-slip material.
December Bird Count (12/26/2010)
Species seen on December 9, 2010, and recorded for the first time this year:
Species total for December: 112
Total species seen for the year to date: 173
Sikes Adobe Farmstead Market Open Sundays 1-5 pm
Please come out to our new Certified Farmers Market at 12655 Sunset Drive, Escondido, to shop for produce and other home grown and homemade items on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Other fun activities include pony rides and wagon rides. The Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse will be open for free public tours from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sundays.
Orchid Award (12/12/10)
The San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration project has earned an ORCHID award from the San Diego Architectural Foundation in its 2010 competition.
November Bird Count (11/17/2010)
The count of the San Dieguito Lagoon Area Monthly Bird Survey for 2010 monitors five count areas, which range from the ocean to Fairbanks Ranch Village. Species seen on November 7, 2010, and recorded for the first time this year:
Species total for November: 109
Total species seen for the year to date: 171
JPA Board meetings (10/20/2010)
The October meeting of the JPA Board of Directors has been cancelled due to a need to conserve funds. The next meeting will be on November 19, 2010 at the County Administrative Bldg. The Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) will not meet in October. Open House Week at the newly rebuilt San Dieguito River Park Offices
Orchid Nomination for 2010 Restoration project (10/17/10)
Although not your typical landscape architecture project, the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project is a worthy Orchid. This project has undergone over 15 years of planning, design, and permitting, and then two years of construction. Today, the San Dieguito Lagoon is emerging as one of the largest and highest profile habitat restoration projects in Southern California. The San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration project is restoring 150 acres of coastal wetland habitat. The San Dieguito Lagoon is located at Del Mar, just north of San Diego, California. Southern California Edison (SCE) is working in partnership with the San Dieguito River Park Authority (JPA) to carry out the restoration project. The San Dieguito Wetland Restoration Project has been very carefully designed so that the rejuvenated lagoon will serve as a thriving fish hatchery, a refuge for migratory waterfowl, and as an open space for recreational opportunities for local and regional communities alike. A public working group consisting of agency representatives, non-governmental organizations, and interested members of the public, worked toward developing a range of practical means of restoring the San Dieguito Lagoon. Construction is nearly completed. In total, approximately two million cubic yards of earth will have been excavated, creating a net of 150 acres of tidal wetlands, on both sides of Interstate 5. A cornerstone of the project is to remove the sand that has plugged the river channel for many years and keep the tidal inlet open in perpetuity. At high-tide, the created wetlands already support a population of snails, crabs, amphibians, small mammals, birds, and provide fish a place to spawn and grow. Approximately 400,000 wetland plants were planted throughout the marsh habitats in early 2009. This planted vegetation is already thriving and serves as foraging and nesting habitat for dozens of bird species. The river park’s multi-purpose network of public trails are under construction and will follow the marsh shoreline, punctuated by interpretive wildlife viewing platforms.
City of Del Mar Press Release 10/7/2010
Preliminary Agreement Regarding Del Mar Fairgrounds
The City of Del Mar announced today that it has been given preliminary agreement by the state’s administration to purchase the Del Mar Fairgrounds and racetrack, keeping one of the county’s most popular sites in the public domain.
“We are looking forward to continuing to work with those interested in this sale to reach the Legislature’s and the Governor’s support,” says Richard Earnest, mayor of Del Mar. “The Fairgrounds and horse racing are long-standing traditions in our county. Our purchase of the grounds will enable us to protect those traditions, as well as to preserve the jobs they support.”
By keeping the site in the public trust, the City would also be able to continue its strategic environmental support of the neighboring lagoon and river.
The Fairgrounds, which are located primarily in the City of Del Mar, make up 20 percent of the city’s geographic area. Although the City is the lead agency in the purchase agreement, it will likely not be involved in the operation of the Fairgrounds. A separate board with regional representation, comprised of non-elected professionals with related operational experience, is being considered to run the Fairgrounds. Currently a board of governor appointees oversees operations and maintenance.
The pending purchase, which is supported by Sen. Christine Kehoe, County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, and Mayor Morris Vance of Vista, would not require taxpayer support.
SDRP/JPA grant (10/07/10)
The San Dieguito River Park JPA has received a $1,049,368 River Parkways Grant from the California Natural Resources Agency to fund trail enhancements and riparian restoration in Del Dios Gorge. This is part of the first round of Proposition 84 funding. The $31 million in funding to be distributed statewide was awarded to 31 agencies and the River Park is the only awardee in San Diego County. The grant proposal, written by the JPA, includes a recreational element and also a restoration element to benefit native habitat and wildlife.
Lagoon Water Quality Monitoring (9/27/2010)
Lagoon Water Quality Monitoring will take place at the San Dieguito Lagoon in cooperation with San Diego Coastkeeper. The San Dieguito River Park is partnering with San Diego CoastkeeperWater Quality Monitoring Program at the San Dieguito Lagoon. The rainy season is approaching so we want to begin our program now so that we are set to test the water as soon as it starts to flow. San Diego Coastkeeper will provide training and supplies and will conduct all the lab work for our “water conscious” volunteers interested in collecting and analyzing water samples. If you are interested in learning about water quality issues, field and laboratory science, and becoming more active in addressing water pollution, please get in touch with Barbara at Barbara@sdrp.org and become a part of monthly sampling events to help keep our watershed clean. We ask that you participate in a minimum of three events in a six month duration once your training is completed.
San Dieguito Watershed Council (08/06/10)
In September of 2006, the San Dieguito Watershed Management Plan was finalized, creating a script for the long-term preservation of the natural and recreational resources in the County’s fourth-largest watershed. In January of 2007, the San Dieguito Watershed Council was formed to implement the Watershed Management Plan through a coalition of stakeholders. The Conservancy and San Dieguito River Park co-chair the Watershed Council.
Coast Watch (6/28/2010)
The construction phase of the 150-acre plus San Dieguito Wetland restoration project is near completion. While the bulk of the work has taken place east of Camino Del Mar, there are a few remaining details that will vastly increase beach access, make beach space more usable, as well as beautify three of our beach access locations.
June Bird Count (6/11/2010)
The San Dieguito Lagoon/River Valley monthly bird survey is in its sixth month and a total of 153 species has been seen in the five count areas which range from the ocean to Fairbanks Ranch Village. The Sunday, June 6 count observed 85 species including five new species: Swainson’s Hawk, Common Moorhen, Allen’s Hummingbird, Ash-throated Flycatcher, and Phainopepla.
