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End Zone Strategies  

Dwight Worden | Seaview

First Fair October 1936.  Courtesy Del Mar Historical Society



Recently, I proposed to the City Council that a “Fairgrounds Community Plan Element” and a “Fairgrounds Zoning Ordinance” be adopted by Del Mar that would apply to the Fairgrounds.

At present, there is no Community Plan or zoning applicable to the Fairgrounds even though the Fairgrounds occupies a large portion of Del Mar’s City. Here is why I think this would be a good idea:

1. While it is true that certain activities of the State, such as the fair itself, are exempt from local planning and zoning control, not everything that occurs at the Fairgrounds is a “State” activity that is exempt. Del Mar has the right to impose planning and zoning requirements for all non-exempt activities.

2. If the Fairgrounds, or any portion thereof, is ever transferred out of State ownership to private or local government control as is now under consideration, Del Mar planning and zoning would apply. It is better to have these planning and zoning requirements in effect before this happens so that both the State, as seller, and any buyer, can see what the requirements will be and so that any appraisal can accurately evaluate the property based on what uses are allowed.

3. The State is not exempt from the Coastal Act or from review by the Coastal Commission. If Del Mar sets forth in a “Fairgrounds Community Plan Element” and a “Fairgrounds Zoning Ordinance” its vision of what is appropriate for the Fairgrounds, these documents can be available to the Coastal Commission, and to the State and federal agencies such as the State Department of Fish and Game and the federal US Fish and Wildlife service, that do have jurisdiction, and can be taken into account by these agencies when acting on fairgrounds projects. Now, the Coastal Commission and others are left to “guess” as to what Del Mar’s vision for the area is.

4. Del Mar already has planning and zoning requirements that apply to other exempt State and federal properties, such as certain tidelands, the post office, the Shores School site, and the like. It would be entirely normal for Del Mar to adopt Planning and Zoning for the fairgrounds as well. Importantly, the City could require the Fairgrounds to apply to the City for an exemption on a case by case basis so that the City, and not the fairgrounds, could review and act on such claims of exemption.

5. Del Mar has a history of difficult dealings with the fairgrounds, not because they are “bad people” but because their mission differs from the City’s. Adoption of a Fairgrounds Community Plan Element and Zoning Ordinance would be one of the few activities Del Mar could do on its own that would have real impact on the “balance of power.” The State as owner of the fairgrounds would get due process as do all landowners affected by City decisions. The fairgrounds would get notice and have the right to appear at Del Mar’s hearings, but the decision and the process would be at Del Mar City Hall and controlled 100% by Del Mar.

6. The City Council is currently investigating the idea of taking control of the Fairgrounds if the State actually decides to part with some or all of the property. All well and good, but what is the Del Mar “vision” for this property? Why would we be acquiring it and what would the City propose to do with it? A Fairgrounds Community Plan Element and Zoning Ordinance is the proper place for Del Mar to spell out its vision and its requirements, both for itself, for its constituents, for the Fairgrounds, and for other interested parties. Why didn’t we do this long ago?


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