Hoping to beat the clock on a ballot initiative that could eliminate business ventures at Belmont Park, the San Diego City Council on Monday voted to authorize the future operation of the Giant Dipper roller coaster, the aged landmark of Mission Beach.
Council members voted 6-2 to permit operation of the coaster at the urging of city staffers, who said the authorization was necessary to establish a "vested right" for commercial use of the 62-year-old structure before San Diegans vote on Proposition G next week.
Original Plan Was Derailed
Proposition G was aimed originally at stopping the controversial development of 70,000 square feet of shops and restaurants around the Mission Beach Plunge, which is next to the roller coaster. But the Nov. 3 initiative was rendered moot when the Plunge developers began construction of the shops months ago.
City staff members, however, said the language of the measure could still preclude other commercial uses in other areas of Belmont Park, and they urged Monday's vote to establish a legal foothold for operating at least the roller coaster in case the initiative passes.
Councilman Mike Gotch, whose district includes the Plunge and roller coaster, said the council's vote would make sure the Giant Dipper is "more than a symbol of the past and more than artwork on the oceanfront . . . it would be operational."
Only Mayor Maureen O'Connor and Councilwoman Abbe Wolfsheimer voted against authorizing the roller coaster operation. The mayor said the council should wait until the outcome of next week's election.
Besides authorizing the roller coaster's operation, council members voted unanimously to give the Save the Coaster Committee, a volunteer group with a lease on the historic structure, until the end of March to find an operator. The group's lease was to expire Dec. 31.
The idea to find an operator for the roller coaster, built in 1925 by San Diego land mogul John Spreckels, came from the city staff members, who pointed out that the committee had failed to reach all of its goals in renovating the structure, which became a community eyesore after it fell into disrepair during the past decade.