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Appellate Court Affirms Belmont Park Lease Victory for Troutman Sanders’ Client


SAN DIEGO – An appellate court has unanimously affirmed a superior court’s decision preserving a lease extension through 2070 and allowing for the continued operation and upgrades of San Diego’s historic Belmont Park at Mission Beach. Troutman Sanders’ partners Peter Villar and Mike Whitton represented Symphony Asset Pool XVI, LLC – Belmont Park’s real estate developer – in the matter.

Symphony had previously invested over $20 million into the property when San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG), led by attorney Cory Briggs, sued the City of San Diego to terminate the lease and halt the upgrades and improvements at Belmont Park. SDOG claimed the lease violated a city initiative ending development and commercial operations at Belmont Park, requiring the site to revert to open park land. SDOG also argued the lease violated the city charter, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the California Coastal Act.

On Nov. 2, 2017, Judge Judith F. Hayes denied all petitions, finding the city followed all laws on every issue and that the lease may continue. SDOG appealed. On Dec. 27, 2018, San Diego’s Fourth District Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision on all counts, concluding SDOC’s arguments lacked merit.

“We applaud the court’s unanimous decision. The investments our client has made at Belmont Park will help bring the iconic property back to its former glory, benefiting local families and tourists,” said Mike Whitton, managing partner of Troutman Sanders’ San Diego office and lead architect behind the defense.

Specifically, the lease will bring more than $100 million in revenue to the city and includes $18 million in capital improvements and upgrades, $2.5 million to refurbish the Giant Dipper rollercoaster, and $5.9 million in renovations to The Plunge indoor swimming pool and building.

The central argument behind the lawsuit dates to the 1980s and a ballot initiative called Proposition G. In 1987, a group of Mission Beach community members came together in response to the redevelopment of Belmont Park to campaign against development sprawl along Mission Beach. The campaign ended in a compromise initiative – Proposition G – allowing the previously approved Belmont Park project to continue but protecting other undeveloped areas along the beach from development sprawl.

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