February 2010 home page


Trust your Eyes, Not your Ears
Dwight Worden | Sea View Avenue


Photos Dwight Worden


The 22nd District Agricultural Association (the fairgrounds or “Fair”), speaking through board chair Barry Nussbaum, recently crowed about what good environmental stewards they are of the fairgrounds property located in the midst of the San Dieguito wetlands. Mr. Nussbaum is reported to have said that anyone who tells you different, is wrong. I guess everyone is entitled to his opinion, including Mr. Nussbaum, but facts do matter. This is especially true as the Fair embarks on its 2008 Master Plan proposing an ambitious 1 million square feet of construction of which about 300,000 feet reflects new projects and the balance demolition and rebuilding. This Master Plan is currently undergoing environmental review. Can we rely on what Mr. Nussbaum as spokesperson for the fair tells us about their “environmental bona fides” as they ask us to review their proposed new project? You be the judge.

Grading and fill on the South Lot
Nov. 24, 2009. 

Here are some facts to consider: The Fairgrounds was issued a Cease and Desist order and a Notice of Violation of the Federal Clean Water act by the US Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1990s for illegal grading and filling in a wetland area. The amount of unauthorized grading and filling was significant as shown in the photo at the right featuring a bulldozer. And, the activity occurred in an area of potential Least Tern nesting, with the Tern being a protected endangered species. Ouch! That doesn’t sound like “good environmental stewardship” to me. The fair undertook this work to prepare the area for parking for the fair, apparently without regard to the fact that the location was a “wetland” and without seeking required permits.

As a result of the federal violation proceedings processed against it, the Fair agreed to do remedial restoration, to set aside alternate Least Tern nesting areas, and to complete other environmental mitigation. Now, almost 20 years later, that file is still “open” as the Fair has yet to complete the required environmental mitigation. A good environmental steward, one would think, would have finished this reparation work quickly.

January 8, 2010.  Looking north-east across south parking lot for showing new fill dispersal.

All this, you may say, is “ancient history.” Surely, the fair learned from this unpleasant experience in the 1990s and is doing a much better job now of respecting environmental laws and regulations.

Sadly, that is not the case. The grading and filling in wetlands--in fact in the very same area for which they got cited in the 1990s--continues without permits and approvals right up to the present.

Fill continues to be imported to the historic wetland that the Fair calls the “South Parking Lot”. The fill is spread to elevate the ground, presumably to facilitate transitioning it from “wetlands” to “uplands” on the sly. Good environmental stewards do not handle on site wetlands in this manner. They protect the wetlands and sensitive environmental areas on their property and if they desire to encroach, they ask for permits and they comply with the rules.

January 8, 2010 showing complete scraping and grading of east lot from the north access road to the tunnel.  Wetland plants are remoived and oprevented from taking hold.

Additionally, the Fair is not allowed to use these areas per its Coastal permits except for overflow parking for the fair and races; after all they are historic wetlands that, hopefully, will be restored one day. Good environmental stewards would understand the reason for such restrictions and would honor these rules. But, as even a casual observer will note, the fair regularly uses these areas, notwithstanding their permit restrictions, for such things as the Pumpkin Farm, the Pinery Christmas Tree Farm, truck driving school and a myriad of other activities. And, the fair regularly grades and scrapes these areas which has the effect of preventing the re-establishment of wetland plants.

Truck trailers next to I-5; photo taken from coast to crest trail.  November 24, 2009.

Good environmental stewards also don’t park 30+ ugly truck trailers in the prime view shed of the San Dieguito Enhancement area, and within spitting distance of the new Coast to Crest Trail. Surely, there must be a better and less conspicuous place for the Fair to park their ugly truck trailers. But, alas, there they are parked for all to see.Maybe Mr. Nussbaum was too busy congratulating himself on what wonderful environmental stewards the Fair is to notice these violations. Maybe he will tell us what the fair is really up to, but don’t hold your breath. Anyone can make a claim, even Mr. Nussbaum, but facts do matter and pictures tell the story better than Mr. Nussbaum’s self serving press statements.


© 2007-2015 Del Mar Community Alliance, Inc.  All rights reserved.