Dec/Jan 2010 home page

  Fair Gov
Dwight Worden | Seaview Avenue


Photo panorama Art Olson

faironomics by Wayne Dernetz | fair gov by Dwight Worden


There is much that remains to be reviewed, digested, discussed, and debated about the city of Del Mar’s proposal to acquire the fairgrounds from the State of California for $120,000,000. We have yet to have a public airing of the specifics of how the city of Del Mar proposes to finance the acquisition and how it proposes to manage the property if control is obtained. There are open issues regarding how the city of Solana Beach might participate, and with regard to how regional participation by other entities might be accommodated. And, we do not know for sure what type of governance structure would be set up to oversee and operate the fairgrounds, nor do we know the details of how the horse racing community would participate. I know the Del Mar City Council wants to discuss these issues in public and is planning to do so, and I look forward to that discussion.

In one important respect, however, there is no question but that placing the fairgrounds under local control would be a major benefit to Del Mar and its citizens. Now, with the property in state ownership, it is the fair board, acting as an agency of the state, which decides what will be built and when on the fairgrounds, and it is the fair board which has control over the planning process both long and short term.
If the fairgrounds passes to local control then for the first time the City of Del Mar would be able to adopt planning and zoning requirements that would apply to all of the fairgrounds activities and projects. This is because the entire fairgrounds, except for the east parking lot and the Surf and Turf area which is in the city of San Diego, lies within the city of Del Mar and it will be Del Mar planning and zoning that applies. And, all development proposals will need to comply with those Del Mar requirements. Applications will be filed and undergo the Del Mar development review process. And, it is the city of Del Mar that would adopt LCP provisions applicable to the fairgrounds.
Imagine for a moment what this means as a practical matter: the fairgrounds master plan prepared by the current fair board calling for a convention center, 300 unit condo hotel, and various other development would have no effect.

Instead, the city would apply Del Mar’s Community Plan provisions and zoning requirements to the fairgrounds property specifying everything from what uses are allowed, height limits for buildings, requirements for greenways and wetlands preservation, parking standards, design review requirements, and all the other provisions applicable throughout the rest of the city. For the first time it would be the city of Del Mar deciding what happens on the fairgrounds.

This would be a major change and improvement in terms of assuring that the fairgrounds property and its uses are well integrated into the local community, and is enough to make me hope the other aspects of the deal can pass due diligence.

Dwight Worden is a former City attorney, a former NCTD attorney, and an environmental attorney.


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