Who Runs San Diego? Deals Like the One Proposed for Belmont Park Amount to a War on Taxpayers

by on September 29, 2014 · 7 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

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Editor: The following is by C0uncilman Ed Harris, who further explains his position on the recent rejection by the San Diego City Council of a proposed lease for the operators of Belmont Park.  See our earlier post about Harris’ position.

Guest column by Councilmember Ed Harris

Recently, the City Council was asked to grant an extension to the lease at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. Pacifica, a local developer and current leaseholder of the park’s commercial buildings, wanted the Council to approve a deal that would extend its current lease to 55 years. Pacifica has held the lease for two years.

After reviewing the proposed lease, I asked the Independent Budget Analyst (IBA) to determine whether it was consistent with best practices of other cities, and whether a longer-term lease would be in the City’s long-term economic interests.

The IBA concluded that the 50 year term of the proposed extension is longer than the average municipal ground lease, and that its rental rates seemed lower than the percentage-rent average of comparable municipal leases in other California cities.

I was also told by the City’s Real Estate Assets Department (READ) that the City has collected a total in net rent of $1,639,166 from the Belmont Park lease since 1988.

This actually looked like a bad deal, and you never double down on a bad deal.

It is important to note the following. First, if a lease extension is not granted to Pacifica, 23 years will still remain on that lease. Second, the estimated cost to repair the Plunge is $6 million dollars, and will be paid entirely by the taxpayers in the form of rent credits.

For 26 years, the City gave millions of dollars in rent credits to the former leasee to maintain the facility, including the Plunge. That maintenance did not occur.

With this knowledge, extending the lease didn’t seem like a good deal for the taxpayers. This actually looked like a bad deal, and you never double down on a bad deal.

belmont-parkWhile Pacifica was negotiating this lease extension with READ for over a year, my office was never a part of any of those negotiations. I became aware of this issue in late July.

When the matter finally came to Council on September 22, I had real concerns: The projected revenues; the insistence on a 55-year lease; and the lack of accountability to the City to maintain the property over time. Furthermore, the lease numbers I had been provided kept changing: The total amount of square footage; the total revenue Pacifica had already invested into the property; and the amount of revenue the City would realize.

The proposed new lease also called for valet parking at Belmont Park. Since when do we encourage paid parking at the beach? That’s a slippery slope that will undermine the character of our beach communities, and the ability for residents of all income levels to enjoy access to the public seashore.

At the Council hearing when I asked how this was a good deal for the City, I never received a good explanation. It’s my job on the Council to hold our private sector partners and myself accountable for the good of San Diego’s taxpayers.

Why would we not want to ask questions and work harder to get a better deal for the City and for the taxpayers?

While it’s important to have a lean budget, we must always be looking at the other side of the ledger to see how we can best leverage the City’s assets for revenue to pay for basic City services. Let me be clear. I’m not opposed to partnering with the private sector to lease City property.

In fact, earlier this month I asked Mayor Faulconer to prioritize lease extensions on City-owned property in the Sports Arena area. These leases have varying expiration dates and certain tenants whose leases expire in 2015 have been trying to obtain extensions from the City for almost two years. Furthermore, the Black Angus building has been vacant for years and has fallen into disrepair, and the City has lost valuable revenue because of this.

Crucially, by ensuring that we are able to lease these properties, we will be better positioned to help fund neighborhood services such as libraries, code enforcement, and police officers.

If this Belmont Park matter is any indication of business as usual, it looks to me like there’s actually a war on taxpayers and small business owners in San Diego.

Apart from the particulars of the Belmont park lease proposal, I’m struck by a larger point. Why would we not want to ask questions and work harder to get a better deal for the City and for the taxpayers? Which of my constituents does not want that?

I’ve heard a mantra lately on how there’s a “war on business” in San Diego.

If this Belmont Park matter is any indication of business as usual, it looks to me like there’s actually a war on taxpayers and small business owners in San Diego. Deals like the Belmont Park lease further shrink our middle class in an era when it’s under siege.

By not making the most of our City’s assets, we come up with cost shortfalls that we pass along to taxpayers. That results in small businesses having to hire private security because we don’t have enough police officers, and for Business Improvement Districts having to self-fund the upkeep and beautification of their neighborhoods.

At the end of the Council meeting, the Belmont Park lease matter was continued for 60 days. I am optimistic all stakeholders can return to the table during that time to address the concerns raised, and come up with a deal that’s mutually beneficial to Pacifica and to the City.

