This page answers questions about Play Outside Del Mar and our advocacy to save the fields and blacktop space for Del Mar’s children.
Whenever you see Play Outside Del Mar in italics, that includes founder John Gartman and his family in the answers to that particular question.
Q: Why was Play Outside Del Mar created?
A: There’s a dire shortage of outdoor recreational play space in Greater Del Mar – read the Torrey Pines Community Plan. An organization with staying power was needed to advocate for the protection of this space – for all of us and for the kids of today and tomorrow. That’s the role and mission of Play Outside Del Mar. As noted on our website in the About page, the final design for the new school at Del Mar Heights will obliterate more than 1/4 of the total fields and 1/4 of the total blacktop in Greater Del Mar.
Q: Why now?
A: Last year, a change.org petition was circulated for saving Del Mar Heights field. That opened the eyes of many of us in the Greater Del Mar community to the possibility of losing the field, which we’d previously taken for granted and assumed we’d have forever. Nobody that supported the elementary school bond dreamed we would be paying DMUSD to take away the baseball and other fields with a “rebuild.” When we began to look at field alternatives in our community and the Torrey Pines Community Plan which is supposed to protect all of us (but actually hasn’t), that’s when it sunk in – how precarious the situation was for local kids. We calculated Del Mar Heights being fully 50% of the available fields and blacktop in our community. Rather than fret and groan, we decided to take action to advocate not only for the Heights field and blacktop but also for other outdoor play spaces in Greater Del Mar (by that term, we mean Del Mar areas West of I-5, whether Del Mar Heights which is in San Diego proper, or the City of Del Mar itself)
Q: What’s the relationship between Play Outside Del Mar and the petition on change.org to save Del Mar Heights fields?
A: No formal relationship, but we definitely support the petition. Most of us learned about the threat to the fields through that petition posted by Nicole Pentheroudakis. She opened our eyes. Nicole was and remains one of Play Outside’s supporters.
Nicole has made it clear that neither she nor her family is affiliated with the Save The Field entity that hired the Procopio law firm nor has she contributed money towards it.
We thank Nicole for her efforts to make our community better. We need more people like Nicole.
Q: Does Play Outside Del Mar oppose rebuilding Del Mar Heights Elementary school?
A: No. We’ve been absolutely consistent on this from Day 1, privately and publicly. Why would we have spent precious time and money to study Rolf Silbert’s designs, and in proposing other changes even before Rolf’s designs entered the picture, if we opposed the rebuild?
Q: Why has Play Outside Del Mar focused so heavily on the Del Mar Heights school rebuild?
A: Because it’s the immediate crisis – and it would be hard to recover from losing 1/4 of the total fields and blacktop in Greater Del Mar.
We also have been concerned that DMUSD intends to go further and lock the public entirely off the new smaller field – why else would they make a statement in their CEQA documents saying the new school would further separate the public from the fields, unless it was purposely put there to say in hindsight that “we warned you”? If they do that, then fully 50% of Greater Del Mar Heights fields and blacktop will be gone in one fell swoop from what we thought was a simple school “rebuild.”
There’s also nothing to stop them – oral promises to keep the fields open for the public can be retracted without legal consequence. The district has not executed a legally binding joint use agreement with the City of San Diego – despite being implored to do so by the Torrey Pines Community Plan.
For these reasons, the protection of those fields and blacktop have been Play Outside Del Mar’s first project and absolute #1 priority during our formative stage.
Q: Who founded the entity Play Outside Del Mar?
A: John Gartman and his family. They live in the City of Del Mar.
Q: Who does the work of Play Outside Del Mar?
A: Volunteers. All of the work of Play Outside Del Mar has either been done by its founder or by committed volunteers who support our mission. There are no behind the scenes paid consultants, lawyers, engineers, architects, graphic artists, logo designers, website designers, content creators, marketing strategists, PR consultants, researchers, sign posters, letter writers, or others. Everyone who does the work believes in what we do. This has been a purposeful strategy to insure authenticity, to protect our mission, and to keep costs to an absolute minimum. There is one exception. We paid an independent fire consultant to advise us on Rolf Silbert’s designs, and we solicited and received several donations to partially reimburse us for that.
