Faulconer, Frye want Mission Bay funds returned to the park
by SHANNON MULHALL
Published - 07/23/08 - 02:43 PM | 5035 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Who should receive the approximately $27 million in revenues that SeaWorld and other Mission Bay Park leaseholders generate annually "” the park or the city? Voters may get to decide in November.

"It's finally time to let the voters decide," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said at the Mission Bay Park Committee's (MBPC) July meeting at the Santa Clara Recreation Center.

Currently, the lion's share of those revenues goes to the city's general fund. Faulconer, a former MBPC chairperson, and Councilwoman Donna Frye believe more of those monies should go toward wetlands restoration, bike trails and other capital improvements called for in the Mission Bay Park Master Plan, a blueprint for park development that City Council and the California Coastal Commission approved in 1994.

Navigation of waterways, parking lot repaving and other park improvements are "never going to get done unless we keep that money in the park," Faulconer said. "These are our priorities and we're going to fund them."

Keeping revenues generated by SeaWorld, Campland on the Bay and the area's hotels in the park and out of the general fund has long been a priority of the committee.

"We're excited about this because we've been talking about this for a long time," Faulconer said.

A ballot initiative that would put the revenue question to voters has been a goal since 2004.

Frye has also been a longtime proponent of such a measure.

"We don't agree on everything," she said of Faulconer, "but we are 100 percent united on this."

By funneling the park's revenues into the general fund, the city is breaking a promise, Frye said.

"The promise was that Mission Bay Park accepted commercial development so that revenue from leaseholders could be used for improvements," she said.

In 2004, City Council enacted the Mission Bay Ordinance, which gives 25 percent of the park's lease revenue in excess of $20 million to both the Mission Bay Improvement Fund and the Regional Park Fund, not to exceed $2.5 million per fiscal year.

A loophole, however, allows the cash-strapped city to keep everything if it chooses "” and it traditionally has.

In 2007, Mission Bay Park did receive $2.5 million. The price tag for the projects called for in the Master Plan is roughly $220 million.

"We believe we can fund not only these projects but others that are important," Frye said. "We hope people will see the wisdom in this."

MBPC Chairperson Rick Bussell agreed that funding park projects needs to be a priority.

"This is a resource that is national, maybe global," he said. Bussell would like to create a Public Facilities Financing Plan (PFFP) to identify and prioritize park projects.

Turning its attention to another longtime concern, maximizing lease revenue, the committee heard from Gary Jones of the city's Real Estate Assets Department on the status of some high-profile expired leases.

The most delinquent and controversial holdover, the Mission Bay Boat & Ski Club, has been operating on a month-to-month basis since 1988. The facility is working with the city to determine terms for an interim lease of five years, pending a proposed relocation, Jones said.

Real Estate Assets is assessing the future use potential and condition of another recreational facility operating on an expired lease, the Mission Bay Sportscenter. They expect to make a recommendation in September and complete their determination by early 2009, according to Jones.

The Mission Bay Aquatic Center has negotiated a new 15-year lease with a 10-year option. The lease was scheduled to go before City Council on July 15 and could be complete by August.

MBPC member Karl Jaedtke expressed concerns about dealing with Real Estate Assets. Former department head William Griffith resigned in 2005 amid reports of incomplete inventories and mismanaged leases.

"They lied to us," Jaedtke said.

"What we want to do is make sure we participate in the process before the lease is consummated," Bussell said.

Leaseholders are entitled to some degree of confidentiality, Jones said. The committee will be notified one week before leases go before City Council, he said.

The committee approved the American Volleyball Professionals' (AVP) permit request for the Crocs Slam San Diego, Aug. 1-3 at Mariner's Point.

The MBPC will not meet in August.
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