Horsepark Trail Grant to JPA (5/30/2010)
The State of California granted $350,000 for the Horsepark Trail, the section of the Coast to Crest Trail directly west of El Camino Real and north of the San Dieguito River. This important trail connection has long been blocked by horse show rings on the Horsepark show/board facility. This grant of State Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program funds will enable the River Park to hire a contractor to reconfigure the show rings and to construct the trail through the site. Thanks to the 22nd DAA and Horsepark Board and staff for their enthusiastic support for this project.
Trail Construction Donations Received (05/09/2010)
Southern California Edison has awarded $50,000 for Trail Construction at the San Dieguito Lagoon. These funds will be combined with a $15,000 private donation through the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy to build the section of the lagoon trail between San Andres Drive and Horsepark. Another $50,000 has been awarded by Sempra Energy for Trail Construction at the San Dieguito Lagoon. These funds will get us started on the Mesa Loop Trail, south of the river and west of El Camino Real.
San Dieguito River Park beach access trails (5/05/2010)
At its April 16, 2010 meeting, the San Dieguito River Park Trails Committee learned from SDRP staff that a grant has been requested from the Coastal Conservancy for consulting on alternative locations for the section of the future Coast-to-Crest trail between Jimmy Durante Blvd. and the beach. Also, Southern California Edison will be providing more handicap parking for the beach near the present on-street parking on the north side of the river.
Slater Slams Split (5/10/2010)
From: Supervisor Pam Slater-Price
To: San Dieguito River Park JPA
The City of Del Mar Planning Commission considered the Andrews Lot Split at its April 13, 2010 hearing. The Andrews lot is directly west of the Grand Avenue Bridge Overlook and parking area. The project proposes to subdivide a 2.4-acre single-family residential property into two separate parcels in order to build a second residential unit on the portion of the property closest to San Dieguito Road. The applicant is asking the Coastal Commission to modify the Deed Restricted Open Space Easement on the property required when the first residential unit was constructed.
In addition, the project requires a Conditional Use Permit from the City of Del Mar to allow a reduction in the 100-foot buffer from the wetlands to a 50-foot buffer and to build in a portion of the 10-foot-wide-steep-slope setback required under the City’s Bluff, Slop and Canyon Overlay Zone standards. A portion of the parcel is also located in the flood plain of the San Dieguito River.
The project is being reviewed by Coastal Commission staff. The contact is:
California Coastal Commission
This project will have a significant impact on the River Park. I am concerned that the City of Del Mar did not notify the River Park of this potential project within the River Park’s Focused Planning Area. Therefore, I am bringing it to the JPA’s attention and will also notify the California Coastal Commission of this lack of notification.
Ride a Horse-drawn wagon along the Mule Hill Historical Trail (4/17/2010)
The San Dieguito River Park, in association with the Friends of Sikes Adobe, the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society, and Happy Trails Horse Rental, will offer wagon tours of the Mule Hill Historical Trail one Saturday a month from March through June. The first tour took place on Saturday, March 13. Historic attractions on the trail include the Sikes Adobe, the former Town of Bernardo, the Mule Hill battle site and the San Diego-to-Yuma stagecoach road. Subsequent tours will run on April 17 and May 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and on June 26 from 10-3.
Tour tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children. No reservations. Pay at the site. Profits benefit the Friends of Sikes Adobe, and will be used to pay for furnishings and gardens at the Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse, which is nearing completion of its reconstruction following the 2007 Witch Fire. For further information call Anne Cooper at 858-674-2275, ext. 19 or Tom Cook at 858-487-5088.
Witch Creek Fire Reconstruction Moving Ahead (4/17/2010)
Reconstruction of the main JPA office and of the Sikes Historical Farmstead are proceeding with funding from insurance and FEMA. They were both destroyed in the October 2007 Witch Creek Fire. There was also extensive loss of vegetation in the river valley and considerable damage to the JPA trails, bridges, and fences. The plants and trees are showing signs of slow recovery. All the trails are now open after much work by the rangers and volunteers and funding from FEMA.
Save the date: Sikes Reopening Celebration takes place on June 26, 2010 after restoration and reconstruction following the 2007 Witch Creek Fire
Orchids and Onions (4/01/10)
The San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration project has been nominated for an ORCHID award in the 2010 competition run by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.
The restoration is funded by Southern California Edison as a mitigation requirement and managed by the San Dieguito River Park JPA. It is complete except for final work at the west end. It has already shown positive ecological results for fish and bird populations and for the maintenance of an open river mouth at North Beach in Del Mar.
Response to the Fairgrounds EIR (12/18/2009)
Click on the following links for FSDRV’s response to the 22nd DAA (Fairgrounds) Draft Environmental Impact Report :
FSDRV’s Letter and Response
FSDRV Appendix 1
SDRP JPA response
Dredging will complete restoration (12/09/2009)
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 some 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, which 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 between $1 million and $2 million. NCTD is taking over responsibility for the design, approving project plans and advertising, and awarding construction contracts for the work. NCTD is checking with suppliers 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.
– Ann Gardner
No more City funding for SDRV? (12/06/09)
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 percent of our annual operating budget, this alone will result in several immediate layoffs in our small staff. (We have eight full-time (includes five rangers) and three 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 already held the first hearing on December 2. The next hearing will be on December 9 and resolutions will be adopted on Monday, December 14.
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 9 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 2. 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.
Why your call or attendance is so important: The City Council may not even realize that these budget cuts will severely disable 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’s staff report, which makes the cuts appear minor (“deferral of maintenance”). It is important to convey that this action to eliminate its contributions to the JPA would not only cut the JPA budget by 36 percent 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 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. Some $157 million 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.
Fairbanks Country Club goes to mediation (9/09/09)
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 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.
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.
River Park a better steward 9/04/09)
The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley is asking the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Agency to get permission from the State to manage 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 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 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 filling, grading, and “drainage ditches to take care of the old course of the river and the flow of Stevens Creek into it.” 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 District’s 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.
– Ann Gardner
Letter to Dan Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders (4/17/2009)
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. That threshold was crossed in 2003. However, the Club continues to balk 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 501c-4 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 Women 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
Progress report on the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration as of October 2008
Good news about the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration: A large subtidal basin created over the old Del Mar airport teems with fish and invertebrates. So far, the restoration of the lagoon proceeds successfully under the effective leadership of Southern California Edison (SCE), helped by an excellent contractor, Marathon Construction. Most of this work has taken place on land owned by the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority (JPA) and the project progressed rapidly during last year’s mild winter season. At present, restoration efforts are concentrated north of the river and east of I-5. A mile-long berm is complete and a large wetland is taking shape.
