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Friends of the San Dieguito
River Valley
Requests for more and more "Special Events"
posted August 14, 2015

120 acres of rare encumbered open space in the San Dieguito River Valley at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real are up for rent “to the proposal that will provide the best value to the City (of San Diego)…”  

The Friends, the City of San Diego and the current lessee, the San Diego Polo Club, have been at odds for years over what is the best “value” for this parcel of public open space in an increasingly populated area. 

The property was deeded to the City of San Diego in 1982 as mitigation for open space lost in allowing increased residential development in the River Valley and came with a restriction to keep it in as natural condition as possible, including a prohibition against “large assemblages of automobiles.”  In 1986 the property was leased to the San Diego Polo Club to be used ONLY for polo and by the public for passive recreation during non-polo hours. The public access was so important to the then San Diego City Council that a separate clause was added to their motion approving the lease.

In 1996 the Polo Club was unable to meet its rental payments and unfortunately a new agreement without public input was drawn up to allow “Special Events” that would produce revenue to reduce the amount of money owed the City and to help pay off an existing loan to Wells Fargo Bank. At the Club’s request the City continued to ask the original owner to allow more and more “special events” without public input or a new environmental assessment as promised. These events have grown to include not only international Surf Cup tournaments that draw thousands of spectators along with nightmare traffic but many private events that push public access and natural open space further and further into the background.  Last year the local Presidio Soccer League, a San Diego based organization that schedules youth soccer teams including a Del Mar/Carmel Valley team, filed a lawsuit against the City claiming they had been refused use of the grounds for community based practice and games. At the same time the Polo Club continues to advertise for private events for up to 1000 people. 

The Polo Club lease expired in 2012 and has continued on a month to month basis. Proposals for a new lease are due on September 15.

The Friends have asked both the City and the original grantor to resist continued requests from the Club for more events and to even revoke a recent approval for more days.  This has been ignored.  Now it seems the Friends and the public must depend on the City’s Proposal Selection Committee to stand behind their written intent to pick a proposal that will “serve the needs of the local and regional community” without jeopardizing public open space and its value to the San Dieguito River Valley habitat and local families.  


Remarks by Freda Reid to the Del Mar City Council,
May 18, 2015

The  Riverpath Del Mar was conceived by the Del Mar Lagoon Committee about 15 years ago.  A few of the members were impatient to get started. They physically removed ice plant from the section in front of Public Works and also worked to design the path. 

Several years later The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley decided that the old Grand Ave. Bridge should be protected as an overlook for the newly restored San Dieguito Lagoon. This was achieved with assistance from Southern California Edison, its lagoon restoration contractor, Marathon Construction Corp., and the River Valley Joint Powers Authority. The Friends later took it on as a “Del Mar Spot” and are continuing its maintenance.

Along the way the much-used western section close to the river and Public Works was designed and paved with decomposed granite. Benches and signs were located, the remaining old railroad track was preserved, native plants were chosen and invasive species removed by volunteers and the City. 

So there has been a lot of effort over many years to connect these parts to produce a continuous Riverpath Del Mar.

We are eager to see the current plans for the extension come to fruition as soon as possible, though the high costs and required permits were a major surprise to us. We would like to contribute $5,000 from the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley hoping that this relatively small amount will speed the conclusion of the efforts of so many people. We wish we could add a few more zeros!

Freda Reid

The Board of Directors of the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority announced the selection of Kevin McKernan as its new Executive Director. 

Press release: May 20, 2015.  Mr. McKernan has over six years of experience as Executive Officer of two State conservancies, and as a Program Director with the Conservation Lands Foundation.  He has also served as an Environmental Director and Planner for two Native American tribes.  Mr. McKernan’s most recent position is as the Executive Officer of the San Diego River Conservancy.  His new responsibilities with San Dieguito River Park include directing the operations of the JPA, including managing eleven employees involved in planning, constructing, and maintaining the trails, habitat and improvements within the park.  Mr. McKernan will start work in his new position on June 29.

Board Chairperson Don Mosier commented that “the San Dieguito River Park is pleased to select Kevin McKernan for this leadership role.  We believe Kevin will continue the great progress being made by the park.  He brings a strong background in conservation management and outdoor recreation, and a real passion for and commitment to his profession.”  Mr. McKernan assumes a position previously held for 16 years by Richard Bobertz, who recently retired.

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority manages over 55 miles of habitat and trails for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians that stretch from Volcan Mountain in northeast San Diego County to its ocean outlet at the beach in Del Mar.  Over 70 miles of trails exist within the park, of which the primary feature is the Coast to Crest Trail.  The San Dieguito River Park is a joint powers agency between the Cities of Del Mar, Escondido, Poway, San Diego, and Solana Beach, and the County of San Diego.  The long term mission of the JPA is to finish the planning and construction of the Coast to Crest Trail from Del Mar to Julian, of which two thirds is already complete and available for public use. 


San Dieguito River Watershed

San Dieguito River Watershed.  Courtesy JPA

From the mountains to the sea, the 55-mile-long San Dieguito River originates at Volcan Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest.  From there, it meanders through Lake Sutherland, San Pasqual Valley, Lake Hodges, the Del Dios Gorge and the San Dieguito Lagoon to the river’s mouth in Del Mar.  The river and its major tributaries flow through sensitive natural habitats, including oak/pine woodlands, sage scrub, and coastal wetlands, creating a network of critical wildlife habitats.

Our Mission 


Established in 1986 as a non-profit, and supported by a network of members and affiliates, the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley promotes and supports conservation, restoration, preservation and enhancement of the natural scenic, ecological and open-space resources of the San Dieguito River Valley through advocacy, study, monitoring, and education.



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