By Joe Tash
The city of San Diego is willing to consider a lease extension of three to five years with the San Diego Polo Club for property the club has occupied for the past 26 years, the city’s chief operating officer said Oct. 9.
Polo club officials are set to meet with city representatives on Oct. 16 to discuss the lease extension for the 80-acre parcel at El Camino Real and Via de la Valle where the club has operated since 1986.
The property is owned by the city of San Diego, and the club’s 26-year lease expired in March. Rather than negotiate exclusively with the club for a long-term extension of the lease, the city decided to open up the bidding to other groups to ensure that it got the best value for the property, said Jay Goldstone, the city’s chief operating officer.
The city had planned to issue a request for proposals from groups interested in leasing the property this spring, but the process was delayed while the city finalized the design for an expansion and realignment of El Camino Real, which could end up cutting across a corner of the polo club property, Goldstone said.
That left the club on a month-to-month lease since March, making it difficult to spend money on maintenance, or sublease the property for such events as the popular Surf Cup youth soccer tournament.
Any extension of the lease would have to be approved by the San Diego City Council, Goldstone said, but the city is willing to sit down and discuss an interim extension with the polo club.
Currently, the club pays the city $9,842 per month to lease the property. Goldstone would not comment on possible terms for an interim lease.
He said that once the El Camino Real project is completed over the next three to five years, the city would issue a request for proposals and find a long-term lessee for the property.
Goldstone said he is hoping the city can reach a deal for an interim lease extension before a new mayor takes over. Mayor Jerry Sanders will step down Dec. 3 at the end of his term and a new mayor — either City Councilman Carl DeMaio or U.S. Rep. Bob Filner — will take over.
Meanwhile, polo club officials said they would prefer a long-term lease, but want at least an interim extension so they can sign agreements with outside groups that stage youth soccer and lacrosse tournaments and other events.
Club president Ron Bonaguidi said he is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Oct. 16, with Jim Barwick, director of the city’s real estate assets department, to discuss an interim lease extension.
For now, he said, the interim extension would allow the club to spend money to maintain the property and to make the property available for outside events.
The uncertainty over the lease has already led one group that sponsors a youth lacrosse tournament to move its event to South Carolina, costing San Diego millions of dollars in visitor revenue, Bonaguidi said.
But he and club officials are optimistic the city will move forward with an interim lease, he said this week.
“It’s promising and we’re optimistic and hopeful,” he said.