Actively addressing quality of life issues has been my priority since I took office five months ago. As a Marine veteran, a City lifeguard for 25 years, and now as the councilmember for District Two, I am more mindful than ever that democracy should always require vigilance, transparency, and accountability.

This is the tenth installment of the Who Runs San Diego? series, a project of the Democratic Woman’s Club, published weekly in the OB Rag and San Diego Free Press. The Democratic Woman’s Club mission is to promote Democratic Party principles including equality of opportunity, a level playing field, and fair and equal treatment for all. See the ninth installment.

Ed Harris is the City Councilman representing District 2, which includes the Belmont Park property, Ocean Beach, and the rest of Mission Beach and more.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Debbie September 29, 2014 at 11:08 am

It would enlightening for Ms. Zapf to write to the rag as to why she strongly supported the lease extension etc.

Ms. Zapf, please advise. Thank you,


RB September 30, 2014 at 8:15 am

“I am more mindful than ever that democracy should always require vigilance, transparency, and accountability.”
Democracy also requires a vote of the people rather than appointment based upon party loyalty.

As for the lease agreement, you make several good points. But unless there are other operators willing to pay more for the lease it would not be wise to kill this deal. The worst outcome would be no one operating this property and an used blight at Mission Beach.


JR September 30, 2014 at 1:15 pm

To San Diego Councilman ED HARRIS. . . .

To the “missing lease net income dollars” queries U have already placed front & center on the City Council tables & the who negotiated Q’s re the present lease, both seemingly are flying way over the “heads” of your fellow councilpersons.

The fixed sun signs & adverse personality positions taken by city councilpersons SHERMAN & ZAFF, (where the latter is to assume your 6th District councilperson position in late November) they both are evading your honorable queries, which raises more than red flags by their “selfish” actions.

A better set of questions for you, Mr. HARRIS to NOW ask them, (ZAFF & SHERMAN & preferably on camera) is the following: inside this set of Q’s directed to ZAFF & SHERMAN is who should these Q’s REALLY be directed to, as you, SHERMAN & ZAFF either don’t really know or understand the true answers. And/or the scripts you’ve both been given to follow tells the real story to whom writes your, (ZAFF & SHERMAN’s) voting scripts, this when it comes to land lease deals in San Diego of properties owned by the City of San Diego.

All of the following Q’s & answers hereto are on point to who runs San Diego & specifically who really cut the “pathetic” deal points in the BELMONT PARK existing lease. And whose behind the 55-year extension request by PACIFICA ENTERPRISES, the ones now cramming it down the throats of the SD Taxpaying Citizens, via so speak maybe slitting the throats of certain City Councilpersons; it all should be front & center in the press & on the tube.

This PACIFICA ENTERPRISES, (PE), the lessee of the 7.2 acres of land owned by the City of San Diego where BELMONT PARK was built, here where the iconic Roller-Coaster & nostalgic PLUNGE sits. PE’s capital partner, the entity that has been putting up the supposed $25 Million in improvements to BELMONT PARK & presumably will be putting up how much more in dollars into BELMONT PARK, this if the San Diego City Council votes to extend the existing lease 55 years, who are they, PE’s capital partner? It’s EMAAR PROPERTIES!


Q #2: How about the authoritative & decision making person acting behind the scenes of EMAAR PROPERTIES?

Q#3: Who @ EMAAR PROPERTIES calls the real estate development shots, this in directing here their BELMONT
PARK partner, PACIFICA ENTERPRISES to what they do or not do with EMAAR PROPERTIES $$$$$?

ANSWER to Q #1:
EMAAR PROPERTIES is an Islamic/Muslim run $26 BILLION dollar company operating out of the city of DUBAI, this located in the United Arab Emirates, a small & very wealthy country in the Middle East.

ANSWER to Q #2:
Sheik Mohammed, ruler of the United Arab Emirates.

ANSWER to Q #3:
Mohamed bin Ali ALABBAR, a 57 year old Islamist, educated in the USA, he was appointed by Sheik Mohammed to head up EMAAR PROPERTIES.

So what does all this EMAAR PROPERTIES stuff mean?

Aside from what on it’s face it should be or have been, it’s called a full disclosure, this to what should have been revealed by the insiders to the BELMONT PARK lease decision makers, this the San Diego City Council, and/or at least to the clueless Councilpersons ZAFF & SHERMAN who are being used.