Less dramatic in its visual impact but eagerly awaited by the public, a segment of the Coast to Crest Trail nears completion east of the Boardwalk. Heading east, the trail follows the southern edge of the Fairgrounds, crosses under the freeway and reaches the old Strawberry stand on San Andres Road.
The situation west of Jimmy Durante Boulevard is fundamentally different. The JPA does not own any this land and has to rely on the good will of the adjacent jurisdictions to complete the project – the westerly passage of the Coast to Crest Trail and the dredging of the San Dieguito river inlet. The land is owned by City of Del Mar and the Fairgrounds on either side of the river. The State Land Commission has jurisdiction of the San Dieguito River bed and near banks.
A pioneer trail, created by the city of Del Mar under the guidance of the Lagoon Committee, follows the southern bank of the river and gives hikers access to the ocean along a trail that does not meet the Coast to Crest Trail standards and does cross over the railroad tracks though illegally. The beginning of a northern river-bank trail segment is proposed in the coming Fairgrounds Environmental Impact Report. Planned within the river’s 100 foot buffer zone it would require approval by the Coastal Commission. West of the Fairgrounds property, the JPA is working on an engineering study to complete the trail westward toward the ocean.
Dredging the inlet under the railroad bridge is a challenge. This bridge was built in 1887 at the time of the opening of the railroad and appears to be the same bridge that we have today. It is supported by 456 pilings and spans not only the river but part of wetlands to the north.
As a consequence of dredging the lagoon inlet, the old bridge pilings would be submitted to enhanced tidal flow and greater attack by timber borers. North County Transit District, owner of the bridge, is actively working with SCE on a plan whereby the pilings impacted by the tidal flow would be wrapped in a protective layer of metal near the water line to inhibit marine borers.
So, while the restoration progresses very well, major challenges remain.
– Jacqueline Winterer, president FSDRV
22nd Agricultural District Master Plan NOP/EIR (5/09/08)
The 22nd Ag District wants to update the Fairgrounds and Racetrack at Del Mar with 65 new projects that would result in more events, additional paved parking lots, and electronic signage at Interstate 5. The updated Master Plan also acknowledges the possibility of a conference hotel at the current site.
The entire Racetrack and Fairgrounds complex is located within a floodplain/wetlands area wedged between the mouth of the San Dieguito River at the Pacific Ocean, the River, and San Dieguito Lagoon. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required before any of the projects can be implemented. Unlike other project applicants, however, the Ag District can approve its own EIR because it is a public agency. The only overriding authorities are the California Coastal Commission and public opinion.
The Friends closely monitor proposed development on the site. In 1987 the Del Mar Lagoon Committee and the Friends alerted the community to plans for building a hotel and parking lot in the center of the Lagoon (at the old WWII airfield east of the Grand Avenue Bridge). The developer was essentially scared away by public outcry; the Fair Board was denied permission to buy the property, and the State Coastal Conservancy purchased the land for restoration, a critical first step in preserving the San Dieguito Lagoon and river valley.
Obviously the Fairgrounds Board continues to press for more development at this sensitive location even as the Lagoon Restoration Project progresses in restoring tidal wetlands and nurseries for ocean-going fish, and in enhancing bird sanctuaries. The Friends, the Lagoon Committee, and the River Park’s Joint Powers Authority have all submitted concerns and issues to be addressed in the EIR.
The Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the 2008 Master Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was issued in late March.
FSDRV President’s Message – Spring 2008
We have been a voice for the preservation of the San Dieguito River Valley since 1986. Your support will allow us to continue. Some of our recent activities include:
Educational outreach – The Friends operated, for one year, a Bus Tour of the San Dieguito Lagoon, thanks to Del Mar Community Connections who let us use their bus. For 2008, three docents are available for groups who wish to provide their own transportation. Forty-two docents will work at a San Dieguito Trail exhibit at the 2008 Del Mar Fair. And Del Mar Rotary is helping to complete the trail extending the Boardwalk.
Monitoring projects – Following are our current major concerns:
We responded the Del Mar Fairgrounds Master Plan Notice of Preparation of an EIR asking for the return of the E and S lots to their wetland status; opposing an electronic reader board along Interstate 5; and questioning other projects which will intensify the impact on the Lagoon. We support a reduced Flower Hill Shopping Center expansion and we support plans to improve traffic flow on Via de la Valle without jeopardizing the valley’s rural nature.
Success stories – As members of the River Parks Project Review Committee, we diminished negative impacts on the Park by pushing for and getting a reduction in the number of units in the Pardee residential project on the south side of El Camino Real.
The Cavallo Farms project has agreed to move a projected road away from Gonzales Canyon and will relocate a large building away from the ridge line.
Your contribution will help us cover our expenses: publishing pamphlets, distributing information, maintaining our mail-box, website and other public outreach activities. (Because we are an advocacy group, contributions are not tax deductible.)
Contributors of $100 or more will receive a set of cards reproducing Julie Hillman’s paintings of the San Dieguito Lagoon.
As always, we are grateful for your support.
Jacqueline Winterer, President
Update on Fairbanks Ranch Country Club Lease (4/26/08)
April 26, 2008
William Anderson, Director
City Planning and Community Investment
Dear Mr. Anderson,
The undersigned representatives are respectfully drawing your attention to an unacceptable situation: One of the City’s lessees is refusing to pay its rent for the use of public open space in the San Dieguito River Valley and, beyond issuing a report that the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club is delinquent, the financially strapped City of San Diego appears to be letting the matter drop.
Our question is: Why? In 1982, the City of San Diego entered into a controversial agreement with Watts Industries to build housing in excess of what the zoning then allowed, in exchange for 600 acres of deeded public open space. Six months later, the City leased 2/3 of the land back to the developer to create a private country club rent-free until 2010, or until the Club membership sales exceeded 25 million dollars. That threshold was crossed in 2003 but the Club continues to baulk at paying even this amount and the financially strapped City of San Diego continues to put up with it.
Our question is: Why? Almost one year ago, the City’s Revenue Audit Division issued a report indicating that the Country Club had failed to pay rent due to the City for the period January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006 amounting to over $169,000. According to the City’s Property Agent, no payments have made since then and the matter was referred to an advisory attorney in the City Attorney’s Office to determine the next step. As of today, no action has been taken.
