By Frank Gormlie / OB Rag
Harris: “We can’t keep giving away our assets to big business.”
Just got off the phone with Councilman Ed Harris – he represents OB, Mission Beach and the rest of District 2, of course.
He had a lot to say about the Belmont Park lease that the City Council just rejected on Monday. He knew that we’d been covering the issue. Tuesday, the U-T ran an article on the rejection, tacking in favor of the current managers, it seemed. Harris wanted to set the record straight.
Harris, you see, led a Council majority Monday in rejecting the proposed new lease for Pacifica Enterprises because the cut the City is getting is not fair. All the Democrats followed his lead (Emerald was out) and are having the issue return to the Council in 60 days. The Republicans all voted to renew the current lease.
“We have to take in the big picture,” Harris told me. “We can’t keep giving away our assets to big business,” he said.
Why is the deal that the City of San Diego has in the current lease for Belmont Park not fair?
“The City has received $1.6 Million dollars in 26 years – that’s only $5,000 a month,” he said. “It’s pathetic.”
He and the other Council members were handed a 98-page contract the other day to approve, a very confusing document.
“I’ve been getting different sets of numbers,” he said about the square footage covered by the lease – “from the staff, the [Park] managers. Can’t get solid numbers of the square footage. It’s been 70,000, up to 85,000 – and last night it was 76,000.”
“That’s only 60 cents to $1.24 a square foot. It should be $2 to $3 a square foot.”
Why, he said, one could go to Costco near Pacific Beach but across I-5, and rent a storage unit for $2.85 a square foot. Yet the City is getting only as low as 60 cents a square foot on prime beach property.
The lease agreed to in 1988 did not allow for any accountability, Harris said, to ensure that the City gets paid.
“My colleagues” Harris continued, referring to those who voted for the current lease, “like it. They say it pays for police and the fire department. But how does it pay for first responders?” he asked. In fact, he said, local merchants and small businesses are paying for private security in Ocean Beach, and BIDs are created to clean streets and sidewalks. His point being that its the small merchants that are taking up the slack that the City lets go – as it doesn’t have enough revenue for the needed police and fire protection.
If the City got more revenues from this lease, that would pay for police and fire, he reiterated.
Harris said his Republican colleagues on the Council are worried about the Plunge, because Pacifica asserted it wouldn’t get the needed renovations. But Harris said the tax payers will be paying for 100% of all the improvements the Plunge needs – through tax credits to the Park’s lessee. The tax credits come out of the 5% revenue the City receives under the current lease. Pacifica would do the work.
Whether the City pays Pacifica to make them or the City hires an outside contractor to do them, the Plunge will get its needed renovations.
“We’re going into a new era,” Harris told me. “Vacation rentals have gone off the charts in Mission Beach,” he said. Belmont Park is set up due to its locale to earn big monies, and the City should be getting a fair shake.
So, in the end Harris couldn’t approve the lease.”We could be paying for first responders, firemen, police officers,” he said – with the extra revenue from the lease. He said:
“The City is a huge landlord. It has to quit giving away our own assets.”