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Settlement ends city suit against county

SAN MARCOS — The two-year legal dispute between San Marcos and the county of San Diego over the management of Bradley Park ended with an amicable settlement announced at the City Council meeting Jan. 13.
Until the city acquired the property at the corner of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Linda Vista Drive in the late 1960s, the site was a county landfill. In 1986, the county and the city entered into a Joint Powers Agreement. San Marcos agreed to take responsibility for the surface and structures while San Diego County retained management of the underlying landfill.
This arrangement worked well enough until hard rains in spring 2005 eroded the stormwater drainage passage, exposing some of the buried garbage. The city wanted the county to help fund the investigation and effect repairs. The county, backed by a decision from the Regional Water Board, asserted that the city was responsible for stormwater management. The city maintained that the landfill was the county’s responsibility. The county countered that the landfill would never have been exposed had the city not built a park on top of it.
The city of San Marcos and its redevelopment agencies filed lawsuits against the county as a result. The county responded with a cost complaint arguing that the city and EDCO, the city’s waste management contractor, were responsible.
County deputy counsel James O’Day said the disagreement stemmed from the vagueness of the original pact between city and county. “In fairness, unfortunately our one-page agreement from the 1980s didn’t really define who was supposed to take care of this drainage swale area,” he said.
After several mediation sessions, both sides reached a happy compromise. The 1986 agreement was clarified, with the city taking responsibility for the drainage channel. In return, the county agreed to pay the city $1.56 million to fund the monitoring and maintenance required, as well as costs incurred to date. This money was offered by the county’s insurance carrier, the Chubb Insurance Group, to avoid a long court battle.
“It’s not pretty when two public entities fight with each other,” O’Day said. He called the settlement a win-win situation for both parties.
San Marcos city attorney Helen Holmes Peak described the settlement and the mediation sessions leading to it as a roadmap for future city/county relations. She added that while both sides had strongly held beliefs, the matter was handled without acrimony.
“I think it’s a good, reasonable, workable solution,” she said.
The mayor and City Council were also pleased to see the matter resolved. “I think it’s a good solution to an issue that’s been brewing for … two years,” Councilman Mike Preston said.