Our questions is: Why? The undersigned representatives sit on the San Dieguito River Park Citizens Advisory Committee and are concerned about land use issues in the River Valley. We hope by means of this letter you will look into the matter and get back to us. Please contact Ann Gardner at (858) 755-6061 or by mail at 12971 Via Latina, Del Mar, CA 92014 regarding our questions.
Thank you for your attention and assistance,
Ann Gardner, Dick Barber
Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley Audubon Society
San Diego County Bicycle Coalition Deborah DeBow
California Native Plant Society-SD
cc: Scott Peters, President San Diego City Council
NOP Fairgrounds – FSDRV Response (4/22/08)
Comments on the NOP of a Draft Environmental Impact Report on for the proposed 22d DAA 2008 Master Plan.
Issues we wish to be analyzed by the EIR are marked by bullet points:
The current figure 1 (NOP for the EIR ) downplays the importance of public access to this coastal area and ends up disregarding many critical environmental concerns relating to public access to Coastal resources.
• The location of the project should be shown on a regional map (larger than the NOP Figure 1 Page 20) identifying the unique natural resources of the area that might be impacted: the 405-acre Fairground is framed and dwarfed by the 600 acres of properties owned or operated by the San Dieguito River Valley JPA and the California Department Fish and Games , a 22d DAA sister State agency.
• Also, on an enlarged regional Figure 1, we urge you to add to the Fairgrounds properties a clear identification of the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project, wetland delineations (see our attachment 1: from the California Coastal Commission) on the Fairgrounds, the San Dieguito River Park including the location of its interpretive Center, the public trails identified as part of as the Park’s Coast to Crest Trail system:
• River Path, south of the River, facing the Fairgrounds
• Coastal Boardwalk, southern edge of the South Lot and
• The Crest Canyon Preserve Loop
• The observation platforms on the Boardwalk and at the Grand Avenue Bridge
The EIR must develop its plan in the framework of the California Coastal Act Section 30240 statement: “ Environmentally sensitive habitats areas shall be protected against significant disruptions of habitat values, and only uses dependent on those resources shall be allowed in this area.”
North and South lots, long term:
Past correspondence between the State Land Commission documents that the State of California has jurisdiction and authority over all un-granted tidelands, submerged lands, and the beds of … rivers, sloughs… (See attachment 2: letter from California State Lands Commission to K. Giugno Consultant to the 22d DAA on Master Plan NOP).
It is the opinion of this organization that the South lot and part of the East Lot are both historical and documented historical as well as presently active wetlands as defined in the Coastal Act: “Wetlands means lands within the coastal zone which may be covered periodically or permanently with shallow water and include saltwater marshes, freshwater marshes, open or closed brackish water marshes, swamps, mudflats and fens.” Appendix 3: a, b, c and 4 maps and photographs document this position.
• The EIR should explain why it plans to make permanent use of the wetlands when repeated Coastal Commission decisions oppose such use.
• The EIR should explain the future use of the Golf Driving Range, clearly a historical and present day wetland: see attachments 3a and 4.
North and South lots, short term:
• This EIR should provide copies of the ORIGINAL documentary evidence that the Fairgrounds is permitted to use the wetlands properties during the Fair and Racing season as it claims.
• As it will take time to recover the wetlands at the edge of the Fairgrounds the EIR should address, the issue of the non-permitted use of these lots must be discussed (This is documented by the Coastal Commission Staff Report :Application 6-02-161 Adopted 08/08/2003) . The Fairgrounds has significantly expanded the use of these lots year around, 159 days more than the permitted use, an increase of 900 % in 2002.
• The EIR should analyze how the expanded use of these parking areas impacts the adjacent sensitive habitats of the San Dieguito River as required in the California Coastal Act Section 30231 which requires that biological productivity and quality of the wetlands be maintained or enhanced.
Reader board: The EIR should explain why the plan includes a two- sided electronic Reader Board along the freeway, when there is specific Federal legislation prohibiting such displays. Adjacent property owners along the I-5 corridor have been mindful of this legislation and respected its intent. The NOP states that the Fairgrounds property is owned by the State of California and not obliged to comply with local and zoning or general plans. But the prohibition of signage along freeways is a Federal law.
• Why doesn’t the 22d DAA believe that it should not obey Federal laws? Does it plan to apply for an exemption? On what grounds?
Scenic and visual qualities: The California Coastal Act Section 30251 states that “The scenic and visual qualities of Coastal Areas shall be considered and protected as a resource of public importance. Permitted development shall be sighted and designed to protect views to and along the ocean and scenic coastal areas … to be visually compatible with the character of surrounding areas, and where feasible, to restore and enhance the visual quality of the degraded areas.”
The following features of the project are in marked contrast with the spirit of the Coastal Act:
• Numbers derived from the limited sketches provided in the NOP indicate that the project plans to build a continuous Hotel/Exhibit Hall building 1/3 a mile long and 5 stories (66.5 feet high) to 7 stories ( 86.5 feet high). This assumes 12 feet is the standard height for a commercial building. This is a major wall!
• The project will locate its service road along the river, ignoring the scenic value of the location. The 60,000 sq.ft health cub ,75 feet high, is that of 6 story building in close proximity to wetlands. It offers recreational facilities totally unrelated to the coastal area.
• The EIR should provide (three-dimensional) elevation drawings as part of the EIR process (visuals) and plan to also erect storey poles to allow the public and the Coastal Commission to understand the visual impact of these structures on the environment and nearby preserves which are meant to provide a natural river/coastal/wetland environment.
• The EIR should analyze, as an alternative, a location of the major parking structure on the west side of Jimmy Durante Blvd. to minimize the impact on the wetlands.
• The EIR should analyze several probable scenarios when concurrent Fairgrounds events occur and the cumulative numbers of parking slots becomes an issue . These numbers must include parking for the staff which has no way to reach the Fairgrounds by public transportation.
Traffic and public access
• The EIR should discuss how the ever expanding schedule of major events will impact residential ingress and egress as well as public access to beach amenities in Del Mar (2.5 miles of sandy beaches with public restrooms and showers, a public bluff park with bluff-top walks to Torrey Pines State Beach). Described as one of the most beautiful destinations along the western coastline and to the San Dieguito River Park visitors amenities including the Grand Avenue Bridge observation deck and the 3 trails mentioned above. All of these regional amenities and public trail access are made inaccessible by increased traffic congestion during non- coastal related activities.
