Polo Club property lease to go up for bid this summer

The city of San Diego will soon go out to bid on the San Diego Polo Club property. The request for proposals for the 80-acre parcel was scheduled to go out when the polo club’s original 26-year lease expired in 2012, but the city has faced numerous delays.

“We’re definitely interested in bidding; we don’t intend on going anywhere else,” said Nour-Dean Anakar, vice president of the San Diego Polo Club.

Heidi Farst, from the city real estate assets department, came to the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s May 28 meeting to hear the planning board’s concerns for respondents of the request for proposals (RFP).

The board reiterated its input from February 2012, urging responsible use of the land because of its closeness to sensitive and protected habitats of the San Dieguito River Valley and also favoring recreational uses such as soccer being able to continue.

Farst said she hopes the RFP will be released in the next 30 days. Once released, it will be posted on the city real estate assets website.

The San Diego Polo Club’s original 26-year lease expired in March 2012. Since the lease expired, the club has occupied the property on a month-to-month basis. On May 31, they had a record-breaking opening day of polo with more than 5,000 people in attendance.

The property is subleased to San Diego Surf Soccer, and Surf Cup and soccer practices and games often fill the grass.

The issues the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board most wanted addressed in the RFP were the “maddening” entry and exit on El Camino Real and the traffic build-up, and how the leasee will interface with the nearby vacant property, a dirt lot that serves as overflow parking and has drainage problems. Developer Milan Capital is planning a senior living community on the 23.88-acre slice of land.

Neighbor Cory Hao said he has been supportive of the Polo Club and the soccer uses in the past, but noted that traffic and parking really need to be addressed.

“If that lot goes away, where are they going to put all those cars? The Surf Cup brings 2,500 to 3,000 cars per event,” Hao said.

The board members also expressed that they would like to see the trail easement on the property remain part of the San Dieguito River Park’s Coast to Crest trail, and that the leasee won’t oppose a potential roundabout solution on El Camino Real when the road is eventually widened from San Dieguito Road to Via de la Valle.

Board member Ken Farinsky said he would like to see the property used as a city park rather than a for-profit use. Farinsky said he would also like the RFP to require more visible signage that the land is public space and open for the community’s use. When soccer and polo are not in session, the land is open to the public. People are frequently seen running around the property or playing on the grass.

Krista Bonaguidi, the president of the Fairbanks Polo Club Homeowners Association, the neighborhood that overlooks the club, said she has concerns that the proposed language regarding events in the RFP was changed from the original deed. In the original deed, events are allowed for 25 calendar days, but the new RFP changed it to 25 events.

Given that the Surf Cup could count as one event even though it lasts for two weekends, Bonaguidi is concerned that there will be no limitations on how long an event can be.

Twenty-five events could mean an event every other weekend of the year, she said.

The board echoed the concern about the number of events and city official Farst said it would be considered as the RFP is prepared.

Polo Club Vice President Anakar said because the RFP is still a work in progress, the club is not aware of all the details that will be included, but they have been kept informed of the planning board and other neighboring groups’ concerns.

“This property has become a landmark for the community, not only with equestrian and youth sport uses, but keeping the field open and green,” Anakar said, adding that he feels most of the community wants to see it remain an open field with active uses.

“If we meet all the environmental requirements and cooperate with the city on road widening and public trails, I think we can work on a plan together. I think this is the best use of the property for many years to come.”

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