City of San Diego
Pacifica Enterprises (Pacifica) hired Southwest Strategies to help secure the San Diego City Council’s support of its 50-year lease agreement for Belmont Park.
Project: Belmont Park 50-Year Lease Agreement
Expertise: Government Relations
Location: City of San Diego
Tucked in between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay, Belmont Park has been a cherished beachside amusement park since 1925. However, the park was in need of an overhaul, which would require a long team lease to be in place. San Diego-based real estate investment company Pacifica purchased Belmont Park in November 2012. Shortly after the purchase, Pacifica began negotiations with the City of San Diego to develop a 50-year lease agreement to help guarantee the future of the facility. Despite support from the community, the local town council, planning board and new Councilmember were opposed to extending Pacifica’s lease with the City. As a result of this unwarranted opposition to the new lease, SWS was charged with developing and implementing a strategic plan that could adapt to continuously evolving political dynamics.
We began by meeting with well-connected members of the Mission Beach community to gauge public opinion on the proposed lease extension, including members of the Mission Beach Precise Planning Board, Mission Beach Town Council, Mission Beach Women’s Club and various local business owners. By reaching out to these members of the community, we recognized a strong base of support within the community for the improvements Pacifica had made at Belmont Park since acquiring the facility. Following the initial information gathering, we developed a strategic plan outlining the most effective approach for securing the approval of Belmont Park’s lease extension, which included goals, target audiences, messaging and tactics.
We immediately began to coordinate one-on-one meetings with key members of the Mission Beach community to gauge support for Pacifica and their requested lease extension for Belmont Park. We identified six well-connected members of the community to act as third-party ambassadors for Pacifica. After learning of the broad support for Pacifica, we began conducting elected official briefings with members of the San Diego City Council. In addition, we produced briefing booklets for City Councilmembers, which demonstrated the benefits of a 50-year lease extension for the City and the vast amount of community support for Pacifica. We also coordinated a tour of the facility for the new Councilmember.
We employed an eblast campaign, which allowed community members to send a letter of support to the Mayor and City Council by clicking on a link. Leading up to the January City Council meeting, City officials received more than 150 letters of support. We also drafted and placed an opinion-editorial in the San Diego Union-Tribune that was authored by several prominent members of the community urging the City Council’s support for the lease extension. Additionally, one week before the City Council hearing, we organized a rally at Belmont Park to recruit supporters to attend and speak at the hearing.
Unfortunately, at the 11th hour, the San Diego City Attorney’s office decided to pull the Belmont Park lease extension from the City Council docket due to the threat of a lawsuit. We immediately notified more than 150 supporters that the lease extension for Belmont Park had been delayed until further notice via email and telephone.
Once the rescheduled date of April was confirmed, we again began to drum up support within the Mission Beach community by starting a new eblast campaign. As a result, City Councilmembers and the Mayor received more than 175 individual emails advocating for the lease extension. In addition, we began recruiting supporters to attend and speak at another City Council hearing.
During the pre-hearing rally, we provided supporters with “BELMONT PARK YES!” stickers and handmade support signs to further illustrate the amount of support for the lease extension. We coordinated the transportation via bus from Belmont Park to the City Council hearing to accommodate those who did not want to drive or park in downtown San Diego. Nearly 40 members of the Mission Beach community attended the mid-day City Council hearing and spoke in support of Pacifica Enterprises and the Belmont Park lease extension.
Due in large part to our community outreach and mobilization efforts, the San Diego City Council ultimately voted 7-2 to approve the 50-year lease extension for Belmont Park. As a result of this victory, Pacifica Enterprises can continue to make significant improvements to Belmont Park, including reconstruction of the historic Plunge swimming pool, which is now underway.