Debate begins on controversial Polo Fields lease
SAN DIEGO — The City Council is scheduled to take up a controversial proposal Monday to lease the San Diego Polo Fields to the organizers of the Surf Cup soccer tournaments held at the site.
After a hearing of more than two hours last month, the council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee passed the plan along with a unanimous recommendation for approval, despite hints of litigation by nearby homeowners.
Surf Cup Sports LLC, which has been operating the tournaments and running club teams for 24 years on the fields east of Interstate 5 near Via de la Valle, was the only compliant respondent when the city sought a lessee to replace the Fairbanks Polo Club, according to city staff.
Former Councilman Jim Madaffer, who represents Surf Cup Sports, told the committee members that the organization attracts the best youth soccer players in the region.
Around 200 youngsters and their parents attended the meeting, and many spoke about how playing at the facility resulted in offers of college scholarships.
The problem is that the organization’s activities have grown so popular that large crowds of people come to the field on about half the weekends of the year, causing traffic tie-ups and noise, said lawyer Maria Severson, who represents owners of 55 bluffside homes above the property.
She told City News Service that her clients will protect their rights, though she declined to say whether they would sue if the full City Council approves the lease.
According to city staff, the 600-acre site was deeded to the city in 1983 and has been used for both polo and soccer. Severson said the deed came with conditions that permitted quiet and non-commercial activities like jogging and equestrian events, but not things that would attract large crowds.
Subsequent agreements have allowed soccer to be played on the land, and no complaints about the facility were heard until recently, according to staff.
Madaffer said Surf Cup officials are already working on traffic control measures, and are willing to meet with nearby residents to work out the dispute. He also said polo events will continue at the site.
The Surf Cup is planning to make numerous improvements to the soccer fields, parking areas and polo facilities, and to build a new equestrian center, he said.
The tournaments held at the site are considered among the most prestigious in the U.S., and attract teams from around the nation and some foreign countries.