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Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3) has approached Mayor Sanders and the city council with a request to block the sale of approximately 65 acres of city-owned land along the San Diego River. The group, whose mission is to “establish a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization of informed citizens which will strive for the conservation and improvement of the San Diego region,” has roots dating to 1961.

The property in question is a portion of a 100 acre parcel, 35 acres of which is considered river bottom or in the river path. The other 65 acres had been leased to the Carlton Oaks Golf Course, owned by TY Investments. The lease expired in 2010 and has reverted to a month-to-month rental agreement, with payments totaling $250,000 per year.

TY feels this price is too high, given the economic downturn. The city, rather than re-negotiating the lease, would prefer to sell the portion of the property occupied by TY to the company for $3,000,000, or about $45,000 per acre.

C-3 has brought forth a few objections to the sale. First, the property was purchased for the Water Utilities department, and proceeds from sale would go back to that budget, rather than into the general fund. City ratepayers, however, will extract no tangible benefit from the windfall.

Second, the group claims that riparian wetland (as the area in question could be designated) is selling to those who need it to mitigate losses from other sites for as much as $75,000 to $100,000 per acre, far above the proposed sale price. Buyers include developers and local government agencies – the city’s Waste Water department has set a budget of $25 million for purchasing and creating such riparian mitigation land in the future.

There’s also the question of what will happen to the land if it’s sold to TY and the golf course operation eventually fails. C-3 speculates that the new owner might attempt to grade the property to alter its floodplain, making it suitable for development. Or, they might have the land designated as part of a mitigation bank and then sell it back to the city at a considerable profit.

Update (7/21/11 2:30 p.m.) - In an article originally published in March 2006, the Reader's Matt Potter reported that the land lease, at roughly $21,000 per month, was such a deal that the course operators had sought to extend the terms another 25 years. The city property agent who exposed the deal, as well as over $180,000 in under-billing on the city's part, ended up fired.

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