Fair board looks to partner with polo field lessee for parking

Fair board looks to partner with polo field lessee for parking
The city of San Diego received three bids in response to a request for proposals for a potential new tenant on this 120-acre site on the corner of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real, which has been used for polo matches for nearly 30 years. Del Mar Fairgrounds officials recently approved a contract to sublease it for parking if Surf Cup Sports is selected at the new lessee. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

REGION — At the close of an Oct. 14 deadline, the city of San Diego received three bids in response to a request for proposals for a potential new tenant on a 120-acre site on the corner of Via de la Valle and El Camino Real best known as the polo fields.

While the city did not release the names of the respondents, Steve Lewandowski, community relations director for the current tenant, the San Diego Polo Club, said that organization submitted a proposal.

The club has used the site for polo matches for nearly 30 years.

According to a contract included in the agenda packet for the 22nd District Agricultural Association’s Nov. 10 meeting, it appears Surf Cup Sports may be seeking to take over the lease.

The 22nd DAA, which governs the Del Mar Fairgrounds, authorized an agreement at that meeting to sublease part of the site for parking and storage during the San Diego County Fair and possibly other events for an estimated annual cost of $75,000.

The approval is contingent on Surf Cup “successfully acquiring a lease agreement” with San Diego, the contract states.

The district has been looking for more parking opportunities for many years and has “always been interested in the possibility of leasing” the parcel, according to the document.

With the permanent loss of 1,250 parking spaces beginning with the 2016 San Diego County Fair, “the search for additional parking has become even more critical.”

The parking loss is a result of a legal settlement between the 22nd DAA and the California Coastal Commission, the adjacent cities of Del Mar and Solana Beach and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority.

Fairgrounds officials agreed to convert an overflow parking lot just south of the state-owned venue back to wetlands in exchange for continued use of a parcel east of Jimmy Durante Boulevard for year-round parking and temporary events such as the pumpkin patch and Christmas tree sales.

When San Diego released the request for proposals, fairgrounds staff members and Director Russ Penniman toured the property but opted not to submit a bid.

Instead they met with the owners of Surf Cup, which has been using the field for soccer for years.

“The discussion centered around the 22nd DAA and Surf Cup Sports creating some kind of alliance that would provide parking for the San Diego County Fair, fair trailer storage and potentially parking for other large events” at the fairgrounds, the contract states.

Should San Diego award the lease to Surf Cup, the city would also have to approve the use of the property for parking.

“District management believes this is the best arrangement to achieve needed parking inventory and at the same time not take on the responsibility of operating another facility,” according to the contract.

The 22nd DAA is also considering Del Mar Horsepark, the equestrian facility across the street from the polo fields that it oversees, for additional parking.

The RFPs are currently in the review process. Once that is complete, a recommendation will be made to the Smart Growth and Land Use Committee before a final lease agreement is authorized by the San Diego City Council.

At press time calls to Surf Cup requesting comments were not returned.

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