City Council takes the plunge, approves amended lease for Belmont Park in Mission Beach
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 04/08/15 - 04:26 PM | 9212 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
The Giant Dipper roller coaster at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. / Photo by Thomas Melville
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The San Diego City Council voted 7-2 to approve an amended lease agreement for long-term operation and maintenance of Belmont Park, Plunge pool, and Giant Dipper, its historic wooden roller coaster in Mission Beach.

In November 2012 Pacifica Enterprises LLC, acquired the park leasehold in a bankruptcy trustee sale. Pacifica Enterprises, along with Eat.Drink.Sleep, assumed operations of the park and started restoring and revitalizing it opening new restaurants including Cannonball, Draft, Belmonty's Burgers, and Hot Dog on a Stick, as well as doing a remodel of WaveHouse Beach Club.

Following the April 6 vote, Councilwoman Lorie Zapf’s office said the city and interested parties negotiated “a better deal for taxpayers.”

“In this new deal, Symphony has agreed to increase capital improvements from $10 million to $18 million, with the potential for $5 million more if the lease is renewed in the future,” said Zapf, noting new lease terms require Pacifica to spend $5.9 million to fix the city-owned Plunge pool. Pacifica will also be responsible for all the repairs and maintenance of the Plunge going forward for the remainder of the lease term.

“Without this new provision, the Plunge would have been closed for years, and added to the city’s multi-billion dollar deferred maintenance backlog,” Zapf said noting the amusement park’s most recent owners have “invested millions to bring new life to the once-dilapidated amusement park, turning it into a world-class, family-friendly destination.”

Zapf added Pacifica’s investment has “had a positive ripple effect on the entire Mission Beach neighborhood. There are more customers visiting nearby businesses, crime is down significantly, and with this new agreement, the historic Plunge pool will open far sooner than had been possible if the city was funding repairs.”

Others testifying at the April 6 Council hearing shared Zapf’s views that Pacifica is doing an excellent job revitalizing Belmont Park. Several residents from Mission Beach and environs paraded to the microphone to testify that Pacifica has “turned a dilapidated amusement park and shopping area into a world-class destination.”

Former lifeguard and councilman Byron Wear said it was important to “get the Plunge pool back into operation.”

Wendy Crain, general manager for the Coaster Co., which operates the park’s roller coaster, Giant Dipper, said it was important to “merge the two leaseholders” on the property.

Crain noted Belmont Park improvements have been impressive, noting “Pacifica, in two short years, as been able to not only remodel but completely repair restrooms onsite, which had been atrocious.”

Councilman Todd Gloria thanked Zapf and her predecessor, lifeguard Ed Harris, for “making this deal and saving us (city) a lot of money.”

Ed Harris, in an interview with Beach & Bay Press, said, “I led opposition to the lease extension fearing it was a really bad deal for the taxpayers because we were not getting fair market value.”

Harris warned that the council has “put together a deal that completely flaunts Prop. G. I expect that we (city) will be sued.”

District 1 Councilwoman and council president Sherri Lightner and Councilman David Alvarez of District 8 cast the dissenting votes.

Harris’ thoughts were echoed by Lightner, who opposed the lease extension because of its terms.

“Belmont Park is one of the city’s most valued assets in a prime oceanfront location,” Lightner said. “Prop. G, approved by voters in 1987, restricts the use of Mission Beach Park, and includes this particular property. I’m also concerned about the precedent set to allow concessions on an adjacent and non-contiguous site on the beach. My district is particularly sensitive to commercialization of our beaches. I will not be able to support this item.”
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