Q: What type of organization is Play Outside Del Mar in a legal sense?
A: Play Outside Del Mar started formless – as an informal and constantly changing collective of like-minded people with nothing in common but a desire to save the fields at the Heights school. They came from all areas of Greater Del Mar. Most had never met. The group ebbed and flowed from informal meeting to meeting. At some point, there was a consensus that we had to amp-up our efforts to get the message to more people. Three things were recommended from people with serious experience on how to do that: form a non-profit, form a website, and get more active with meeting others and with personal emails and letters. The website and the outreach were selected as the highest and best use of our limited time and money for the first few months and the non-profit was put in the queue as a “do when able.” When time was available, it was decided after balancing a number of standard factors that a California non-profit public benefit corporation consistent with IRS 501(c)(3) was the most appropriate type of organization for the long haul. By then, we’d begun to see Play Outside Del Mar as having the broader mission to become a permanent force in the protection of outdoor play areas for Del Mar kids of today and tomorrow.
Q: Who actually created Play Outside Del Mar?
A: Northwest Registered Agent, a commonly used web-based service similar to Legal Zoom that forms all types of corporations and legal entities including non-profits and foundations, through the use of standardized forms that have been pre-prepared by Northwest and are used by all their customers. They are rated top 3 in the country by the Chamber of Commerce. John Gartman initiated the process and provided Play Outside Del Mar’s name and mission and other details by entering them into a web form and paid the $275 fee, but he didn’t sign the papers that were filed in Sacramento to create Play Outside Del Mar. Northwest not only filed the papers for Play Outside, which were actually signed by someone named Morgan Noble that we have never met, but they serve as the legally required “corporate agent” for Play Outside Del Mar – a big word for a mail-forwarding drop that is open and staffed every day during business hours. California law requires this kind of thing and it is included for free for the first year if you use Northwest to form your entity. Our registered agent address is 1267 Willis Street in Redding, CA, which we likely share with tens if not hundreds of thousands of other entities.
Q: Are there any other reasons why Play Outside Del Mar was formed as a non-profit public benefit corporation?
A: Yes. To be a meaningful non-profit public benefit corporation with longevity and broad public support, as a practical matter, you need to form legally. It’s a sign of commitment. An organization needs legal status to form bank accounts and get credit cards. Donors over the long haul expect legal status for longevity and for tax deductibility under IRS 501(c)(3). Google requires proof of 501(c)(3) status for some important free services and, without it, Go Fund Me won’t allow use of their non-profit services. Directors and Officers want legal protection to protect their assets as the organization grows.
Q: Has anyone donated money to Play Outside Del Mar?
A: Yes. Many in the community (the vast majority of whom we did not know) offered unsolicited donations after our website went public last year. But we had no Play Outside bank accounts (because of the lack of a legal entity) and as individuals we didn’t want to deal with accounting and tax complexities from accepting donations. Our expenses were tolerable. Therefore we accepted none of the offered donations. Various individuals paid individually for various items on their own, including some good snacks. We were running on passion and not spending much money by design – mostly yard signs at the beginning. After we were well into our effort, we accepted two unsolicited checks by mail from community members that were not even part of our startup group, one $500 check and one $100 check. The $500 check went directly to reimburse someone who had paid for signs, as the donor wanted. We doubt that was a full reimbursement. The $100 was spent on website hosting expenses. Additionally, the Play Outside founders funded a fire safety consultation with fire experts to assist with evaluating Rolf Silbert’s designs and several members of the community donated money toward reimbursing that effort. That cost $2,000.
Q: Is Play Outside Del Mar a shell corporation?
A: Not remotely. As we understand the term (we had to look it up to be absolutely sure), a shell company is a business that’s created to hold funds and manage another entity’s financial transactions. Play Outside Del Mar does neither of those things and is incredibly active through its volunteers and founders. It provides an essential news service to the community, and collectively with volunteers has spent several thousand hours bringing facts and vital “breaking news” to light for the benefit of the community.
