It might be referred to as "the polo fields," but it's leased city property
On November 14, the city was slapped with another lawsuit for violating the California Public Records Act.
In the latest lawsuit, Presidio Soccer League, San Diego County's largest competitive youth soccer league (with over 15,000 members), accuses the city of ignoring the records law by refusing to turn over copies of a lease agreement it entered into with the San Diego Polo Club in Carmel Valley.
Youth sports leagues such as Presidio have long been after the 80-plus-acre playing fields at the polo club. Yet, despite being publicly owned land, the polo fields have been off-limits to everyone except for the club and another youth soccer league, the San Diego Surf Soccer Club.
Those two organizations have enjoyed exclusive rights to the field, barring Presidio and others from leasing the fields.
"We are way short on fields and are forced to jump around from city to city to find available fields for our tournaments,” says Presidio's president Bob Turner. “The polo fields would allow us to bring it all to one location. It would make it easier on our league as well as the parents and players."
In January 2012, Turner and other boardmembers believed they saw an opening. It was then that the polo club's 25-year lease expired with the city. League representatives began to check for an opportunity to place a bid to use throughout the year. They were soon informed that the polo club had subleased the fields to another youth soccer league, San Diego Surf Soccer Club. Conditions of the lease excluded Presidio, as well as any other clubs, from using the fields.
"Some of the clubs thought it was unfair that two groups, the Polo Club and Surf Soccer, have control over 40 or 50 fields. The one group that does have sole use of the field, [Surf Soccer Club], plays in the Southern California Developmental Soccer League based out of Yorba Linda, which means most of the games aren't even against teams in San Diego County."
Frustrated by the exclusivity agreement for publicly owned land, Presidio's boardmembers began to look for more information on the lease. On August 4, 2014, attorneys for the league filed a public records request to see the lease and any bid proposals.
Fourteen days later, the city attorney's office responded, with very little information.
According to the lawsuit filed by Presidio's lawyers, “Presidio's review of the documents made evident that the documents provided were substantially deficient and appeared to have intentional omissions. Namely, respondents had provided only one lease, which was executed by the City of San Diego and Fairbanks Polo Club in or around March 1986, which had expired by the time of respondents' response.
"As of the date of this Petition, respondents have not disclosed all of the information sought by Presidio in its August 4, 2014 Public Records Request. In particular, respondents have failed to disclose correspondence by and between the City of San Diego and the Surf SC, Surf Cup, and/or the Polo Club. Also omitted from disclosure was the formal lease proposal from Surf Cup to the City, or any other lease, sublease, or proposal regarding the Polo Fields as requested by Presidio other than the expired lease."
The city attorney's office declined to comment. Under Jan Goldsmith's watch, the office's tight hold on public documents has resulted in a number of lawsuits.