• The California Coastal Act as well as numerous local Community Plans emphasize the importance of preserving the San Dieguito River basin’s recreation/open space potential. i.e.“ the highest priority in considering land use issue.” A specific goal of the Coastal Act is to “assure priority for coastal development and coastal-related development over other development on the coast. The EIR must explains how this goal is achieved with sports structures and deck which can be developed anywhere and have no relationship to the coast.
This Master Plan EIR will represent the built-out phase of the Fairgrounds and should explain why all the development will occur in the short term and most of the service and environmental measures are long range plans.
– Jacqueline Winterer, President
– Ann Gardner, Vice President
Same old issues with country club lease (4/2/08)
The latest audit of the Fairbanks Ranch Country Club reveals that the Club has not paid rent owed to the financially strapped City of San Diego for the period January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2006. ccording to the City’s Office of the Auditor and Comptroller, the Club, which leases approximately 400 acres from the City, was in arrears almost $170,000 as of December 2006 and the matter has been referred to the City Attorney’s Office for advisement. Actions to be considered include a decision about whether to find the Club in default of their lease, or to refer of the matter to the City’s delinquent bill collection unit in the Treasurer’s Office.
The Club’s lease, referred to as a “sweetheart deal” by the San Diego Union Tribune 2005 exposé, has been controversial since its approval in 1982, when developer Ray Watt enticed the City, in a close Council vote, to allow him to build 340 homes where only 128 had previously been allowed in exchange for deeding 615 acres of the land as public open space. Months later he leased back two-thirds of the property for 61 years in order to build a private golf course with no rent due to the City, beyond an initial $3,000, until 2010 unless the club’s membership sales were to exceed $25 million dollars. In 2003, when the membership sales exceeded that threshold, the Club refused to start paying the City, claiming a technicality in the agreement. A late payment of $60,004 was made “under protest” in March 2005 but, as of this writing, no further payments have been made despite an outstanding balance of $169,400. The current dispute notwithstanding, the lease will require that the Club begin paying its rent, a graduated percentage of its gross revenues, in 2010.
Money owed to the City is not the only issue with the FRCC lease. According to the Endangered Habitat League, the Club has failed to fulfill the mitigation requirements contained in the original agreement with Watt. The Club claims that the requirements are not their responsibility.
Additionally, the Friends and the River Park Joint Powers Authority have repeatedly pointed out that construction and maintenance of a public trail on the north side of the river is part of the lease with the City and therefore the Club’s responsibility. The FRCC also refuses to recognize this agreement. Unfortunately, the public trail has been graded and disked by another of the City’s lessees, the Fairbanks Polo Club, and used as an exercise track for their polo ponies. The illegal grading and use of the northern river bank is currently under a 2005 cease-and-desist order issued by the City.
Last August, the Friends Board was asked to review a proposal submitted by the FRCC that would turn back to the City one-third of the leasehold in exchange for an extension of the lease on the remaining property. The Board responded in a white paper that the “…City should not be unduly hasty in its consideration of the proposal without a thorough, environmentally fiscally responsible review.”
The Friends have always maintained that the long-term goal for this property should be, first and foremost, conservation of the San Dieguito River Valley, a unique and valuable but rapidly diminishing habitat in California. It is the Board’s position that the acreage currently leased by the FRCC should be returned to public open space, as originally promised by Watt. Since the Club, in refusing to pay its rent, has violated the terms of a legally binding agreement, perhaps the public will not have to wait until 2044 for this “sweetheart deal” to be terminated and the land can be returned to its rightful use.
A Landmark Event at the Lagoon (2/6/08)
On January 23 we watched intently as a large back-hoe scooped away a narrow dam holding the waters of the 45-acre tidal basin dug out by Marathon Construction crews hired by Southern California Edison(SCE), thereby opening an extensive new area of the lagoon to the ebb and flow of beneficial tidal waters. This landmark event heralded major progress in the San Dieguito River Valley Joint Powers Authority/ SCE efforts to restore severely degraded wetlands.
At the end of the 19th century, the San Dieguito Lagoon was a thousand-acre wetland that included salt and brackish marsh, tidal embayments, sloughs and mudflats that were progressively developed for a variety of commercial and residential uses.
In the 1930s some of the lagoon wetlands on the North of the San Dieguito River were filled and became a golf course, encouraged by the State of California Swamp Reclamation Act. After 4 years, saltwater intrusions caused abandonment of the golf course.
In 1933, California legalized on-track wagering on horse races. The State’s share of revenues was intended to support fairground operations and contribute to training youth in agricultural and animal husbandry. The golf course was purchased by the State Division of Fairs and Expositions and on October 8, 1936, Bing Crosby founded the Del Mar Turf Club and the first harness race took place.
South of the river, the Navy established an emergency landing field in the late 1920’s. That property was later developed as a municipal airport to serve the racing patrons at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
In 1941, after Pearl Harbor, the US Navy re-acquired this airport to use as a landing field. As the field could not accommodate traditional aircraft, the U.S. Naval Auxiliary Air facility used it as a base for two lighter- than-air dirigibles. The blimps refueled at Del Mar and then continued anti-submarine patrols up and down the coast up to 100 miles offshore. The Grand Avenue Bridge off San Dieguito Drive was built at that time to provide access to the blimp airport.
During WW II the Fairgrounds buildings became barracks, galleys and mess halls, officers recreational facilities and classrooms.
In September 1945, the naval facility was disestablished and the fairgrounds and racetrack were returned to their earlier use. The Navy retained ownership of the airfield until 1947 when 80 acres were quitclaimed to San Diego County for one dollar.
The airfield site became a municipal airport until it was closed 1959 as the construction for Interstate 5 bisected the runway. Various businesses occupied the old airport buildings; a motel with 12 rooms, Tony’s Jacal, a worm-castings business, and a duck-shooting club.
In 1953, the western part of the airfield was leased by Andrew Kay’s Non Linear Systems. The buildings were converted into a manufacturing plant for digital voltmeters. This company produced the “Kaypro” one of the first personal computers. After Kaypro moved to Solana Beach in 1968 the site was unused.
Attempts, to save, and restore the San Dieguito Lagoon, date back to the 1970s when more and more people chose to come and live in the coastal area. In Del Mar, environmentally minded local residents saw that, unless efforts were made to protect specific habitats this valley would end up looking like San Diego River Valley with its big shopping centers and immense parking lots. They formed a Lagoon Preservation Committee and with the support of the Del Mar City Council, a Lagoon Enhancement Plan was created and adopted in 1979 as part of the City’s General Plan. The plan was later endorsed by the City of San Diego and was certified by the California Coastal Commission.
