November 2010 home page

  Fair Facts
Wayne Dernetz | 9th Street


First Fair 1936. Photo courtesy Del Mar Historical Society


News emerged during the past month of the proposed sale of the Del Mar Fairgrounds to the City of Del Mar. We learned that State Sen. Christine Kehoe amended a pending bill in the Legislature, AB 181, to authorize the sale of the Fairgrounds by the State of California to the City, subject to certain conditions. Those conditions reflect a preliminary agreement between negotiators for the City and the Governor’s Office that would significantly change the governance structure of the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

In essence, AB 181 would authorize the General Services Department to sign a purchase-sale agreement with the City for all the Fairgrounds property at a price not less than $120 million. Conditions of sale would require Del Mar to establish a nonprofit corporation to oversee the operation and maintenance of the Fairgrounds property, governed by a nine-member board appointed by the City to include five members nominated by Del Mar, one each from the cities of San Diego and Solana Beach and San Diego County, and the ninth seat filled by the Executive Director of the San Dieguito River Park. The new board would be required to comply with the more stringent requirements of the Brown Act open-meeting law, the City’s conflict of interest and financial disclosure code, and the public records act.

To raise the funds needed for purchase, the City would be authorized to issue municipal revenue bonds payable solely from operating proceeds of the Fairgrounds, not a general obligation of the City. Portions of the purchase money may come from a promissory note to the State and/or prepaid rents on the racetrack facilities from private investors.

Senator Kehoe explained the purpose of AB 181 is to assure the Fairgrounds remains in the public domain, to improve the governance and oversight of the facility, and to ensure the long-term survival of the San Diego Fair and Del Mar race meet. If an agreement is concluded, Del Mar could exercise majority control over the operations of the Fairgrounds, with representation from the two surrounding cities and the County.
Although AB 181 narrowly failed to obtain a necessary two-thirds vote of approval by the Legislature before this year’s statutory deadline, Senator Kehoe’s office and City officials explained the deal is not dead. The possibility remains that the Governor may call a special legislative session prior to December 1st and AB 181 could be re-introduced and further amended to require a simple majority vote. If that does not occur, Senator Kehoe may re-introduce the bill after January 1st in the new Legislative session.


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