DEL MAR — San Diego youth soccer giant Surf Cup Sports will soon be expanding its activities beyond its current home at the Del Mar polo fields on Via de la Valle after quietly purchasing an adjacent 24-acre piece of land previously slated for an intermediate care and nursing facility.
Plans for the proposed 150-unit Hacienda Del Mar facility at 3975 Via de la Valle, involving a mix of independent living, assisted living and memory care units, came to an end earlier this month after unsuccessful attempts to gain project approval over the past eight years.
The vacant lot borders the polo fields, officially called Surf Cup Sports Park, directly to the north. Surf Cup currently operates the sports park under a 26-year lease with the city of San Diego that started in 2016, hosting thousands of youth on the site’s nearly 30 fields each year.
Surf Cup CEO Brian Enge said they are still figuring out exactly what to do with the new property, which they had been eyeing for years as a potential site to continue their mission of providing soccer opportunities to local youth.
“There’s strategic value to it; it’s adjacent to our current home, and we feel like we’ve done an amazing job creating opportunities for kids,” Enge said of the property. “We know there’s a massive shortage of youth playing facilities in north San Diego, and we want to use it for something to expand our mission and our current capabilities.”
Milan Capital Management first acquired the property in 2013 and submitted the Hacienda Del Mar application to the city of San Diego in 2016. Milan Capital contacted city officials on April 20 with a request to withdraw its application and close the project, noting the land had been sold to neighboring Surf Cup and escrow had closed on April 1.
City of San Diego spokesman Tyler Becker said the site’s environmental and water infrastructure were major obstacles in moving the project forward over the years. The city’s most recent review of the project was in Oct. 2021, when staff’s review of studies and reports associated with the project found nine outstanding issues with water and sewer development.
Milan officials also highlighted the city’s capital improvement project, which plans to realign El Camino Real and widen Via de la Valle, as a barrier to making the project a reality, as the city tried to tie it in with their conceptual design for Hacienda Del Mar.
“This is a complex site, further complicated by the City’s capital improvement project that will realign El Camino Real and widen Via de la Valle,” Milan said in a statement. “The Carmel Valley Community Planning Group (CVCPG) and other community stakeholders graciously participated in meetings and took time to learn about the proposed senior living project, and we are grateful for the interest, input and support expressed. After nearly eight years of pursuing necessary approvals, Milan opted to sell the property rather than continue to pursue development.”
While Surf Cup’s activities at the polo fields are held to certain restrictions under a grant deed and lease with the city, the private purchase of the adjoining 3975 Via de la Valle property faces city zoning restrictions under Prop A.
The area falls into the city’s AR-1-1 agriculture and residential zone, which permits open space uses including active and passive recreation, agriculture and natural resources preservation, according to the city municipal code.
Large residential or care facility developments of a certain size are permitted with limitations and require a planned development permit.
“A lot can fit into the current zoning plan,” Enge said. “While I don’t know what it will be used for, I can assure you the use will be much less intense than 200 apartments.”
San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava representing District 1, whose constituency includes residents in the San Dieguito River Valley and extends to the 3975 Via de la Valle property, said the city is waiting to see if Surf Cup will submit a proposal for any development.
“Until they do something or file an application with the city to do whatever they might want to do, we’re just watching and listening to what’s going on,” LaCava said. “We’ll react appropriately when we actually hear something from Surf Cup.”
Additional property purchase
The new purchase expands Surf Cup’s control over land in the San Dieguito River Valley, with the club’s current lease on the 80-acre polo fields lasting until 2044. In addition, individuals with connections to Surf appear to have purchased a 2.5-acre single-family property directly bordering the former Hacienda del Mar property to the east.
San Diego County assessor records indicate that the land, located at 3995 Via de la Valle, was purchased by an individual named Wendy Naerbo, who shares the same residential address as Surf’s vice president Rob Haskell.
Enge declined to comment on whether the land purchase could potentially be used for some kind of Surf activities, and Haskell did not respond to multiple requests for comment about the purchase.
This property at 3995 Via de la Valle is the last remaining piece of land that directly borders the polo fields between El Camino Real to the west and Polo Point to the east.