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Roof It and They Will Come
March 2008 | Dawn Rawls


A "field of dreams" or a field of parking? With the Fairgrounds' (22nd District Agricultural Association or DAA) proposal to cover the open-air arena on the northwest portion of the paved parking lot, the DAA will host more horse events and an increased number of concerts in that arena. And those events will only add to local traffic and noise, in addition to increasing potential pollution in local waters.

Singin' in the rain. With a new roof and concrete floor, this arena becomes a year-round facility. The environmental documents issued by the DAA posit only 12 events per year in the roofed arena, seven horse events and five concerts. Neither common sense nor past experience of the Fairgrounds' expanding events schedule would suggest that the expense of this project would be incurred to accommodate so few events per year.

Roofed, but not enclosed. Although the arena will have a complete roof, some of the walls will not meet the roof. Will the concert noise be better contained or will it be funneled through the unenclosed spaces of the building? The DAA asserts the former. Del Mar residents on the northern edges of the City and up along the Crest Canyon corridor will only find out once the concerts begin.

Roof runoff/sewer surge. Clean water is always an issue when absorbent ground is covered with impermeable surfaces, which will happen when the new roof covers an area where rain is currently absorbed by the arena's present-day dirt floor. In reviewing the environmental document (a mitigated negative declaration or MND), Del Mar city staff worked with Fairgrounds staff to urge adequate storm-water and sewage management to prevent pollution of the San Dieguito River, lagoon and ocean. Integral to this effort is a long-awaited Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Fairgrounds and the cities of Del Mar and San Diego. This MOU will restrict sewer flows, including storm water runoff diverted to the sewer, so that sewage flows through Del Mar's system and on into the sewer pipes of San Diego do not cause sewage spills. The San Dieguito Lagoon Committee, a citizen committee serving the City Council for many years, has long advocated that this MOU, in addition to better storm-water management, must be in place before Coastal Commission permits for this project are sought by the DAA.

What's next? When the 22nd DAA issued their Arena Roof MND last summer, various state, county and city entities provided comments. The revised MND, issued in December, addressed these comments and made some adjustments to the original plans. In a letter, dated Feb 6, responding to the revised MND, Del Mar's City Council stated: "The outstanding issues include (1) finalizing the Draft Sewer MOU prior to construction of the project, (2) referencing the new Water Quality Technical Report in the Revised MND and making it a required mitigation measure for the project, (3) adding required final reviews by the City of Del Mar as a requirement in the MND for wash rack design and compliance with FEMA standards, (4) addressing cut-through traffic in a more comprehensive manner, (5) tightening the air-quality mitigation measures, and (6) requiring post-project noise monitoring as a mitigation measure for the project."

If these issues are not resolved before the DAA applies for a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission, Del Mar's recourse will be to make our case to the Commission for appropriate conditions to be placed on this project before construction permits are obtained. Meanwhile we will know that our Del Mar staff, the Lagoon Committee and Council will persevere on our behalf.


Dawn Rawls is the current chair of the San Dieguito Lagoon Committee.



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