San Diego to sell Heights Road property as surplus


Idea for pocket park vetoed

At its Nov. 13 meeting, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Committee voted 12-1 in favor of allowing the city of San Diego to sell a vacant lot at the northwest corner of the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive.

At the same time the board squelched an idea to turn the lot into a pocket park.

The 5,340-square-foot lot, which is lined with several utility boxes, has been owned by the city since 1963, when it was bought for $3,500.

The lot was originally acquired for widening the road, and its only use since has been as a temporary fire station. The utility boxes are located at the right-of-way and not directly on the property.

Present at the meeting were Jim Barwick, the director of real estate for the City of San Diego, and Lane MacKenzie, an asset manager who is in charge of acquisitions and dispositions of city properties.

In making his case that the committee should approve of the city selling the property, Barwick pointed out that the City of San Diego owns approximately 120,000 acres of real estate, which he described as “abnormally large holdings for a municipal county.” He also noted the city’s financial woes and said selling surplus properties not needed for use for any city department would allow the city to raise extra funds.

No fire sale

MacKenzie said the dimensions of the lot were legal and in conformance with surrounding lots and therefore acceptable for building a home. Barwick also pointed out a home had recently been built across the street on a lot of the same size.

However, Lane emphasized the lot, which had been appraised at $500,000, would not be sold for less because of the tough economy.

“We’re not doing fire sales,” he said. “We’re not going to give away the property, we’ve had it appraised at fair market value … we can wait, it’s been sitting there for 45 years, we’re not going to turn around tomorrow and do it unless it meets the requirements that the city council would approve for us to sell any property.”

Pocket park

The possibility of turning the lot into a pocket park - a small area of green space - was discussed, and Lane said the lot met the requirements for such a park.

Chairman Morton Printz expressed concerns that the value of a home built on the lot would be decreased because of the traffic noise on Del Mar Heights Road and noted the high turnover rate of homes in the area.

“If someone wishes to buy (the property) and build their home on there ... “ said Printz.

“I don’t feel it’s my business to tell them that they can’t do it,” responded Barwick.

Some board members expressed agreement that although the property may be considered undesirable by some, that one had the right to build a home on the lot if they felt otherwise.

Printz also asked about the possibility of using funds from the sale of the lot to “mitigate some of these factors on Del Mar Heights Road,” but was told by Barwick the funds typically went into a capital improvements projects fund, which finances city improvements.

However, he said funds were not specifically earmarked for the communities the properties were located in.

In the end, the committee voted 12-1, with no members abstaining, in favor of allowing the city to sell the lot. Printz was the lone dissenter.

“I think it’s a very bad move,” he said. “It’s annoying to me that something could be done to enable children to walk across the street, that’s the only location where children can potentially walk across the street, and nothing’s being done by the city. It’s annoying to me that we have no parks … I just don’t think sticking a house there is beneficial to our community or necessarily improving the property values of the homes adjacent to the area.”