John Graybill | 15th Street
Site of the future Greenway. Photo Stu Smith.
Senator Christine Kehoe’s proposed Senate Bill 1177 for a greenway was approved by the Food and Agriculture Committee in Sacramento on April 20th by a vote of 3-1. The greenway would extend along the north bank of the San Dieguito River from I-5 to the railroad tracks near the river mouth. This was the second major hurdle for the proposed bill in the legislative process. Clearing this milestone was significant because the 22nd DAA has been aggressively lobbying against the proposed bill. It was approved by the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee on April 13th by a vote of 6-2. Next it goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee in mid-May.
The significance of the proposed bill goes beyond the obvious environmental benefits of a permanent buffer between the Fairgrounds and the river and the restoration of the natural wetlands. It would require the 22nd DAA to make adjustments to the massive development proposed recently in a Draft Environment Impact Report (DEIR) to be sensitive to the environment. The master plan calls for huge buildings, a parking structure, and a hotel that would allow it to function like a large convention center, thereby intensifying the use of the Fairgrounds to bring year-round crowds, traffic, noise, and bright light to the area at the expense of a fragile ecosystem.
In the 22nd DAA’s board meeting on April 13th, their February 22nd press release was discussed regarding the bill. It was the equivalent of a child’s tantrum. They claim catastrophic loss of jobs, devastation of the use of the fairgrounds, elimination of the recycling center, safety hazards, etc. The scare tactics and inflammatory rhetoric can only be described as absurd. What appeared to bother them most was facing the possibility that they won’t be able to do exactly what they want and rubberstamp approval on their DEIR.
It is an unfortunate state of affairs when an organization entrusted with the stewardship of the Fairgrounds has so arrogantly ignored the concerns of its neighboring community that a state senator has to get involved and take the fight all the way to Sacramento to protect the river and lagoon adjacent to the Fairgrounds. Senator Kehoe could use her valuable time to focus on other pressing issues facing the State of California. That is if the 22nd DAA had some reporting responsibility to the community in which it is located and the board of directors was composed of leaders willing to respect its environment.