Q: Why did Play Outside Del Mar submit CEQA comments?
A: We believe commenting is the right thing to do for a public benefit organization, or for that matter any member of the public. It’s even more important than usual in the situation where the lead agency is approving its own project and its own CEQA process (rather than approving project applications submitted by others and reviewing their CEQA process).
Additionally, Play Outside Del Mar does know a lot – maybe more than anyone – on several of the key issues. We knew things had been ignored in the DMUSD MND. We knew there were false statements. We knew key facts had been buried. We learned a lot about fire risk deficiencies created by the aggressive new school design, and perhaps more than we wanted to know about the inherent fire hazards of the school site itself, in evaluating Rolf Silbert’s designs. We felt a moral obligation to pass along that fire risk information. Ironically, DMUSD had a legal obligation to answer wildfire risk questions under CEQA but they failed to answer key questions and provided false facts on others – so it’s a good thing Play Outside, and the Sierra Club, and California State Parks did step up and identify the serious wildfire risks. We commented on less than we know, but certainly on things we found central and important to Play Outside Del Mar. We could have addressed emissions or likely further damage of the Torrey Pines Reserve Extension from drainage or other issues that we know about, but decided we could not make a quality presentation on everything in the time available and we knew that the Sierra Club had raised many of the other issues that we cared deeply about in their early filing of comments.
Even if DMUSD ignores Play Outside Del Mar’s CEQA comments and moves ahead without an EIR and without a competent and truly independent wildfire evacuation time study – as we expect they will do in their unflinching effort to race forward to build it now – we have at least participated in creating a permanent record that is factual, unbiased, and truthful. Having done that, our conscience is now clear and the burden is shifted to the DMUSD Trustees.
Q: Is Play Outside Del Mar a founder, officer, director, or otherwise affiliated with the organization called Save the Field.
Q: Has Play Outside Del Mar donated money or services to Save the Field?
Q: Will Play Outside Del Mar benefit financially in any way, from whatever happens at the Del Mar Heights school?
Q: Has Play Outside Del Mar hired the Procopio law firm?
Q: Has Play Outside Del Mar funded the Procopio lawyers in any way?
Q: Did Play Outside Del Mar work on any CEQA filing with the Procopio lawyers?
Q: Has Play Outside Del Mar ever threatened to sue DMUSD for CEQA violations on the Heights rebuild?
Q: Will Play Outside Del Mar sue DMUSD for CEQA violations on the Heights’ rebuild?
A: No – the claim about lawsuits and false efforts to link Play Outside Del Mar to the Procopio lawyers is just an effort by some to try to discredit us and our body of work. Don’t let them distract you from what really matters – the facts.
Q: Does Play Outside Del Mar intend to participate further in CEQA?
A: Unlikely. If Play Outside Del Mar or its founders are further defamed, libeled, or slandered, or its submissions are attacked or misrepresented in an unprofessional way that is not based on fact and science, then we will be there to defend our reputation and our body of work.
Q: Does Play Outside Del Mar support Rolf Silbert’s Plan #2?
A: Yes and any others that may arise that would allow the school to be rebuilt safely and that would save more of the play fields and blacktop. Rolf’s Plan #2 saves 85% of the fields and provides 50% more blacktop than the DMUSD design – with no cost to the educational facilities and no impediment to the educational program. We salute Rolf Silbert for donating his creativity and a huge amount of time in an effort to make our community better. We were upset some were saying unkind things about Rolf’s efforts to help our community. We need more people like Rolf in Del Mar and less people like that.
Q: Does Play Outside Del Mar support the actions of Save the Field?
A: That’s a wait and see. So far so good. We do like their name, of course, and they provided a real community service by filing quality CEQA comments that brought to light many issues we did not know about and did not appreciate as fully as we do now. We do know one of the members, and she has been an enthusiastic supporter of Play Outside Del Mar. As we’ve said before, the CEQA comments of Save the Field should be required reading for anyone who cares about the children at the school and our community and we have posted them on our website as a result, along with the excellent CEQA comments posted by the Sierra Club.