In 1987, Bircher-Pacific, a developer, bought the old airport area. It sought to amend the Lagoon Enhancement Plan to permit development of two, 300-room hotels, a shopping center, an access interchange from I-5 and a 200 seat restaurant. Several public hearings were held, hundreds of concerned people spoke against the plan and were happy to see it eventually abandoned.
The San Dieguito River Valley Joint Power Authority is the multi-city agency formed in 1989 by the San Diego Association of Governments to create an open space greenway and an extensive trail system within the San Dieguito River Valley. There was great satisfaction in seeing the Bircher property become its first land purchase.
In 1991 the Coastal Commission required Southern California Edison to restore 150 acres of wetlands as mitigation for the impacts on the marine environment caused by the San Onofre nuclear power plant and fortunately chose the San Dieguito Lagoon for the project. Thirty years have elapsed since the Del Mar Lagoon Committee formulated its dreams of saving the lagoon. The persistence and hard work of many organizations has produced the exciting progress we see today in saving the San Dieguito wetlands.
– Jacqueline Winterer, president, FSDRV
Art Show celebrates San Dieguito River Valley (11/18/07)
The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley will hold their 9th annual Art Show and Sale on Sunday Nov. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Powerhouse in Del Mar. The Powerhouse Community Center is located at 1658 Coast Boulevard.
The show will feature silver, beaded and glass jewelry, paintings, cards, ceramics, wood-carved objects and photographs. All the artwork is reasonably priced and just in time for holiday giving.
New trail section
The beginning of a planned 80-mile Coast-to-Crest trail is emerging as a boardwalk north of the San Dieguito River at the Jimmy Durante Bridge in Del Mar. The planned San Dieguito River Park Coast-to-Crest trail begins at this juncture and will stretch eastward on the north side of the River all the way to Volcan Mountain near Julian. About one-third of the 80-mile multi-use trails for hikers, bicyclists, and horseback riders is already in place and open to the public. The boardwalk section of the trail will be available to pedestrians only.
The boardwalk will add 1,400 feet to the River Park’s trails, and it will eventually connect with the planned trail going east along the northern edge of the Wetland Restoration Project. When completed this spring it will also connect to Riverpath Del Mar to the west across Jimmy Durante Boulevard. Riverpath is a “small haven where pedestrians can watch birds and leaping fish; enjoy a picnic, and follow the footpath along the San Dieguito River toward (but not to) the beach.”
In February the Del Mar Rotary Club will sponsor a campaign to finance and install deck boards on the boardwalk sub-structure. The 22nd Agricultural District and River Park Conservancy will install the nearby landscaping. Excellent information about the River Park’s trail systems can be found at the Park’s website: http://www.sdrp.org or by calling (858) 674-2270. The Activities & Events link often includes guided hikes in the Park.
Polo Club’s illegal grading referred to code compliance (8/7/07)
The San Diego Polo Club’s application to use a public trail in the San Dieguito River Valley as an exercise track for their polo horses has been closed by the City of San Diego, and the issue of illegal grading referred back to City’s Neighborhood Code Compliance Division. The City stated their concern in a May 29, 2007 letter to the Club:
“Staff is not in support of a horse exercise trail in the present location. Staff will support a multi-use public trail with a horse exercise trail separated from the public uses but cannot commit to supporting the trail in its present location as environmental impacts caused by the illegal grading… have not been determined at this time.”
Major issues noted were:
Biological Impacts – The illegally graded track is within the wetlands and flood plain and is subject to the Environmentally Sensitive Lands Regulations. A new (since the original approval for the Polo Fields did not include any plans for grading) California Environmental Quality Act document is required.
Trail Use and Location – The trail must be a public multi-use trail designed to City Trail Standards. The current disking operation across the entire width of the trail does not meet these Standards and is not acceptable. The disking for a horse exercise track to prevent injury to horses makes the public trail difficult to navigate for hiking or bicycling and may be causing indirect impacts to the wetland habitat.
A Civil Penalty Notice and Order was served on the Polo Club, located at 14555 El Camino Real, June 9, 2005. At that time the Club was notified that the property was in violation of the San Diego Municipal Code and subject to civil penalties because of the grading adjacent to protected wetlands and outside the leasehold property line for the Polo Fields. A hearing was conducted and on December 23, 2005 the hearing officer ordered the Polo Club to “immediately cease surface grubbing and grading at the property.” And further, that on or before February 28, 2006 the Polo Club shall “…submit a completed application for a…grading permit for the restoration of all grading at the horse exercise trail…(to) include plans for the restoration of vegetation in the areas identified…” or “Respondent shall make application for a grading permit and a site development permit to develop the horse exercise trail in the area referenced.”
The Polo Club submitted an application that was considered incomplete due to failure to submit plans that would separate the exercise trail from the public multi-use trail and failure to address biological impacts caused by illegal grading in the wetlands. The City extended the deadline of Feb. 28 at least twice.
The property leased by the Polo Club is public land, deeded to the City of San Diego in 1983 to mitigate for development in the River Valley that exceeded the allowed uses. The designated public trail is part of a 55-mile long San Dieguito River Park that begins at the beach in Del Mar and ends at Vulcan Mountain near Julian. In 1986 the City Council approved a lease with the Polo Club with the understanding that only polo related activities would be allowed on the property and that the public would have access to the property when polo was not scheduled. The lease specifically excluded from the leasehold, and use, a designated public trail running along the southern border of the property and the northern riverbank. In about 2003 neighbors began complaining to the City regarding the many non-polo related activities being held at the property, the noise and traffic, and the Friends hired an attorney to communicate our concerns regarding the lease violations. The lease expires in 2012.
– Ann Gardner
FSDRV President’s Letter
The good news of 2007 is that after so many years of effort the Restoration of the San Dieguito Lagoon is finally underway.
The Friends of the San Diego River Valley decided to start an educational outreach program: a Bus Tour of the San Dieguito Lagoon. Del Mar Community Connection allow us to use their colorful bus and once a month we take 25 people on a 10 miles circuit around the Lagoon. The Tour is very successful and people make reservations two months in advance.