And what does EMAAR PROPERTIES bring to the BELMONT PARK land lease deal, this assuming EMAAR PROPERTIES lackeys get their $$$ job done, this in their indirectly thru 3rd parties payoff not from certain City Council persons, but the movers & shakers behind it, ala the people who run San Diego?

It means anyone with access to $25 BILLION dollars, (here Mohamed bin Ali Alabbar) is going to get any table on this South Mission Beach piece of land they want & it won’t be a one in the nickel seats. And what they now want here, is specifically for their development/real estate acquisition partner, (PACIFICA ENTERPRISES) to get this f’ing BELMONT PARK land lease extension approved & a brewing nightmare to go away.

But ahh, approve to do what, this by PACIFICA ENTERPRISES, (PE)?

Well assuming the City Council votes in favor to extend the present lease 55 years, it’s called “anything” they, EMAAR PROPERTIES directs PACIFICA ENTERPRISES to do at BELMONT PARK!

How about PE to build on the BELMONT PARK lease land a Mosque for the Muslims to come pray & talk? Yes!

How about PE to build an Islamic School @ BELMONT PARK for the Muslim children who in 3 years will number over 500 living with families in Mission Beach? Yes!

What else? To PE like restoring The PLUNGE, this where the City Council in their zeal to get this 55 year lease extension approved, it seems the council has cut a weak & smelly rotten fish deal, one which will allow PACIFICA ENTERPRISES to rip it down & dig it out, (the Plunge), then where it stood build what, fine dining restaurants for Americans to patronize & enjoy, yes?

How about for PE to build a state of the arts family based bowling alley?

What about gee just think of it, PE making another broken promise gift, like to build a public Library on behalf of the City of San Diego to own & operate for the citizens & residents of Mission Beach?

The other unseen B & W pictures here Mister Harris are well, worldly in perspectives, but are or would they be appropriate? Would they happen in the next 1 to 5 years, this if the 55-year lease extension is approved?

Probably not to both Q’s, as PE would not want to upset the big picture development plans of EMAAR PROPERTIES, or Mohamed bin Ali Alabbar’s vision, this to build what he did in DUBAI, the tallest building/hotel/mixed-use project in the world & it was built on sand & a master city plan around it.

Ponder Mister Harris, but not too long, as the clock on your 6th District watch is clicking down!

And what do U have to loose? Zip! So blow the plastic oil lids off this EMAAR PROPERTIES & PACIFICA ENTERPRISES bogus net income lease deal, not the 55-year extension, but the existing lease, rescind it.

Then start over, preferably from scratch & level all structures in BELMONT PARK except The PLUNGE & the Roller Coaster. Then have the City of San Diego put out RFP’s, (requests for proposals) on the 7.2 acres of BELMONT PARK for improvements to be structured with yes, U guessed it! When the winning RFQ’s, (requests for quotes come in) the City teams up with a USA based national capital partner!! Wow, what wouldn’t that be refreshing concept & full of real world order change!

BTW, the street value of BELMONT PARK, the land itself is now worth close to, if not $100 Million!! Thus $100 divided by 313,632 sq. ft., (7.2 acres x 43,560 sq.ft.) is $318.00 per sq. ft. And to the naysayers of it’s not worth $100 million, then what did or has the Port owned property along the Embarcadero go for, let alone the scraped land parcels downtown or in the Gaslamp district, what were the lease numbers or did the fee simple stuff sell for?

What about where the proposed stadium is to be built in East Village, and/or the proposed mega mixed-use hotel project next to PETCO PARK, this by former Padre’s owner Mr. Moore’s?

Mister HARRIS, you’ve been given a grenade here!

So do U pull the pin & throw it, or do U place it back in your bag & pretend none of this exists or will ever happen?

Some advice; I believe Marines when in doubt or when their not given any “orders” take what, yes the initiative, here to generally do the “RIGHT & SAFE THING”, which often means someone is going to get hurt or even die, yes?

Best to U, Mister Ed HARRIS, and for whatever U do the rest of your life, you’re on & will stay on the “right paths,” these walks & runs in confronting Evil & having acted always being in & with INTEGRITY. . .


Debbie October 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm
Richard November 12, 2014 at 3:09 am

Of all the places, no to hot money from Dubai, UAE please. It is going to be very hot.


OB Dude March 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm

Based on the readers article….Pacifica is alive and well and donating to a new non-profit foundation of Mayor Faulconer……

Pacifica Enterprises of Rancho Santa Fe, which has been involved in controversial Belmont Park lease negotiations with the city, made its donation on February 23.



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