Any student of history can tell you about the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 or the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. Both of these famous land acquisitions were vital to the expansion of the United States as America stretched her borders from coast to coast.
But those of us who have lived in San Diego County for long enough would also point out a land purchase in 1990 that changed the course of our local history for the better. After years of planning, the newly formed San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority acquired its first plot of land in December of 1990, known as the Birtcher/Del Mar 88 property. This 89-acre parcel of wetlands, just west of the I-5, held the key to all of JPA’s future plans for creating an Open Space Park that protected natural waterways and ensured the eventual restoration of the lagoon to its original size and beauty. The SDRP would also provide recreational opportunities such as hiking, bicycling, bird watching, and horseback riding in San Diego for years to come.
Things were indeed changing in 1990, but not without a fair share of compromise and negotiation on behalf of all stakeholders involved. On April 2, 1990, eight months prior to when the first land purchase was finalized, San Diego City Council approved $1.3 million for wetlands acquisition. But when an offer of $1.345 million was rejected by Sam Langberg, the owner of Del Mar 88, plans came to a screeching halt. Without this important piece of land secured for public use, the future of SDRP would vanish in the wake of commercial development, hotels, shopping centers or private housing. Just as the skeptics had predicted, wrestling such valuable land away from private owners wasn’t going to be easy. With only $700,000 more needed to make the deal happen, funds from voter-approved Proposition 70 (which had passed in June 1988) were allocated to satisfy Langberg’s demands. He later admitted that the bargain-basement sale price of $2 million reflected his inability to develop the parcel into the commercial property he once envisioned. Faced with restrictive environmental red-tape, Langberg accepted JPA’s offer and the San Dieguito River Park was born. Margaret Schlesinger, then Solana Beach Councilwoman said “It not only is the first to be acquired, it’s the doorway of the park.”
1990 was an important year for our local history; it was the year that San Dieguito River Park became more than ambitious plans on paper. Just as the famous land grants of the past stretched America’s borders from east to west, JPA’s continued efforts to preserve and protect the San Dieguito River Valley from Coast to Crest are being realized.
Office Manager, San Dieguito River Park JPA