Balboa Park

WorldBeat Cultural Center Worried Future at Balboa Park is in Jeopardy

The City of San Diego's Balboa Park Committee hosted monthly meeting as listening session for stakeholders' park concerns

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The future of Balboa Park took center stage Thursday at Balboa Park's clubhouse.

During the listening session at the Balboa Park Committee monthly meeting, people brought up concerns about the millions of dollars in maintenance costs and project needs, much to the concern of the popular WorldBeat Cultural Center.

The center and non-profit has been operating without a lease for years and its permit is under review by the city. Founder Makeda Dread, worries it is being pushed out of the park to make room for other attractions that bring in more money.

'When they want you out of the building, they'll send the fire department, they'll send the health department, they'll do anything," Dread said.

For decades the center has hosted musical events, workshops and cultural celebrations.

A city spokesperson told NBC 7 the non-profit's permit technically expired in the 90s but the city has allowed WorldBeat's so-called lease to extend this far.

The Balboa Park Committee will gather comments and concerns form Thursday's meeting and work on potential solutions for some of the issues.

A city spokesperson sent NBC 7 the following statement:

"The City of San Diego has a long history of attempting to negotiate a long-term lease with WorldBeat Center and provided draft leases to WorldBeat Center in 2006 and 2014, as well as in 2017 when the City provided a draft lease with a 25-year term.

In order to obtain a long-term lease with the City, a prospective lessee must commit to a level of capital improvements commensurate with the term the lessee requests per Section J of the Leasing Article of Council Policy 700-10, which discusses the basis for determining the duration of long-term leases and specifically states, “The length of lease term shall be based on the level of capital improvements to be made by the lessee and the economic life expectancy of the development.”

The City offered the 25-year term in the draft lease in 2017 because WorldBeat Center’s attorney advised that the lessee was proposing substantial improvements to the building. After several phone conversations and emails asking for details about the proposed development from WorldBeat Center and never receiving any, the City slightly reduced the proposed lease term to 20 years (10 years and two five-year options at the lessee’s discretion) and sent this to WorldBeat Center on Dec. 19, 2018, but has not received further communication from WorldBeat Center."

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