Meanwhile we continue to monitor projects that are planned in the valley. Following are our current major concerns:
• We monitor the Del Mar Fairgrounds Master Plan for its environmental impact;
• We seek to return the Fairgrounds South Parking lot to permanent wetland status;
• We support a reduced Flower Hill shopping center expansion project;
• We support plans for the widening of Via De La Valle and El Camino Real Bridge that will facilitate traffic flow without jeopardizing the valley’s rural nature;
• We advocate returning to public use the Coast-to-Crest trail segment south of the Polo Fields;
• We favor a reduction of units planned in a Pardee residential project on the north side of Via De La Valle;
• We maintain the Grand Avenue site year-around with the City of Del Mar participation.
Your contribution will help us cover our expenses: the Bus tour, publishing pamphlets, distributing information, maintaining our mail-box, website and other public outreach activities. Because we are an advocacy group, contributions are not tax deductible.
Contributors of $100 or more will receive a copy of the “Walk in the Park” DVD , a short documentary film describing the Park’s landscapes and wildlife habitats.
We are grateful for your support,
Jacqueline Winterer, President
Bus tours around the lagoon
Starting January 13, 2007 and repeating one Saturday of each month, the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley will offer free bus tours around the San Dieguito Lagoon to interested citizens. Emphasis will be on the history of the area and the progress of the restoration project.
Remaining tours in 2007 are scheduled for:
Tour times are 9:00 am and 11:00 am, and last approximately 1.5 hours.
Location: The bus tour will leave from and return to the Parking Lot south of Del Mar City Hall at 1050 Camino Del Mar in Del Mar. Participants will travel with a guide via mini-bus on the roads around the western end of the river valley, and make six stops at viewpoints of interest.
Seating is limited and reservations must be made in advance. Call (858) 674-2275, extension 14 for more information and reservations for your preferred schedule. The January event filled very quickly and was a great success.
Three Via de la Valle projects that the Friends are monitoring:
• Via de la Valle widening
• Flower Hill Mall
• Pueblo de la Valle
Via de la Valle widening
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:
• Reduce and landscape medians.
• Proposed “shotcrete” finish retaining walls are incompatible with surrounding natural or rural environment.
• 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.
Flower Hill Mall doubled?
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:
- Do not allow development on the hillside north of Flower Hill
Mall in order to preserve the Valley view corridor from I-5.
- Restrict building heights in accordance with Coastal Commission regulations.
- Preserve mature trees.
- Restrict lighting to protect integrity of non-commercial areas including private residences and San Dieguito Lagoon.
- 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. In the meantime, a non-profit community group has organized to oppose the “aggressive expansion” of Flower Hill Mall.
Pueblo de la Valle
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. 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
Plans stalled to widen Via de la Valle
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)
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) Next Permitting Step
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) Next Permitting Step
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.
River Park Trail at risk
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.
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.
– Ann Gardner
Fairbanks Ranch Country Club property
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
Letter from the FSDRV President
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.
We are grateful for your support and send our sincere thanks to those who have made contributions this year.
Jacqueline Winterer, President
Docent program at the strawberry stand (11/09/05)
The eye-catching temporary Strawberry Stand Wetland Learning Center on Via de la Valle opened October 15 with its first docent-on-duty greeting visitors to the western end of the 50-mile long San Dieguito River Valley Park. Anne Merritt, Friends Board member and local plein-air artist pictured, is one of a half dozen volunteers organized by the Friends to provide information on the Park’s western access trail, coastal habitat and the long anticipated 400-acre lagoon restoration project.
The new docents will be on hand Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. to noon at the Center, just east of I-5 off Via de la Valle. Find your way to the remodeled strawberry stand by turning south on San Andres at California Bank & Trust. Park on San Andres and walk north-east on the path that runs behind the Bank, to the learning center. Informational signs will lead the way.
Visitors can take in views of the western river valley and read informational signage about nearby bird habitats and native plant life. A major job of the volunteers will be to explain and answer questions about the San Dieguito Lagoon Restoration Project, granted final approval by the California Coastal Commission on October 14 and scheduled to break ground on November 5.
Additional volunteers will allow the interpretive center to be open on Sundays.
The temporary interpretive center will stay in place during the restoration project giving way to a permanent structure when the restoration is completed in approximately 2008. In the meantime a once popular strawberry stand was remodeled as a temporary visitors center and is not only eye-catching but the recipient of two architectural awards, one for energy efficiency. Volunteers from the engineering firm Montgomery, Watson and Harza built the structure last year with funds made available by County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price.
On Wednesday, October 12, 2005, the California Coastal Commission will consider the issuance of permits for the long-awaited Wetlands Restoration Project. We encourage all friends of the San Dieguito River Valley to attend and give brief statements of support to the Commission.
Civil penalty notice and order against Polo Club (7/8/05)
On June 9, 2005, the City of San Diego issued a five page Notice to the San Diego Polo Club on El Camino Real that they are in violation of the city’s Municipal Code and that the Club is subject to civil penalties. The Club denies any violation and is evidently challenging the notice.
At issue is the Club’s maintenance and use of an area abutting the River as an exercise trail for the Polo Club horses. As pictured in photos taken by the Friends, the exercise area comes up to the river edge. Municipal Code requires a 100-foot buffer as well as appropriate measures to prevent erosion and stop sediment and pollutants from entering the water.
A second issue is that the Club’s use of the area – a designated public trail – to exercise its horses precludes its use by residents for walking, hiking and bicycling. The San Dieguito River Park, which is developing a 55-mile coast to crest trail that includes this area, plans to develop a trail that can also be used by persons with disabilities.
The Polo Club leases 295 acres of land, which includes the polo fields, from the City of San Diego. Public Access Regulations in the Club’s lease agreement with the City designate the area of the horse exercise track as a public trail to “remain open to the public at all times.”
Chris Collins, a Director of the Club, says the graded exercise track is used by area equestrians and that walkers, runners, hikers and bicyclists can and do use the paved Polo Club Road on the north side of the fence. He says that he understands the property is open space to be made available to the public. (The lease also requires that the polo fields themselves are “open to the public during daylight hours for passive uses (i.e., spectating, picnicking) which do not interfere with use of the Polo Fields by Polo Club members practicing or playing polo nor…other normal operations of the Polo Club.”)
However, Collins also says the Municipal Code covering environmentally sensitive lands does not apply to the property because the code was enacted after the lease was signed. We hope the City continues to disagree.
