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Plunge Project in Question : City to Study Alternatives in Wake of Prop. G Vote

November 06, 1987|RALPH FRAMMOLINO | Times Staff Writer

San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor has formally asked City Atty. John Witt to see if the city can take any action regarding a commercial development at the Mission Beach Plunge in the wake of overwhelming approval this week of Proposition G, the measure that calls for the Plunge and surrounding area to be set aside for park uses.

Earlier this year, the City Council, over O'Connor's opposition, voted to give Belmont Park Associates a building permit to begin construction of 70,000 square feet of shops and restaurants around the Mission Beach landmark. The council's vote came days after opponents to the development announced they had gathered enough signatures on petitions to put Proposition G on Tuesday's ballot.

Since then, the developer, Belmont Park Associates, has completed 60% of the $17-million project, construction that it has argued establishes a vested interest that would protect it from the intent of the initiative.

But O'Connor on Wednesday wrote to Witt, citing the initiative's overwhelming victory and asking whether the city could take action. The city owns the land underneath the project and has leased it to the developer.

'Take a Look at Alternatives'

"In light of the vote, I believe we must take a new look at all available alternatives which may lead to satisfying the voters' mandate," O'Connor wrote.

"Given the election results, what are the options for relieving the city of its obligations under the current lease agreement with Belmont Park Associates?" the mayor wrote.

Mayoral press secretary Paul Downey said O'Connor sent the letter because she wanted to know what the city is legally bound to do in wake of the initiative, which has wording that recognizes vested rights in developments.

"Legally, we may be obligated to break the lease and buy out the developer," Downey said. "That's one of the things we need John Witt to look at . . . . We may be legally obligated, as well as morally obligated, to return that as park land."

Graham MacHutchin, one of the developers, said Thursday that he and his partners have a 50-year lease with the city, and that it would be expensive to buy them out.

"You're talking about tens of millions of dollars to buy out or condemn the property," said MacHutchin.

Also Thursday, Councilman Mike Gotch proposed that the city declare the Mission Bay Park an enterprise zone and use all money made there for infrastructure and park improvements.

The proposal follows city voters' rejection Tuesday of a bond issue to pay for improvements at Mission Bay.

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