Belmont Park Goes Bankrupt

by on November 6, 2010 · 16 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, San Diego

Belmont ParkBy Greg Bledsoe / / November 6, 2010

Just like its 85-year-old roller coaster, Belmont Park has had its ups and downs.

“When I took it over it was half empty and there were drugs and gangs, and it was bad,” says Tom Lochtefeld, owner of the company that operates most of Belmont Park.

Lochtefeld says the city asked him to take over the lease on the park back in 2002 when it was in need of a redevelopment. He says he spent $12 million repairing and adding onto the park.

Those improvements included the Wave House Bar and its $4 million standing wave, which quickly attracted national attention, including MTV.

Lochtefeld says the park now gets about four million visitors a year and at peak summer season employs 500 people. But when rent came due on Friday, Lochtefeld couldn’t pay. He had filed for bankruptcy earlier in the week.

“No, it’s not fair,” was his response when explaining the city has raised the rent 700 percent.

Lochtefeld and the city agreed on the rent increase several years ago, back when there were plans for a second phase of the redevelopment, including a new hotel, parking structure, and several more amusement rides.

“In 2008 the city told me to stop after I’d submitted the plan, they said hold on, we want to keep it as is,” Lochtefeld said.

The problem, he says, is the city also wanted the keep the rent increase.

“It’s two and a half years I’ve been trying to negotiate this thing,” he said. “It’s like I’m talking to a blank wall.”

Lochtefeld says without further expansion he does not believe any operator could make the numbers work enough to pay what the city wants. He says if there is no negotiation, he worries the park will go back to the way it was.

“I think it would probably go derelict again just like it was ten years ago,” Lochtefeld said.

Lochtefeld says he’s still hopeful the two sides can negotiate a new lease.

Multiple phone calls from NBCSanDiego to the city’s department of real estate assets to respond to Lochtefeld’s claims were not returned.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Danny Morales November 6, 2010 at 5:02 pm

Smells like the City of Scam Diego has an alternative to Mr. Lochtefeld laying in the weeds! McMillion or ManChester? Where is our citycouncilperson when he’s needed?
Why else sabotage a going concern? Too many questions or just another day of state/monopoly capitalism? Stay tuned “Countdown” with Keith Olberman is next-OOPS?


avatar dave rice November 6, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Good point…not too far of a stretch to imagine a backroom deal that transfers the wealth one guy created to one of the town’s favorite sons.


avatar dave rice November 6, 2010 at 6:45 pm

I’ve got to side with business over government on this one – the city allowed the developer to add a lot of value to the property and he likely should be paying more than he did when he took over the park, but he deserves to keep some of the value he added, too…if the city gave him an opportunity to make the space seven times more profitable, let him pay. But if they stopped the development halfway through (and there may be a good reason they did), I’ve got to think they should have to settle for a smaller rent increase.


avatar Danny Morales November 7, 2010 at 9:40 am

Dave- I’m with you and the developer on this one. The appearance of bad faith bargaining on the part of the city is smeared all over the face of this post like
make-up on a T.J. Hooker! Bankruptcy will only provide cover for any improprieties on the governments behalf. Where are the investigative journalists who will go beyond the stone wall of silence now that there’s a legal action pending? Where are legal minds that would pierce the corporate/state veil in the name of individual rights? And where is the “small government” city councilperson? Oh, I forgot! Foisting the teabaggers upon the petard of the national party status! – O’KEY DOKE


avatar nunya November 7, 2010 at 10:01 am

Hey, maybe they can put a WalMart superstore there!! Yippee skipeee! Did anyone see the UT’s disgusting article carrying the water for WalMart?


avatar Danny Morales November 7, 2010 at 10:21 am

Feed me Seymore- We don’t read no sticking UT!- More like carrying the water for Carl DeMaio and Kevin F. who voted against the localism ordinance in the favor of the BIG CORPORATE/small guv’nment State.- Dunn A. Fry


avatar nunya November 7, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Amen! I only caught it because it showed up on Google news. I should have qualified that, though, it was an OpEd.

Sorry to the rest of you here, for being off topic. The last time I went to MB the gang bangers scared the bejeezus out of my family as we were leaving and then we got blocked in by the police SUVs.


avatar Marisag November 7, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Of course, the City now has plans to redevelop the Park… wasn’t it bad enough when Belmont got “redeveloped” in the late 80’s that they took half the park to build a huge parking lot and a bunch more bars (like Mission Beach needs more bars), while they were at “redeveloping” they ruined the boardwalk by stuccoing the wall. “Redevelopment” made the whole place a haven for gangs and violence, and that dominated the nighttime of that whole area throughout the 90’s.

Gee, why were the only people sitting on the wall of the boardwalk wearing jeans and beanies? Because if you weren’t wearing jeans, the stucco would cut into your skin and/or ruin your bathing suit. Even PB Chess disappeared during that time…sad, I remember my Dad spending hours down there staring at a chess board during the 80’s. I think I did notice that they had removed the stucco, but its been years since I walked the boardwalk…. If I walk the beach now, its Dog beach with my little furry friends.