22nd Agricultural District Master Plan (3/14/05)
The 22nd Ag District wants to update the Fairgrounds and Racetrack at Del Mar with 65 new projects that would result in more events, additional paved parking lots, electronic signage at Interstate 5 and possible use of the Polo Fields east of I-5 as a horse-training facility with stabling capacity for 700 horses and… “other uses in the off-season.” The updated Master Plan also acknowledges the possibility of a conference hotel at the current site.
The entire Racetrack and Fairgrounds complex is located within a floodplain/wetlands area wedged between the mouth of the San Dieguito River at the Pacific Ocean, the River and the San Dieguito Lagoon. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required before any of the projects can be implemented. Unlike other project applicants, however, the Ag District can approve its own EIR because it is a public agency. The only overriding authorities are the California Coastal Commission and public opinion.
The Friends closely monitor proposed development on the site. In 1987 the Del Mar Lagoon Committee and the Friends alerted the community to plans for building a hotel and parking lot in the center of the Lagoon (at the old WWII airfield east of the Grand Avenue Bridge). The developer was essentially scared away by public outcry; the Fair Board was denied permission to buy the property and the State Coastal Conservancy purchased the land for restoration, a critical first step in preserving the San Dieguito Lagoon and River Valley.
Obviously the Fairgrounds Board continues to press for more development at this sensitive location even as the Lagoon Restoration Project gears up to restore tidal wetlands and nurseries for ocean going fish, and to enhance bird sanctuaries. The Friends, the Lagoon Committee and the River Park’s Joint Powers Authority have all submitted concerns and issues to be addressed in the EIR. We are also taking the information to nearby homeowners associations so they can respond to calls for community input, and we will continue to keep you informed on this website.
— Ann Gardner
A Winter/Spring 2005 REPORT (3/14/05) from Friends president, Ann Gardner
On Wednesday, March 30, 2005, the Friends will unveil three interpretive signs at the Grand Avenue Bridge site as part of the Del Mar’s third annual Lagoon Day. Almost 20 years ago, the Fair Board tried to buy the site for a hotel and parking lot. The proposed development sparked public outcry, crystallized plans to save the Lagoon and jumpstarted preservation of land in the San Dieguito River Valley.
Thanks to the early efforts and continued support of people such as you, the 55-mile long River Valley Regional Park and a restored Lagoon is becoming a reality. Over 60,000 of the Park’s 80,000 acres are now in public ownership and we expect the lagoon restoration project to get started later this year.
The Friends were incorporated by Alice Goodkind in 1986, just one year before the “Save the Lagoon” campaign erupted. We joined forces with the Del Mar Lagoon Committee, then led by Nancy Weare, organizing opposition to the development and support for the Lagoon. So, it is with great pleasure and a sense of gratitude to these early leaders that we are going to participate in the Lagoon Committee’s Lagoon Day celebration this year (see details below).
We also want to bring you up to date on our efforts during the last 12 months or so. Year 2004 was busy and, with continued pressures for development in North County, 2005 promises to be even busier. We are currently advocating for protection of the River Valley in these situations:
Plans to rezone property in a flood hazard area from residential to commercial;
A proposal to build 60 units on Via de la Ville’s steep hillsides where the hillsides are a recognized River Valley view shed;
The proposed Master Plan update for the fairgrounds and racetrack that includes new electronic signage west of I-5, a conference center and hotel and a new horse training facility on public open space next to the river; and
Sampling of water quality along the River. (In 2004, we discovered and reported unacceptable levels of bacteria to the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board; levels subsequently dropped to zero).
Last year we found it necessary to hire an environmental attorney to help us research and articulate a multiple year-old mitigation agreement and deed restriction so that we could advocate more effectively against a proposed land use. For now, the proposal has been withdrawn. The year before, we spent money to hire landscape architect, Lane Goodkind, to design a more environmentally sensitive site plan for the new learning center on Via de la Valle. Adjacent community groups and the River Park enthusiastically accepted the change. We also financed the first printing of “Birds of the San Dieguito Lagoon”, which cost over $5,000. The popular brochures are distributed to nearby libraries, wild bird centers and are used by schools for field trips to the Lagoon. This year, we plan to finance a much broader water-testing program to monitor the level of bacteria at a number of outlets along the river. Our advocacy activities do have a cost.
But, mostly, you are investing in, what one Board member called, shoe leather to obtain site plans, visit locations, shoot photos, attend community meetings, retrieve documents, testify at planning commission and city council meetings and serve on advisory groups representing your interest in protecting the river valley.
Your contributions, which are approximately $2,000 a year, and a $1,000 grant from the Farmers’ Market, are the mainstays of our budget. Other fundraising efforts include an art sale that emphasizes local artists and environmental beauty. We incorporated an informational booth this year; both the art and the booth were very successful. We signed up new supporters and made $1,800 after expenses. Later this year, we will hold a silent auction to raise additional funds.
We hope we are meeting your expectations for the Friends. Please don’t hesitate to provide feedback or suggestions at our website, http://www.fsdrv.org, or to The Friends, P.O. Box 973, Del Mar, CA. 92014.
March 30th unveiling
The Grand Avenue Bridge was built during WWII to support a wartime airfield on the land in the middle of the lagoon. When the Lagoon Restoration Plan called for demolishing the Bridge to protect new nesting areas, Jacqueline Winterer, then President of the Friends, linked an attractive observation deck on the East Coast to the possibility of redesigning the Grand Avenue Bridge as a Lagoon observation/interpretive site. County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price allocated funding for the site’s redesign, including three interpretive signs, and the historic bridge was saved. The unveiling will take place at 3:30 p.m.
Thank you again for your support: with interest, with financial aid and with encouragement. We hope to see you on the 30th.
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:
FSDRV positions on State Propositions have yet to be determined.
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.
Vice President, FSDRV
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 http://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 http://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
Villa Paraiso/Gatlin project (07/06/04)
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 9,360-sq-ft office building, and an 1,100-sq-ft 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
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
Polo Club Violations (06/27/04)
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
Grand Avenue Bridge Signs (06/23/04)
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.
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
Boudreau Property Purchase (06/23/04)
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.
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
On April 16, 2004 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.
Development Proposed in River Valley (01/22/04)
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 January 21, 2004 at the Carmel Valley Library.
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.
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. 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
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.”
Evidently 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
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.
San Dieguito River Park Interpretative Center / Strawberry Stand Kiosk Conversion (02/03/04)
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.
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 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
Gonzales Canyon and 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
— Jacqueline Winterer
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 20 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