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Friends of the San Dieguito
River Valley
Seeking New Board Members for FSDRV
posted 1 March 2016

The Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley is looking for volunteers to help us in our mission.  A public announcement is just below. For more information about what we are and what we do, see “About Us" and “Contact" at the top of the page, as well as “current issues”  and “why protect the river valley” in the side panel.

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press release
Update on the Polo Fields
posted August 31, 2016

On August 29, 2016, the Friends filed a case (technically, a Petition for a Writ of Mandate against the City of San Diego, asserting that the 28 year lease of the Polo Fields to Surf Cup Sports violates environmental law.  Concurrently, we filed a Request for Administrative Record, demanding the City provide us all written material, including email and email attachments, relevant to the Petition.  The City will be scheduling a Settlement Conference within 49 days (but it may occur much later).  At the conference, the parties will meet and bargain, the City hoping to reach a compromise that satisfies the Friends, and causes them to withdraw the suit.  If there is no compromise, it will go before a Judge, but that is 12 to 18 months away

Update on the Polo Fields
posted August 17, 2016
Letter from FSDRV to Sherri Lightner dated July 26, 2016
Update on the Polo Fields
posted August 8, 2016
On July 25, the San Diego City Council voted to approve the lease of the Polo Fields to Surf Cup Sports. The lone vote against the proposal was our First District Council member, Sherri Lightner. Here is a transcription of Sherri’s statement, made before her vote. We are grateful for the sentiments expressed in this statement.
Transcription of Sherri Lightner's statement

text in pdf format
posted 31 May 2016

Have you noticed the unusual activity at the polo fields at Via de la Valle and El Camino Real? The horse stalls have been torn down and there is equipment grading the fields. Reportedly Surf Cup Sports will soon install soccer fields on the “fields” and may hold many more traffic generating events at the site although we have been assured by San Diego City staff that the City has NOT selected a new leasee for the property. 

The 80 acres commonly known as the polo fields were deeded as “dedicated public open space” to the City in 1984 as mitigation for extra development in the River Valley that required a rerouting the of San Dieguito River, unimaginable today.  The grant deed specified that the property be left in as natural a condition as possible and prohibited “large assemblages of people.” In 1986 the City approved a Negative Declaration for a private Polo Club to use the property stipulating that the use would be a “low intensity activity” with no impact on land use, housing and traffic generation including no offsite parking.  Subsequently the City Council added specific instructions to maintain “public access” when not being used for polo. The City reassured concerned groups including Sierra Club that the number of trips generated would not have a significant adverse impact on the capacity of the existing street(s), weekend matches would not be advertised and are expected to attract…a small amount of onlookers, parking (for 50 cars) would be located…just west of the polo fields and development of future facilities would be subject to subsequent environmental review.

Photos © Maggie Brown.

The Club ran into financial difficulties and in early 1997 the City agreed to allow “Special Events designed specifically to …reduce the amount of the rental deficiency owed the City and to help (the Club) pay off an existing loan…” “We understand that the …Polo Club has been going through some tight financial times and we have approved these events as a temporary method to try to help the Club work its way out of the predicament.  In the future we would propose to reduce or eliminate the events with the possible exception of a few events for charity.” In 2003 the City granted a “one-time approval… that should not be construed as approval for future special events” for soccer practice, Surf Soccer Cup (July 26-28) and Surf Girls Soccer Cup (Nov 28-30).

In the meantime the City sought and got permission from the deed grantor for additional uses including dog shows, soccer tournaments, Christmas tree sales and youth soccer practice NOT to occur more “than 25 days per calendar year cumulatively (not each).” This transaction which resulted in large assemblages of automobiles was done without notice to the public, including to the “benefitted” land owners which is required in the grant deed.

Beginning in 2004 and through August, 2014 community groups voiced their dismay at the traffic and noise generated by the intensification of uses and called for a supplemental environmental review to assess the new impacts to the river habitat property and the neighborhood.  The City not only did not respond to the concerns and the request, but in 2014 the Real Estate Assets Department asked the grantor to approve 25 events replacing the language 25 days, doubling and even tripling the intensification of uses as many of the “events” are 2 and 3 days long.

Despite the outcry over the change from days to events, the City proceeded to issue an RFP that includes the 25 events language.  The City also failed to include the information that the property was encumbered by an Open Space easement and that a priority for the original leasehold was to provide public access.  Surf Cup Sports has been selected by READ as the most responsible bidder to the RFP subject to review by the City’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee and the City Council. The Friends are meeting with City representatives to express our concerns that the mitigation guarantees to the public and the neighborhood have been thrown over in the interest of commercial interests and at the expense of valuable public open space in the San Dieguito River Valley.





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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