OCEANSIDE — The city is investing more money into a third party review looking at the potential sale or lease of a portion of its El Corazon property to its developer Sudberry Development, Inc.
Formerly a sand mine until it was donated to the city in 1994, the El Corazon property will be home to a variety of recreational, civic, commercial, hospitality and residential uses according to the El Corazon Specific Plan, which was approved in 2009.
This plan designated uses for the park, including where the nine different park sites, commercial areas, hotel areas, civic areas and habitat areas will be located.
In 2013, Council entered into a Disposition and Development Agreement with Sudberry for the development of El Corazon’s “Village Commercial” area, along “Oceanside Boulevard Commercial” and hotel-designated areas.
Then in 2019, Sudberry submitted plans for the approximately 5,500 to 7,000-seat arena, which will be the San Diego Socker’s new home, and a 238-unit, mixed-use development in the Village Commercial areas of the property. That same year, Sudberry submitted documents requesting to purchase or lease the Village Commercial area.
Under the terms of its agreement with the city, Sudberry has the right to seek the long-term lease or purchase of land in the commercial areas that it’s developing.
At the Oct. 21 council meeting, Deputy City Manager and Development Services Director Jonathan Borrego clarified that Sudberry does not have the right to purchase any portion of the areas designated for park use nor has the developer expressed their interest in doing so.
Following Sudberry’s request, the city entered into an agreement with third-party Keyser Marston & Associates to analyze the developer’s request to purchase or lease the land. Originally the agreement cost the city $47,500, but staff requested an additional $18,500 for a total cost of $66,000 to complete the analysis.
“There is some additional analysis needed at this point in time, which is why we’re seeking additional funding at an agreement cost not to exceed $66,000,” Borrego told Council.
Council approved staff’s request 3-2, with Councilmembers Ryan Keim and Esther Sanchez opposed.
“There’s a lot of history here with El Corazon and the primary purpose for El Corazon is to be a park, a people’s park that is going to meet the needs of the community now and into the future,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez also noted the city’s need for more field space for sports, a need that El Corazon was meant to satisfy in part.
“It’s been 10 years,” Sanchez said. “We need to reaffirm our commitment to the Specific Plan.”
Several residents are opposed to selling El Corazon land to Sudberry.
Shari Mackin told Council that the park will lose its funding mechanism if the city sells its commercial areas off and stressed the need for more field spaces for Oceanside sports, a need that El Corazon was meant to satisfy in part.
“It’s time to recommit to the El Corazon Specific Plan,” Mackin said.
Diane Nygaard, a Friends of El Corazon board member, said many residents were disturbed to see staff’s request for more money for Keyser Marston’s analysis under the Consent Calendar, a portion of Council’s agenda that typically includes multiple items considered to be routine matters and are decided by a single vote without discussion. Members of the public requested the item to be pulled from the Consent Calendar for discussion.
“There’s been an ongoing discussion since last February about selling that land but the community is just learning about it now,” Nygaard said. “We need an open and transparent process involving the community.”
Nygaard said there needs to be a plan to replace any revenue streams lost for the park as well as a plan to offset the sale of land at El Corazon.
Councilmember Christopher Rodriguez said the El Corazon Specific Plan’s funding mechanism for the parks won’t work today.
“When you’re dealing with retail and commercial enterprises and businesses, the plan that was put forth 10 years ago is not going to work today,” Rodriguez said. “A new plan needs to come up with other options that fund the park.”
Rodriguez added that to come up with a new plan the private sector will need to be involved.
Borrego clarified that the item was not discussing any purchase or sale of land, and that such an item would come back to Council as a separate item in a public setting. The soonest an item discussing the sale of land would come back to Council is in early 2021.
Though Keim was not opposed to the request, he wanted Council to wait on approving more funding for the third party analysis until after the Nov. 3 election when everyone would have “clear heads.”