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Lease For Mission Beach’s Belmont Park Back Before City Council

Photo caption:

Photo by Brian Hammond

Visitors to Belmont Park at Mission Beach ride on the historic Giant Dipper Roller Coaster in this undated photo.

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The San Diego City Council on Monday will consider an amended lease for Belmont Park, the Mission Beach amusement facility that includes a wooden roller coaster, the Plunge pool, shops and eateries.

You may have happy memories of riding the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster or swimming in the Plunge pool at Belmont Park at Mission Beach, but the historic site is the center of a debate coming before the San Diego City Council on Monday.

The nine-member council will consider an amended lease for the amusement facility that includes shops and eateries.

The 7.2-acre park is currently subject to a 50-year lease that runs through 2038. The proposal to be considered amends and restates the terms with Rancho Santa Fe-based Pacifica Enterprises and includes an option to extend the lease through 2069. The company, doing business as Symphony Asset Pool XVI LLC, foreclosed on the previous owner in November 2012.

According to city documents, Pacifica has spent $18 million to upgrade the property. A new rooftop restaurant opened this week, and the Plunge pool and the building that houses it are undergoing renovations that could cost $5.9 million.

The city documents said the new lease terms will help Pacifica raise the capital needed to make the necessary repairs.

The restated lease came before the City Council last September, but it was returned to staff members so they could address the issues involving the Plunge.

At the time, then-Councilman Ed Harris represented the area, and he didn't think the taxpayers were getting enough money in return from the popular attraction.

Harris' temporary stint on the council ended in December, but he still thinks that the revised lease coming up on Monday doesn't fix the problem.

“The lease itself, as far as numbers, again, it’s basic math. So they moved some numbers around, but at no point does it address bringing in more money for the city," he said in a telephone interview.

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who replaced Harris to represent District 2, said she's been coordinating with city staff since September to re-evaluate the terms of the agreement.

“The negotiations with Pacifica over Belmont Park have spanned three mayors, three councilmembers, and three Real Estate Assets directors," Zapf said in an email to KPBS. "This has been a long, bumpy road, but I am confident that we finally have the right combination of people looking at this deal and handling the negotiations."

She said she had been working with Cybele Thompson, the city's real estate assets director, on the lease.

"We’ve been able to work out a lot of the issues, and I am confident that we are bringing forward something that is a good deal for taxpayers," Zapf said.

If the lease is approved, the city will receive annual rent of $900,000 to $1.1 million, with at least $415,000 winding up in the city's general fund — which pays for basic expenses like public safety and libraries. The deal also calls for a rent credit of up to $5.2 million to offset repairs to the Plunge, and for annual rent increases of 2.5 percent.

The city, meanwhile, will spend $70,000 a year to ease traffic congestion in Mission Beach and improve landscaping.

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