Statement on San Diego City Council Vote to Approve New and Expanded Campland Leases


June 25, 2019

San Diego, Calif.  –  In a 6-3 vote, San Diego City Council voted to approve two new leases for Campland, an RV camping vendor that leases public property in the northeast corner of Mission Bay, despite persistent concerns about water quality, climate resiliency, transparency, accountability, and the necessity of a rushed process in which the mayor’s office negotiated leases with the vendor behind closed doors.

“It was obvious from the questions asked by councilmembers there was a significant level of discomfort with the single sourcing, lack of research on the part of staff to verify cost estimates, and legal concerns around environmental review,” said Chris Redfern, executive director of San Diego Audubon, which manages the ReWild Mission Bay campaign.

As noted in a San Diego Union-Tribune story, the lease deal “settles years of litigation between Campland and the city,” with the leases possibly compelled as a result of the lawsuit settlement, which occurred during closed door session.

The lawsuit settlement was referenced twice as justification for the Campland lease approval by Cybele Thompson, director of the city’s Real Estate Assets Department:

  • When asked by Council President Pro Tem and mayoral candidate Barbara Bry (D-1), “Why couldn’t a consideration have been that we just extend Campland’s current lease in their existing parcel until we have long-term plans for the park, and let them run the [other] existing RV park? Was that ever a consideration?” Thompson replied, “The reason is it wouldn’t have settled the litigation.” Noting her concern with Thompson’s answer, Bry added, “That’s important.”
  • In response to a question from Councilmember Monica Montgomery (D-4) about why a Request for Proposal (RFP) was not released, and what criteria was used to conclude Campland was the only lessee qualified to manage the Mission Bay RV Resort upon the current operator’s departure on June 30, Thompson said, “No other lessee would be able to waive the litigation we have.”

Redfern seized upon the lack of transparency. “By allowing lease agreements to be bound up within a confidential settlement agreement, the city has been complicit in an end-run around the public planning process, and disenfranchised valued stakeholders and the public at large.”

Ultimately, councilmembers Jennifer Campbell (D-2), Chris Ward (D-3), Montgomery, Mark Kersey (D-5), Chris Cate (D-6) and Scott Sherman (D-7) voted in favor of the lease agreements.

Council President Georgette Gómez (D-9), Council President Pro Tem Bry, and Councilmember Vivian Moreno (D-8) voted against the proposal. Moreno similarly opposed the measure at the June 12 meeting of the Land Use and Housing committee, which she chairs.

“While we were disappointed with the council’s decision, we were pleased the council president voted no and noted her concerns over transparency,” said Redfern. “And we’re pleased councilmembers Moreno and Bry support seeing the city’s De Anza Revitalization Plan, including a full analysis of ReWild Mission Bay’s ‘Wildest’ alternative.”

According to Andrew Meyer, director of conservation for San Diego Audubon, “Councilmembers Bry and Montgomery asked great questions that struck at the opaque heart of this deal. City representatives admitted this deal settles existing litigation between Campland and the city, even though that information has not been formally shared with the public.”

“What the public learned is you have to sue the city for millions of dollars to get on equal footing with this vendor,” said Meyer. “These leases postpone needed environmental benefits to all the users of Mission Bay who want cleaner water, better access to our shoreline, and sea level rise resilience from our public park.”

San Diego Audubon restoration manager Megan Flaherty said, “Wetland restoration was called for 25 years ago in the master plan. The city is just kicking the can down the road when what we need is a forward-thinking vision for how our public parks can provide critical benefits for all of us.”

The ReWild Mission Bay Wetlands Restoration Feasibility Study was undertaken with the blessing of San Diego city leaders in 2014, in partnership with UCSD, California State Coastal Conservancy and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and made available at the ReWild Mission Bay website in the fall of 2018.

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ReWild Mission Bay is a project of the San Diego Audubon Society and our coalition partners to enhance and restore wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay, thereby creating new opportunities for wildlife to thrive, and for San Diegans to enjoy nature in our collective backyard.