San Diego Polo Fields (the view southward)
The preservation group known as Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley is suing the City of San Diego and a youth-soccer league over a long-term lease at the city-owned Polo Fields east of Del Mar.
The lawsuit is the second one filed against the city for its handling of the 114-acre publicly owned lands located at El Camino Real and Via de la Valle in northern San Diego.
At issue is the city council's July 25 decision to enter into a 28-year lease with the Surf Soccer Club, a youth league that plays against teams in the Southern California Developmental Soccer League, based out of Yorba Linda.
The problem, says the lawsuit from the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley, is that the city did not conduct adequate environmental studies on the impacts that the large soccer tournaments will have on the surrounding community as well as the local habitat.
According to the lawsuit, only specific uses are allowed on the land, which the city acquired in 1983. Those zoning uses include agricultural, "passive non-commercial uses," and non-commercial uses."
Most relevant, "large assemblages of people or automobiles" are not allowed on the site.
But the city ignored the zoning requirements and entered into the agreement with stipulations that Surf Soccer Club pay for a number of improvements to the field. Those improvements, says the lawsuit, also pose potential environmental hazards that need to be studied, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act.
"There is substantial evidence to support a fair argument the [lease] may have a signifIcant impact on biology, traffIc, noise, and water quality," reads the lawsuit. "There is a reasonable possibility the Project may have a signifIcant effect on the environment due to unusual circumstances. The Project site is located next to and includes habitat supporting threatened and endangered species. CEQA does not support a categorical exemption for a Project located in proximity to environmentally sensitive habitat."
The group is asking that a judge issue a writ of mandate, suspending the agreement and ordering the necessary environmental studies.
As reported by the Reader, this isn't the only time that outside groups have accused the city of giving Surf Soccer Club preferential treatment.
In 2014, members of the Presidio Soccer League, San Diego's largest youth league, sued the city for refusing to turn over a copy of the previous lease between the city and Surf Soccer Club.
In that lawsuit, members of Presidio said the city played favorites with Surf Soccer Club; and by entering into a lease, it prevented other soccer clubs from using the 80 acres of playing fields.
In a November 18, 2014, article, Presidio's president Bob Turner said his soccer club was "short on fields and are forced to jump around from city to city to find available fields for our tournaments. 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."
That case has since been settled.
The lawsuit lodged by Friends of San Dieguito River Valley will go before a judge in the coming months.