Anyway, I guess what I think is that the quaintness of the whole area was ruined when they tore down the picnic tables and put in a parking lot. When they swore to save the plunge, only to surround it by a cheap building housing the kinds of stores that you could find along the beach. I don’t think redevelopment was good for the area at all and if they put up a hotel on the last remaining bit of grass you can see from Mission Blvd, then the whole area is going to lose even more of its soul. Seriously, they want to entice even more traffic onto that little strip of land where there is no parking anyway?

How can the city justify leasing park areas to redevelopers? Nothing has changed, nothing, since 2005. City Council has just gotten better at playing the game.

Sometimes, progress is not measured by how much we can build, but by how much we cherish our open spaces. I wonder how long it will be before the city decides that Dusty Rhodes park should have a hotel on it. It’s a prime location after all. Minutes from the airport, Sea World and shopping centers in Mission Valley with easy access to I8 and I5. All they need is a developer to “redevelop” it for the right price. I wonder too if the failure of Prop D might not be the excuse they were looking for to lease out a whole lot of city land.

Just thinking as I type……


avatar dave rice November 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm

” I wonder how long it will be before the city decides that Dusty Rhodes park should have a hotel on it.”

See: Precise Plan that the print edition of the Rag took on years before I was born…


avatar annagrace November 7, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Marisag- well put: ” Sometimes, progress is not measured by how much we can build, but by how much we cherish our open spaces. ” Thank you for that.


avatar Citizen Cane November 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I don’t see a future hotel at Belmont Park when I look in my crystal ball. I see a pay parking lot, and only members of the Plunge Health Club will be allowed to park for free.


avatar Danny Morales November 8, 2010 at 5:02 am

IN OTHER REAL ESTATE NEWS…The Peninsula Bacon (oops Beacon) reports that the VFW off Newport Ave is being forced out of its present location to make room for “…the other tenents”. The property owner says it’s strictly a business decision and the writer implies that even in liberal OB displaying the American flag is OK.


avatar OB Dude November 8, 2010 at 9:56 am

This is stinky!

There is ton of stuff on the internet about Lochtefeld…he’s smart and ambitious….an attorney, inventor and entrepreneur of wavehouse, took over Canes lease, patent infringement suit against AWM, long term lease on the park with desire for 350 room hotel, parking garage and a need to bust the 30 foot height limit…..there will much more to come and I wonder about Faulconer’s stance on it all since he is mentioned in the link below and his wife does business with Lochtefeld?


avatar OB Dude November 17, 2010 at 11:41 am

This just came out via email

The future of Belmont Park is in jeopardy
To Our Supporters,

Belmont Park is on a land lease from the City of San Diego. This masterlease envisioned and documented a major redevelopment to construct new improvements, an adaptive reuse of the Plunge swimming pool hall and pay increased City rent. To achieve this objective, I submitted a plan to the City in 2006. In 2008, the City requested a hold on any redevelopment and to negotiate an “as is” lease. For two and a half years, we diligently pursued renegotiation, but the City flatly rejected our efforts. They have now imposed a 700% rent increase, but with no development to pay for it. This is financially unfeasible, renders Belmont Park insolvent and is a breach of lease. On November 3, 2010, Belmont Park filed for Chapter 11 Reorganization to defend its interpretation of the lease and to oppose the City in Federal court.

When taking over the leasehold in 2002, the area was a blighted district with over 50% vacancy, rampant crime and drug problems. During the course of my tenure, my company invested over $11 million in capital improvements. Belmont Park now attracts over 4 million visitors a year, generating significant sales tax for the City’s account, and has created over 500 jobs.

The City’s attempt to raise the rent to offset their years of financial mismanagement (exemplified by the pension fiasco and the recent No Vote on Prop D) puts the community in jeopardy of losing a prized asset, with a distinct possibility of returning to a derelict, crime and graffiti-ridden area. Please don’t allow the mistakes of local government to destroy a San Diego historic landmark.

Help us fight the city’s unjustified rent increase by writing the Mayor of San Diego, City Attorney, Director of Real Estate Assets and District 2 City Councilmember. Let them know of your personal relationship with Belmont Park and your support of our continued efforts to operate, maintain and improve this historic regional park.

– Tom Lochtefeld
Belmont Park Managing Member


avatar John Littlefield February 24, 2011 at 3:42 am

You obviously have a very corrupt government who has a malign secret agenda.
If you don’t bring it to heel you will awake one day to discover a Mission Beach dominated by upscale resort development & chain stores.
Change your politicians or say goodbye to the area as you know it.


avatar OB Dude February 24, 2011 at 9:01 am

Does anyone know what happened on the court hearing of 2/11?


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