$3.7M Shores debt remains

Friends hold out hope; city looking at alternate plans

The Friends of Del Mar Parks continue to fundraise for the Shores property; however, the city is preparing to investigate alternatives in case donations come up short.

A community workshop will be held at 6 p.m. June 15 at the Del Mar TV Studio to discuss how to pay the remaining $3.7 million the city borrowed to purchase the Shores property by November 2011.

While the Friends organization has raised more than $5.4 million toward the

$8.5 million purchase price of the property - in conjunction with the Winston School - donations have dropped off amid the recession.

“People are stretched,” said Barbara Mandel Pache, the Shores campaign coordinator. “As all nonprofits have felt the impact of the economy, so have we.”

Pache said they also pulled back on their fundraising campaign during the first part of the year because they did not want to compete with schools in the Del Mar Union School District raising money to save extended studies teachers and programs.

Organizers are starting to ramp up their efforts again, with the short-term goal of raising $47,000, the quarterly principal payment due June 30.

“We’re going to keep up our work and continue to make this a successful project for the city,” said Joe Sullivan, the nonprofit’s president.

Sullivan said they continue to promote the 41/36 campaign, in which donors pledge to contribute $41 for 36 months, for a total of $1,500, which is how much it would take to pay down the loan if each Del Mar household participated equally.

The Friends recently released a conceptual plan incorporating the most popular uses suggested for the property, including a regulation-sized Little League baseball field, soccer field, fenced-in dog park, community gardens, open space with picnic tables, basketball and tennis courts, and the historical Alvarado House, along with the Winston School.

“The vision is not a precise plan at all,” Pache said. “But it gives folks an idea how much fabulous potential there is for this 5.3 acre parcel.”

The Friends are cautiously optimistic donations will pick up as the economy improves, Pache said.

However, if the group is unable to raise enough to meet the quarterly payments, the city will begin to withdraw money from its open space reserve fund, which has a little more than $400,000. Once that fund is depleted, the city will be on the hook to use general funds.

“We need to find alternative to spending general fund money,” City Manager Karen Brust said.

Those alternatives will be discussed at the Shores workshop June 15. The public is invited to provide ideas on how to best retire the loan before it becomes due November 2011.

One possibility that will likely be discussed is issuing a bond that all property owners in the city would help pay off on their property taxes, which was done to purchase other properties, including Seagrove Park.

The Friends support a public-private partnership like a bond, Pache said.

Community members are encouraged to continue providing input on how they would like to see the property enhanced at the Friends of Del Mar Park’s Web site